A group of industry veterans, led by former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. executive Johnny Hernandez, have opened a towable RV manufacturing company in Longview, Tex., called Frontier RV Inc.
Frontier shipped its first three Explorer-brand stick & tin travel trailers on July 4 and as of today (Aug. 5), Frontier has delivered 20 units to its dealers, said Hernandez, Frontier’s president.
The Explorer comes in 11 floorplans including six with slideouts. Four Explorer units have already been sold retail, he added.
As market conditions improved this year, a number of new towable RV manufacturers went into operation, and Hernandez said the key to survival will be to “differentiate yourself from the other guys.”
That is why the company located in Texas and it will limit the distribution of its entry-level towables to dealers within a 500-mile radius of Longview, said Hernandez, former president of Thor’s Aero Manufacturing operation and former director of sales and product development at Fleetwood.
Labor costs are lower in Longview than in Northern Indiana, where a high percentage of RVs are produced, and Frontier’s freight costs will be lower than Indiana firms because it is a regional producer, he said.
Frontier’s units also will include features such as larger air-conditioners in order to “satisfy the unique needs of the southern market,” Hernandez added.
In addition to lower labor and freight costs, Frontier can offer features in its Explorer units that typically are found in higher-priced towables because the company “will operate without debt and will maintain low overheads,” he said.
Also, experienced RV production workers are not essential to Frontier maintaining product quality because the company uses a “modular design” that includes many standard elements, Hernandez added.
The other members of the Frontier executive team are: Bill Pettine, retired president of Thor’s Dutchmen subsidiary and retired general manager of Fleetwood’s motorhome complex in Decatur, Ind.; Elvie Frey, chairman and founding partner of SunnyBrook RV Inc., Middlebury, Ind.; and Judge Finklea, a former Aero, Fleetwood, Forest River Inc. executive, who now is Frontier’s vice president of operations.
Currently, Frontier, a 15-employee company, is building one unit a day. Output will be raised to three units a day by Sept. 1 and the company’s workforce will be increased to a total of 30 to 33 people by that time. Frontier’s labor force should total around 45 people by Jan. 1, Hernandez said.
Frontier will add a series of Explorer fifth-wheels around Jan. 1, he added.