When seven individuals came together to build a better product and provide better service in the custom sleeper market, they succeeded by creating one of the most sought after sleepers on the road today. Pat Whiteman learned how ARI is challenging the competition and creating a legacy of goodwill among its customers.
You never know what will come from a couple of guys complaining about things over a lunch. During one such lunch break, John Jancey and John Miller were deep in discussion about how they were sure they could create a better product than the one their current company was producing.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have the capital to start the business they were dreaming up on their lunch napkins. However, that didn’t stop them. They approached friend Larry Chupp (now their current vice president) about the idea. Fortunately, he liked the idea the guys had come up with. A few more contacts and the dreams sketched out on a few lunch napkins were falling into place. American Reliance Industries, Company (ARI) was becoming a reality.
“We had one owner operator, two folks from the RV industry and four from the custom sleeper market on board,” says John Miller, sales manager for ARI, now known for its custom Legacy Sleepers. “It was a special and unique mix of experience that gave us the ability to build high quality sleepers that delivered consistent performance and value to our customers.”
Located in Shipshewana, Ind., ARI manufactures and installs its custom sleeper cabs for Class A trucks from a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The company officially created its dealer network in January of 2001. “That was a real milestone for us,” says Miller. “There are other companies who do what we do, but none of them had set up a dealer network. Our business has grown substantially through our 15 dealers and has really increased our market share at a significant rate in a short period of time.” ARI’s dealers are located across the U.S in such locations as Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, and Iowa.
With the goal to build quality into its manufacturing processes every production stage at ARI is inspected and each inspection is documented. At the end of the line all inspection documentation is reviewed and a full time inspector completes a 25-page final inspection checklist. Once the final inspection is completed and signed off on, a final “quality audit” is performed by one of the company’s founders, usually Larry Chupp. “We firmly believe that we provide the highest-level of quality in the industry,” says Miller.
Leaving a Legacy
Catering to its most important customer, the owner/operator, ARI has created three product options, the Legacy Custom, the Legacy II and the Legacy III. The Legacy Custom is for the driver who wants it all. “Essentially, you describe it and we’ll design and build to your specifications,” says Miller. “Each Legacy Custom is automatically loaded with the “Legacy Package” which includes the standard features and extra amenities needed for long haul driving.
The Legacy II is the company’s high-end, pre-engineered line of custom sleepers and one of its best sellers. It includes everything for life on the road. Available in five sizes from 97 inches and up, its latest offering is the Legacy II Custom Series Model RDFS. The approximately 4,100 pound unit measures 156 inches and features a shower, toilet, a hot water system with insulated tank, a fold out bed/dinette, kitchen sink and countertop, a 6.3-cubic-foot Norcold fridge/freezer, microwave, under sink cabinetry and six overhead cabinets, plus a tool box, surround sound system, Coleman roof air conditioning and heat with wall mount thermostat, a generator, a window above the sink and a shower, roof vent, as well as a 20-inch LCD mounted TV with antenna, and much more. “The nice thing about the Legacy II is that it is usually a truck we have in stock or ready for production and since we can be more efficient we can pass those savings on to the customer,” says Miller. Miller says the 156-inch Legacy II is the latest in ARI’s custom series and it has been a huge hit. “There is a ton of storage space and its one-piece fiberglass shell is new. So far people really like the extra space and storage.”
ARI’s Legacy III Custom Series is the company’s entry-level pre-engineered line of custom sleepers. “This model is really designed and built for the cost-conscience owner/operator who wants the comfort of a custom sleeper but not necessarily all the extra bells and whistles,” says Miller. Customers can expect to save 10 to 15 percent compared to a Legacy II by eliminating some of the extras, however they won’t be skimping on quality – every Legacy is built with the same structure.
The company is most proud of the quality it packs into each of its sleeper cabs. “You cannot buy a better custom sleeper,” says Miller. “People have very little trouble with our products.” The hundreds of testimonials that come into the company are proof of that and the reason why the company is so fixated on quality inspection. “We really are the best and it is well known in the industry. Our goal is to find out how we can do it even better and make the inspection and audit process even more streamlined. We want to keep excelling and make sure each product that goes out of here is something a customer is thrilled with.”