Tiffin Taps New Class A Markets
Having debuted the diesel entry-level Phaeton motorhome in August, Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., Red Bay, Ala., has expanded the line with the debut of a 40-foot triple-slide model. It was unveiled at RVIA's 39th annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
Introduction of the Phaeton, which retails for $135,000 to $170,000, capped a busy several years for Tiffin Motor Homes, known primarily for its Allegro brands — Allegro and Allegro Bay gasoline and Allegro Bus diesel motorhomes.
"We wanted that price point," President Bob Tiffin said. "We want to target a younger market, and we didn't have anything in between our high-end gasoline model and our midpriced diesel pusher. We are looking for a younger buyer with the Phaeton."
The Alabama company broke away from the Allegro designation when it introduced the high-end Zephyr diesel pusher in 1998 and has been expanding the Zephyr and Allegro brands ever since.
Also planned for introduction at the Louisville Show are a 40-foot Allegro Bus triple-slide and a 30-foot Allegro with a two slideouts.
Bob Tiffin broke into the RV industry working with his father in a family owned lumber yard in Red Bay, then supplier for now-defunct Commodore Corp., a builder of manufactured homes and travel trailers.
"We got a first-hand look at what they were doing," Tiffin said. Commodore went out of business in 1972, and Tiffin immediately hired Commodore employees to begin building his own line of motorhomes. With the OPEC oil embargo looming, it wasn't the best time to get into RV manufacturing. "It was a bad time, but we didn't know it," Tiffin said. "If we'd known what was going to happen, we probably would have not started up."
In 1972, the company built five Allegro motorhomes. Tiffin Motor Homes, where Bob Tiffin has been joined by his three sons, Tim, Van and Lex, has grown steadily since then by adding new brand lines on a fairly regular basis.
Today, Tiffin Motor Homes builds six to eight units a day, and business has remained steady, even as the industry has experienced a downturn. Tiffin attributes that to Tiffin Motor Homes' relatively rapid pace of product development.
"We've made so many upgrade and design changes that it has helped our business," Tiffin said. "We are getting more repeat customers.
"The majority of our customers are 60 to 70 years old, and about half of them are full-time RVers," he added. "We've been seeing that segment going up as a percentage of our customers. A lot of people will begin using their motorhome for two or three months a year and then for six months and then they go full time. I've seen that happen over and over again."
The company's gas-fueled brands are built on Workhorse or Ford chassis, while diesel models are built on Freightliner or Spartan platforms. Tiffin's largest unit — a 43-foot high-line Zephyr — is built on a Spartan K2 chassis with a Cummins ISM 500-hp diesel engine.
Each Tiffin Motor Homes coach also is framed with an aluminum or steel superstructure and finished with gel-coated fiberglass sidewalls.
Tiffin motorhomes typically have few options. "We try to package our units so that they are easy to understand," he said. "We try not to have more than five or six options."
To aid service customers, Tiffin last year opened a 79-site campground less than a mile from the plant. Typically, Tiffin services 60 to 70 coaches a week in the factory's 28 service bays.
The factory is vertically integrated and builds many of its own components, including plastic parts, doors, windows and cabinets.