Executives at Jayco Inc. want the Middlebury, Ind.-based firm to grow, but it will retain a family-owned philosophy as it moves into the Class A motorhome market, according to Chairman Wilbur Bontrager.

“Our success has always hinged on Jayco’s commitment to preserving a culture, a philosophy and a way of doing business that began with my father (Lloyd) and remains as the cornerstone of every decision we make today,” Bontrager said during Jayco’s national dealer meeting in Atlanta last month.

“So, let’s get that part out on the table right away,” Bontrager continued, “Jayco has always been a family-owned and operated business. It remains so today, and we will continue to be a family business.”

The effort to enter the Class A motorhome segment is a big move for Jayco, which, since its founding in 1968, has primarily been a manufacturer of towable RVs. During 2000, Jayco ranked No. 2 in terms of retail market share in the folding camper segment, No. 4 in travel trailers and No. 5 if fifth-wheels, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.

The company also ranked No. 6 in Class C motorhome retail market share last year, Statistical Surveys reported.

Jayco’s Class A motorhome assembly plant opened in May but production has proceeded at a slow pace so workers could have time to learn how to build a high quality product, according to Bill Prinz, vice president of sales and marketing.

However, Bontrager said the methodical approach to Class A motorhome production was not the result of financial constraints.

“In sharp contrast to widespread reports of losses and setbacks from the major public companies in our industry, Jayco’s financial status is sound,” Bontrager said. “Our firm financial base means we can provide customers with the assurance that we’ll be there down the road to handle warranty concerns or provide information about our products.”