Pilgrim International Inc., the company recently founded by RV industry veteran Dave Hoefer, will begin shipping its Open Road brand travel trailers and fifth-wheels to dealers beginning next week.
The Open Road is a series welded, powder-coated aluminum frame, laminated fiberglass sidewall towables in lengths ranging from 25 to 35 feet. All features and accessories are standard, the same “no options” strategy that Honda followed to successfully enter the U.S. auto market many years ago, Hoefer said.
Hoefer founded Dutchmen Manufacturing Co. in 1988 and it became one of the most successful towable RV manufacturers in the history of the industry. Hoefer sold Dutchmen to Thor Industries in 1992 and he left Thor, and the RV industry, in 1995.
Hoefer then founded manufactured home builder Hart Housing Group, Wakarusa, Ind., and remains its chairman. The opening of Pilgrim in February marked Hoefer’s return to the RV business.
Pilgrim now has an 80-member dealer body virtually all of whom Hoefer knew from his Dutchmen days. Hoefer, Pilgrim’s chairman, believes the company could have 100 to 120 dealers a year from now.
The 40-employee company, which operates from the former Shasta RV plant in Middlebury, Ind., is building three Open Road units a day. Hoefer believes output could grow to eight units a day by the end of July and 100 units a day a year from now.
Hiring of production workers is continuing, but growth will occur at a controlled rate to maintain a high level of product quality, Hoefer added.
Dutchmen produced as many as 111 units a day when Hoefer headed that operation, and he said the former Shasta facility that Pilgrim now occupies is larger than the facilities Dutchmen used when it was producing 111 a day.
Suggested retail prices for Open Road units will be set on Tuesday (May 28), but Hoefer said they will be “mid-range (product) at an upper low-end price.”
Pilgrim will not complete strictly on the basis of price, Hoefer added.
The weight of Open Road units will range from 5,400 to 7,200 pounds and standard features will include Congoleum Ultima flooring, Alphastone counter tops, eight-foot Dometic double-door refrigerators, 10-gallon gas/electric DSI water heater and Dexter torsion axles and Never Lube wheel hubs.