Five years ago, Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. developed the blueprint for a “reinvention process” designed to improve quality, increase production efficiency and ultimately give the company the means to “build a better coach.”
As representatives from around 60 dealerships convened at the company’s dealer meeting in Sonoma, Calif., Tiffin management confirmed the transformation was a success.
“We’ve made a good start,” said President and CEO Bob Tiffin, who launched the Red Bay, Ala., company in 1972 with his wife Judy. “But it’s an ongoing process, and the process will have to continue. We’ll have to keep refining and re-refining our products. That’s what the industry is about – make it nice, make it nicer, then make it nicer yet.”
During the dealer gathering, Tiffin rolled out retooled versions of the diesel-powered Allegro Bus and Phaeton along with the Allegro Bay and flagship Allegro gas models and the reintroduction of the high-end diesel Zephyr.
Tiffin said the new lineup reflected the company’s commitment to meeting the demands of a younger buying audience by providing interior amenities that “make it feel like a home,” while raising the bar for overall quality to match the standards set by the automotive industry. Management also said the company is aggressively going after increased market share in the evolving diesel pusher market.
To achieve those goals, Tiffin has bolstered its engineering and production capabilities with the addition of quality equipment and qualified personnel. Management reported that in the past two years Tiffin has added 20,000 square feet to the main production plant at its headquarters in Red Bay, requiring 250-300 new employees.
Tiffin also doubled its overall square footage and increased production capacity with the addition of a manufacturing facility in nearby Belmont, Miss.
“We were building on average the last five years 1800 to 1900 coaches per year,” General Manger Tim Tiffin said at the meeting. “Now we’re approaching 2700 to 2800, and we’re working to get to 3,000 or better.”
One of the most visible changes in the 2005 model year was increasing the ceiling height to 7 feet on the entire diesel line. Also, a one-piece windshield is standard on all diesel models except the Zephyr and the entire motorhome line features upgraded interiors with more residential-style features.
After an 18-month hiatus, the Zephyr returns to the pinnacle of Tiffin’s motorhome line. Bob Tiffin said the high-end unit would be in limited production for 2005 with around 50 units manufactured per year.
“We basically built the Zephyr to learn how to build a nicer motorhome,” he said. “And what we learned filters down into our other models. The technique we used building the Zephyr lends itself real well to teach us how to build a nicer looking product on a lower scale.”
The redesigned 45-foot, four-slide Zephyr boasts a 500-hp ISM Cummins engine on a 44,600 GVWR Spartan chassis and retails for around $380,000. The list of standard features includes a king-size bed, 32-inch LCD TV, solid countertops in the galley, three air-conditioning units, keyless entry remote and compartment doors and Hydro-hot heating and water-heating systems.
Tim Tiffin said the mid-line Phaeton, retailing from $180,000 to $200,000, received the most intensive retooling. The Phaeton is available in three floorplans – 38-foot, 40-foot triple slide and 40-foot double slide – two of which are new for 2005. Some of the more significant changes include: new exterior colors, full-body paint, new front/rear caps, one-piece windshield, new access doors, 350-hp Caterpillar engine, 31,000 GVWR Freightliner chassis and a wrapover fiberglass roof.
Jerry Williamson, director of sales, said the Allegro bus, Allegro Bay and Allegro all received some fine-tuning for the new model year, but several new floorplans are slated to be introduced by the end of the year.
“There were no major changes for 2005 in those models,” he said, “but we’ll be rolling out seven new floorplans by the end of the 2004.”