Carriage Inc., long known for manufacturing high-quality fifth-wheel and travel trailers, intends to appeal to veteran RVers who want to downsize — and baby-boom generation buyers who aren't ready to pay $100,000 for an RV — with its new Carri-Go Class C motorhome.
The Carri-Go's introduction foreshadows Carriage's aggressive re-entry in to the motorhome market. "I would not be surprised to see Carriage develop other motorhome products, including Class A motorhomes," said Peter Recchio, director of sales and marketing.
The Carri-Go is the first product developed by a new owner — Cushman Johnson LLC, a privately owned financial investment company led by Chairman and President Dean Johnson. The partnership purchased Carriage last September from Clarence T. Yoder and Wilbur Witmer, who were among those who founded the company in 1968.
Carriage has long been known for the quality of its product and its relationship with dealers. Recently, Carriage received the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association's coveted "Quality Circle Award" for the third time in four years.
The introduction of a motorhome line is a departure from the company's previous direction.
Carriage's most recent new product was the Cameo LXi, a higher-end extension of its midpriced Cameo towable line, introduced in 1999.
Carriage also manufactures the high-end Royals International, Carriage, Carriage LS and Cari-Lite brands of fifth-wheel and travel trailers.
The 23-foot Carri-Go Class C, offered in two floor plans, features radius vacuum-bonded fiberglass sidewalls and an integrated, aerodynamic cabover. Recchio said Carriage has assured the availability of chassis by building the Carri-Go on either Ford 350 Super-Duty chassis or Chevrolet Express 3500 cutaway chassis. "Those chassis are less stressed right now from an availability standpoint," Recchio said.
The Carri-Go is midpriced at "under $50,000," according to Recchio.
Recchio said that besides appealing to Baby Boom buyers and veteran RVers who are downsizing, the Carri-Go will attract owners of larger motorhomes and trailers who want something less challenging to use on weekends and short trips. "That part of the market is getting more and more substantial all the time," Recchio said.
Branching into motorhomes will allow Carriage to cultivate its customer base, Recchio said. "We have more re-buyers than almost anyone in the business," Recchio said. "We want to offer those people who have owned Carriage towables to own motorhomes manufactured by a company that they trust."
Recchio said the company expects to aggressively push into the motorhome market by offering the Carri-Go in four lengths next year. Some models will be equipped with single slideout rooms, a technology that Carriage pioneered in the towable sector.
Recchio said Carriage has long believed in the value of motorized brands, even though it exited the Class C market after the 1996 model year.
"We recognize that there is significant crossover occurring between towables and motorhomes in the older segment of the market," Recchio said. "The decision to get out of the Class C business several years ago was not a decision made about Class C's. Carriage's Class C shared a facility with a very large van operation. When Carriage decided to stop van production, the Class C was an unfortunate victim."