New Paris, Ind.-based Travel Lite Inc., a 19-year-old truck camper and travel trailer manufacturer, is poised for growth with plans in place for three additional mainstream towable entries and for an all-new 26-acre, off-site facility at a new regional location – details of which aren’t being released yet – that will more than double the size of the 60-employee company’s production capacity and workforce, according to President Dustin Johns.
Travel Lite, which generated plenty of media buzz at last winter’s National RV Trade Show with the debut of a trendy new line of Falcon Modern Ultralites, has actually been ramping up for this current initiative over the past three years, says Johns, noting that the privately held firm is reporting substantial Q1 growth.
“Year over year,” said Johns, “first quarter revenue was 280% greater than last year, and that’s on top of last year’s record year. We’re just going crazy over here, and that’s why we’re super close to announcing our new building project, which is going to give us so much more room to grow and to fill our orders because my backlog right now is still too big for how much we’re producing.
“And we also have been working pretty diligently on new launches that we’re going to do in travel trailers of different sizes,” he added, “and we’re going to keep venturing into new things. We’re super-excited about their debuts, but for right now we’re kind of keeping it under wraps because my backlog’s too big the way as it is. So, there’s no real reason to add to it at this point in time.”
The 20-24-foot Falcon, an unusual looking towable with dark sidewalls designed to appeal to the Millennial mindset to whom the company has already launched a targeted marketing campaign, has really set the scene for Travel Lite’s amplified growth plans. The point, added Johns, is to reach beyond Travel Lite’s existing niche travel trailer and truck camper lines to tap into the kind of towables that have become a mainstay of the industry’s ongoing, seven-year growth curve.
The Falcon, with weights starting at 2,480 pounds for a 20-footer, is equipped with standard Michelin Premier LTX tires carrying lifetime warranties while all of Travel Lite’s products since about nine months ago have been backed by two-year warranties.
“It was well received in the market,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “They’re retailing quickly, and the response has just been phenomenal. “I’ve had several dealers who have had double-digit inventories and they’re all literally gone and they’re just waiting for more to come. So, it’s been great on the retail side, which is ultimately the thing that matters the most. It’s one thing to find dealers to buy them, but if they don’t retail well, then that kind of ends the momentum. And it’s been kind of the opposite. It’s been a nice thing for us, considering that we come from working on super-nichy stuff to get a little more into higher volume products. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, and it’s taken off.
“And we’ve been lucky, too,” he added. “The weather’s been great. Shipping has not been a problem to get dealers inventory. The economy’s been going in the right direction right now. People seem to have a lot more disposable income and there’s low unemployment across the United States. So, there’s a lot of different factors, but it seems like the right place and the right time for what we’re doing, and we’re really happy for the prospects.”
Johns, for his part, says he really welcomes the switch to more marketable towables versus a lower volume truck camper arena, and he’s specifically looking toward the addition of a new line of “innovative and creative,” mid-range travel trailers as the next game-changing step in the company’s ongoing step into conventional towables.
“It’s a refreshing thing for me, for my career, to be getting into some more higher volume product lines and towables that have a higher potential,” said Johns, whose father, Larry Johns, started the company in 1998. “And I have a brand new line of 28 to 32-footers that we’re working on right now that are phenomenal and very unique and are definitely going to make an impact once they hit the market. So, I’m very excited to get into the new building and be able to put all our plans in place.
Johns says the 62,000-square-foot first phase of its new location should employ from 80 to 100 workers while generating production numbers of up to 24 units a day.
“When all is said and done, we’ll have three new products – not including the Falcon — at September’s (Elkhart RV Open House) show that we’re going to introduce at the same time.”