Veteran RV manufacturer Dave Hoefer is back — or is at least close to being back — in the recreational vehicle business, RVBUSINESS.COM has confirmed.
Hoefer helped redefine the towables sector with the introduction in late 1988 of the fast-selling Dutchmen-brand series of competitively priced, highly packaged, entry level travel trailers that quickly garnered a big retail market share.
Hoefer sold his Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Manufacturing. Inc. in late 1992 to Thor Industries Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, and he subsequently went into the manufactured housing business when he founded Hart Housing Group in Wakarusa, Ind.
Now, Hoefer and several new partners are mapping a strategy similar to Dutchmen’s in drawing together a core of 60 U.S. RV dealers to be involved in the development and launch of the new Pilgrim-brand product line and its new manufacturing company, Pilgrim International Inc.
Pilgrim is scheduled to open next Tuesday (Feb. 19) in the former Shasta RV manufacturing facilities in Middlebury, Ind., vacated last year by Coachmen Industries Inc. The acquisition of the Shasta plant by Pilgrim is in the process of being finalized now.
“My total focus will be on Pilgrim,” says Hoefer. “It’s an industry full of relationships that I’ve truly cherished and missed. And after talking to industry people since this last Louisville Show, and at the urging of Mr. (Roger) Kollat (managing partner of Hart Housing) and numerous friends — along with a number of RV dealers in the country — they’ve urged me to get back in it. And they’ve also expressed their willingness to help make it a successful company.”
The startup now is working with suppliers to complete development work on Pilgrim towables, details of which will be released at a later date. All Hoefer would say now about the new travel trailers and fifth-wheels is that they would be “mid-range products at an upper, low end price, utilizing unique functional materials and applications, as we did with Dutchmen.”
Production is scheduled to begin in May and Hoefer said, “The entire management team has been working on product and concepts for about 30 days now, along with the building process and so forth.
“We have identified key production people, including some of the key product people who made Dutchmen possible, such as Tommy Sandlin, a lifelong friend who started Hart Housing for me and was the key production man at Dutchmen.”
Pilgrim’s management team also includes equity partners Steve Bennett, CEO of Voyager Products Inc., an Elkhart seat frame manufacturer; RV industry veteran Bill Harris, owner of an Elkhart manufacturing firm; and former Fleetwood executive Larry Hughes, who had been working recently as a consultant for several companies. Also assisting the equity partners in sales will be Jack Rogers, who has worked previously with Hoefer.
Hoefer will serve as Pilgrim’s chairman and Bennett will be the president.