With the baby boomer set aging and the American family looking for new vacation options, Ameri-Camp seized the opportunity by offering a quality product respected by dealers and consumers alike and established a reputation in the RV market in just four short years. Pat Whiteman has the story.
In 2003, a group of employees left their jobs at a well-known recreational vehicle company determined to appeal to what it hoped would be a new group of RV consumers. The team wanted to offer a quality fifth wheel but bring the price point down. Ideally, the end product would be a mid-profile coach retailing in between trailers and other high priced coaches and appeal to weekenders and the family set.
In its first year, Syracuse, Ind.-based Ameri-Camp introduced its Summit Ridge model, a six-sided, 16-inch on center, aluminum construction RV providing a strong, yet lightweight frame. The RV also featured MOR/ryde RE suspension systems for smoother towing and to prevent damaging road shock, and a 10-gallon DSI (direct spark ignition) gas/electric water heater to provide more hot water capacity. Not to mention, there were amenities galore. The Summit Ridge – still a popular
Ameri-Camp model four years later – has a wealth of aesthetic design features and a well thought out floor plan that is adjustable to each traveler. The kitchen features plenty of countertop space, extra drawers for pots and pans, abundant residential style quality cabinets and even an Amish-made dinette with four chairs. Sofa hide-a-beds, an eye-level microwave oven, a plumbing system that requires no tools to fix, TV and DVD systems, computer desk, built-in entertainment center, pillow-top mattresses, ScotchguardTM-protected carpeting, and other luxurious features, just scratch the surface of the Summit Ridge’s many features.
The Summit Ridge was so popular with customers and retailers alike that in its first year alone Ameri-Camp was the recipient of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) Dealers Satisfaction Index (DSI) Award for delivering top-notch product to its growing dealer network. It also received RVDA’s Quality Circle of Excellence Award in both 2003 and 2004, a prestigious award given to the manufacturer that produces the highest satisfaction to the customer in quality, service, sales, and partnering. Ameri-Camp actually received the highest score ever given to a company and in its second year achieved an even higher score.
“Our mission at Ameri-Camp is to be the RV industry’s leader in both customer and dealer satisfaction by providing the highest quality, best value and most innovative products available in the industry,” says Tony James, dealer consulting manager for Ameri-Camp. “Our passion is to create superior products by implementing feedback from our customers and dealers, hiring and training the best workforce in the industry and utilizing the latest in technology and innovation.”
A five-year plan has the company positioned for significant growth. Ameri-Camp currently has over 135,000 square-feet of manufacturing, warehouse and office space, set on over 30 acres in the middle of Amish Country in northern Indiana. Ameri-Camp currently has 130 employees and 87 dealers and it hopes to grow its dealership number to 150 by early 2008.
The company is set to begin construction on a new $3.5 million, 100,000-square-foot factory this year. The new facility will be dedicated to the construction of the company’s top-of-the-line Summit SRX fifth-wheel and Summit travel trailer. An additional 15,000-square-foot, 20-bay pre-deliver inspection shop and a second new plant will replace Ameri-Camp’s original mobile home manufacturing facility.
Ameri-Camp also plans to add about 175 jobs this year, according to James, mostly manufacturing jobs but some management and engineer slots will also be available. About 75 new positions will be added in 2008.
Designs on Luxury
In keeping with its quest to be an industry leader, Ameri-Camp recently revamped its entire product line with two redesigned coaches. The fiberglass-and-aluminum fifth-wheel-only Summit Ridge SRX, and the travel trailer and fifth-wheel Summit Ridge. Two additional products, the Ridge Runner Lite (a fiberglass and aluminum product) and the Wrangler fifth-wheel (a wood and aluminum structure) travel trailer brands are now part of Ameri-Camps product offering as well.
The Summit Ridge is still at the heart of its product line and its special SRX model has four floor plans to choose from, ranging from 35 to 39 feet equipped with up to four slide-outs and is the top-of-the-line in the Summit Ridge fleet. The basic Summit Ridge model has four travel trailers and five fifth-wheel floorplans to choose from.
However, Ameri-Camp’s Reserve, introduced in 2007, is luxury fifth wheel living at its finest, incorporating the latest designs and technology with custom features. Why all the options? “People are retiring or looking to buy these vehicles for their off time and they are in searching for a certain lifestyle,” says James. “Some are looking to be full timers and want some of the luxuries they had in their homes. Others just want the same amenities they enjoy at home with them while they’re on the road. They want skylights, flat screen TVs, stainless steel refrigerators, large windows, higher end fixtures and faucets, fireplaces, solid surface kitchen counter tops, even high-impact graphics on the outside. It’s our job to try to give them that ‘wow’ factor. At Ameri-Camp we’re always trying to bring our customers something they didn’t think they’d ever see in a fifth wheel or RV product.”
Trending Toward Lightweight
For 2008 Ameri-Camp will unveil its Trail Boss, a new toy hauler that has been completely redesigned. The Summit Ridge will also receive a major facelift for 2008 on both the exterior and interior. With gas prices on the rise, many consumers are trending toward more economic trailers and Ameri-Camp is beginning to get its feet wet in that market as well. “We think that will be a trend for a long time,” says James. “We don’t see gas prices coming down that much and we’re offering a limited selection of trailers in the 20,000 to $30,000 range in 2008. It’s is something we think will offer customers another option. We’ll see how the initial line goes and then expand and meet capacity as demand warrants.”
The next five years promise to be exciting ones for Ameri-Camp as it implements its growth plan and works to maintain its stellar start. “We are trying to be an innovator, a leading-edge company that delivers the kind of practical amenities customers are so eager to make as part of their new home on wheels or their home away from home. We are committed to building the kind of product our customers will enjoy for years to come,” says James.
Their initial business plan seems to be working well. Ameri-Camp even has its own users group. The Ameri-Campers owners club met last year for its first annual meeting and has plans to meet again this year. “They send us suggestions and it’s a proactive way for us to handle any problems or issues,” says James. “We’re setting a new standard in the industry and that’s what we set out to do in the first place.”