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Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.

March 1, 2001 by   - () Leave a Comment

Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., founded on the premise that a line of RVs with a limited number of floorplans and options would do well in the marketplace, has returned to its roots with the new Dutchmen Sport and Four Winds Express brands of travel and fifth-wheel trailers.

“Dutchmen took the market by storm way back by offering a trailer with a minimum number of floorplans at a value price,” said Steve Paul, Dutchmen’s vice president of sales and marketing, a former Fleetwood executive. “The goal was with the Sport and the Express was to put a unit out there that was attractive not only to the price-conscious buyer but also the first-time buyer as an alternative to a used unit. One of the problems our dealers have is the ability to get a good, clean used unit. It is very, very tough.”

Dutchmen was founded in Indiana in 1989 by Elkhart County entrepreneur David Hoefer, who was the first to successfully focus an RV company on making highly standardized trailers with few options. Thor acquired Dutchmen in 1991 and the following year acquired Four Winds International Corp., which manufactures motorhomes, including Class C coaches under the Dutchmen name. Conversely, Dutchmen manufacturers and markets trailers under the Four Winds brand name.

Paul says the company’s new Sport/Four Winds Express goes back to Dutchmen’s original premise by offering 10 floor plans ‹ seven travel and three fifth-wheel trailers — in lengths of 19-31 feet with ultra-affordable base retail prices between $9,800 and $15,400. A comfort option package that includes a 13,000 Btu air conditioner, A&E awning, 30-pound LP bottles with covers, AM/FM stereo system, TV antenna, stove cover, three-burner range with oven and a microwave adds $1,900 to the price. Other options are minimal and mostly cosmetic.

Standard features include reinforced studding around entry doors and windows, an electric flush-floor slideout system in selected models, an I-beam frame on a cambered chassis, tongue and grove plywood flooring, one-piece seamless EPDM rubber roof, radius 5-inch-truss roof rafters, tandem axles with electric brakes, laminated countertops, oak-framed cabinet doors, tub surround, three-burner cooktop, wall-mounted system monitor panel and extra storage.

“From an option standpoint, it is impossible for a dealer to take the price very high.” Paul said the company’s view is that typical RV owners are couples ages 30 to 50, who use their RVs primarily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. “For 10 weeks a year, they don’t want to spend $20,000 or $30,000,” he said.
The Sport/Express joins in the Dutchmen stable the Dutchmen and Four Winds Lite, Dutchmen Zephyr/Four Winds Breeze, Dutchmen Classic/Four Winds Classic travel trailer and fifth-wheel brands, and the Signature and Fifth Avenue fifth-wheel lines. The Classic is available under the name Supreme when an upgrade package that includes an all aluminum frame, laminated fiberglass sidewalls and an enclosed and insulated underbelly is added.

“If we take our light product and we put a list of 50 options on it, what happens is that the dealer puts the options on it,” Paul said. “With the Sport, there isn’t the ability to option it out. There are only six or seven options available on the whole trailer.”

Paul said that while standardizing the low-priced Sport/Express brands, Dutchmen is seeking to appeal to a broad range of customers. Two travel trailers are equipped with foldout tent attachments and three travel trailers and all three fifth-wheels have slideouts. “Usually a manufacturer is marketing to a particular group of people,” Paul said. “We are trying to attract a large variety, whether it’s a mom and pop without any kids or a family that needs to sleep eight people.”

— Bob Ashley

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