There are few companies in the RV business with more diverse product offerings than Bristol, Ind.-based Renegade RV, which first built a reputation as a manufacturer of heavy-duty, racing-type motorhomes and specialty vehicles appealing to drag racers, snowmobilers and dirt bikers. Then came custom motorhomes, race car haulers, mobile command centers and kennel coaches.
Actually, 110-employee Renegade, first launched in 1997 by now retired Chuck McKibben as Kibbi Inc., can still build many of those products and more on a custom basis through its specialty vehicle unit, according to Kevin Erdman, Renegade sales and marketing director. And while the Elkhart County firm still has a hand in the racing world, Renegade — working out of a 210,000-square-foot facility now owned by Minneapolis-based Shoreview Industries — has focused increasingly since the recession on the mainstream RV camping enthusiast with a wide spectrum of truck-based products.
And, suffice to say, things are going well.
“Right now I’d characterize it as incredible, sustained growth,” Erdman told RVBUSINESS.com. “Our sales are up substantially this year over last year, and sales last year were up substantially over the previous year. So we’re following along with what’s happening in the industry. Our growth is directly related now to what’s happening in the RV industry, and the new products that we’ve just introduced are going to accelerate our growth and allow us to bring new products into the marketplace that weren’t there before in terms of price and product segments.”
Renegade’s product lines currently run the gamut from a $125,000-$135,000 (retail) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based Villagio B-Plus motorhome up through a $280,000 Verona Class C on a Freightliner truck chassis to a more elaborate $350,000-$370,000 Freightliner-based Explorer. The company also builds the Renegade Motorcoach line on a truck chassis capable of pulling a substantial race car trailer and supporting 20 to 30 roof-top racing fans. The Classic, depending on chassis and features, retails for $500,000-plus.
The Renegade XL, an RV-oriented coach built to appeal to a more traditional crossover Class A buyer in lengths of up to 45 feet, comes with luxury motorhome amenities like triple slides and is priced from the high $400,000’s to the mid-$500,000s.
Renegade’s flagship, in turn, is the IKON, retailing for $650,000 to $750,000 with four slides available on Freightliner Cascadia or Volvo CNL chassis with a 600-hp engine.
“The customers looking for our type of vehicles are folks who want something different than what they can find from another manufacturer like an American Coach or a Newmar,” reports Erdman, who got his start in the business at Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. “We have more customization available in our product line. We’re not as large as those manufacturers, but instead produce a lower volume and have the ability to do customization. We can give customers the motorhome that they really want rather than settling for what a particular manufacturer provides.
“Also, we build on a million-mile truck chassis, the most heavy duty, durable, long lasting chassis that our customers can find,” he continued. “The engine is in the front, so customers are typically interested in how serviceable that makes it. With a couple hood latches, they can flip the entire hood compartment away for serviceability. That makes it easy for them to pull into any Freightliner service center and have full service available on their chassis. They don’t have to wait for an appointment in most cases. They have more service centers willing to take them in faster because it’s easier to service.”
The general safety aspects of these large truck-based motorhomes, in addition to their towing capacities of up to 40,000 pounds, are strong selling features on Renegade’s larger units, which are available through a network of dealers that, again, is increasingly focused on the traditional RV retailer.
Today, said Erdman, Renegade’s products are being showcased on some of the more prominent and successful dealer lots around the country – retailers like Florida’s North Trail RV Center, based in Fort Myers, Fla., and Transwest Truck Trailer RV, with outlets in Frederick and Brighton, Colo., and Belton, Mo.
“We have expanded our dealer network, so we are getting exposure to the average RV consumer walking around those dealerships looking at other top-end manufacturers around the country,” he added. “So the recognition and interest in our product is much higher in the traditional RV segment. The company, in a sense, has reinvented itself and focused on the traditional RV world in addition to the racing world.
“There is also another part of our business called Renegade Specialty Vehicles, where we manufacture extremely customized vehicles for all types of applications, everything from command centers, SWAT team units, medical units, mobile ATMs, mobile offices, blood banks — just a wide range of products both for government and the private sector,” Erdman continued. “So that also illustrates our greater diversification — post-recession. We also continue to build racing trailers and customized trailers for commercial and government applications.”
Considering all the products that Renegade already has under its belt, you’d think that Erdman and his team were ready to take a break, but that’s just not the case. “There’s no break,” Erdman maintained. “My foot is firmly planted on the right pedal. We have more product introductions planned for the next two years, we’re in the development stage on a couple new products and the planning stage on others. There’s no letting up at this point. We’re moving full steam ahead and enjoying what’s happening in the industry, and in the economy.”