The principals of Nappanee, Ind.-based Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and some outside investors have formed EnduraMax LLC to produce an established line of sport utility recreational vehicles (SURVs).
Formed in March, the new corporation has invested more than $1 million to convert a 74,000-square-foot Gulf Stream plant in Goshen, Ind., to specialize in the production of Gulf Stream’s Wide Open line of fifth-wheel toy haulers. Production of the motorized EnduraMax Gladiator toy hauler will be relocated there within a year.
The facility will house SURV production as well as sales, service and other administration.
“Our primary goal for starting up the EnduraMax company was to create a keen focus on the toy hauler market because of the fact of its emerging presence in the RV industry,” Claude Donati, vice president of sales and marketing for Gulf Stream, told RV Business.
Brian Shea, who along with brothers Jim and Dan are the lead investors in EnduraMax, said that unit retail sales of toy haulers in the first two months of 2006, as compiled by Statistical Surveys Inc., rose by some 30% over a year ago, making it the fastest-growing segment of the RV industry.
Donati identified southern California as the No. 1 market for toy haulers, followed by the East Coast and Texas. They figure the market can only grow as the unit’s popularity spreads nationwide.
Gulf Stream entered the toy mover market in 2004 but already considers itself a key player.
“We introduced ourselves into this market with the EnduraMax motorhome,” Donati said. “We’ve had great success early and we realized we needed to dedicate a separate resource to guarantee we were properly handling the details of this segment. Our goal is to have the best product in the industry and the best way to do that is to give all our resources on a separate level from what we’re doing at Gulf Stream Coach.”
Gulf Stream introduced the fully laminated welded-aluminum sidewall “Wide Open” at the National RV trade Show in Louisville last November.
“In the laminated fifth-wheel toy hauler market, there are about eight other manufacturers we consider competitors,” Donati said.
The new company was formed in March, Shea explained, and took over a plant in which Gulf Stream most recently produced units for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Between last September and March 26 (the last day of production), the plant built more than 4,000 FEMA units. At its peak, the plant turned out 40 units a day (200 a week) and 220 units in the weeks where production reached six days.
The new company began production of the Wide Open on April 10 and was producing two units a day at the outset. Plans are to move to four a day by June with the goal of making eight a day by year-end, said Donati.
“At the rates we are talking about, our expected sales revenue will be somewhere in the ballpark of $60 million to $80 million annually if we achieve this level,” Donati said.
The toy haulers retail for around $48,000.
The Wide Open comes in three floorplans featuring one-, two- and three slideout options in lengths from 31 feet to 38 feet.
The main living quarters feature hardwood cabinetry, trim and doors, 20-inch LCD flat-screen TV, three-burner stove, dual-basin sink, convection microwave, double-door refrigerator, wardrobe, residential bathroom, air conditioner, furnace, queen-size bed and comfort-plus furniture. The cargo area measures 98 inches wide and 111 inches tall. The garage also accommodates two motorized queen-size beds, which are lowered for sleeping or raised for out-of-the-way storage.
The toy hauler market appears to be immune from rising fuel prices. Even in Southern California, the product’s No. 1 market, where fuel prices are among the highest in the nation, it hasn’t put a dent in the toy hauler’s popularity, Donati said.
Gulf Stream had 90 workers at the plant after the first two weeks of production and will increase to 150 in its first year and to 200 in the second year of operation, Donati projected.
Don Kuemin, a 14-year veteran with Gulf Stream, and Joe Spencer are co-plant managers.
Gulf Stream Coach has some divisions in the toy hauler area which are separate from the EnduraMax lines. Those will continue to be built in Nappanee.