KZ Inc. Has Proven Track Record of Satisfaction
Among American RV dealers, towable manufacturer KZ Inc., Shipshewana, Ind., is recognized as being one of the best in quality; having been a recipient of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) “Quality Circle Award” for three years running.
That’s a distinction that few companies, including KZ, take lightly.
“If we are being characterized as excellent by our dealers, it means that we are doing a good job listening to them and their customers,” said KZ Sales Manager Carl Dirrman, himself the former general manager of an RV dealership.
KZ was founded by President Daryl Zook in 1972 in a gas station in Middlebury, Ind., where he built truck campers. The company moved to Shipshewana in 1975 and started manufacturing 12- to 16-foot travel trailers.
Dirrman, general manager for eight years at Kamper City, a dealership that exclusively sold KZ trailers in Akron, Ohio, joined the company in 1991, just as its fortunes took off.
KZ production grew from 892 units in 1990 to 6,000 units in 2002. The opening in June of a new 64,000-square-foot factory in Shipshewana will allow KZ to do its own lamination and increase overall production by 25%.
KZ’s lineup starts with the competitively priced Coyote hybrid that retails for $8,000 to $18,000 and extends to the midpriced New Vision Ultra fifth-wheel that retails in the $50,000 range. KZ’s signature brand, by which the entire company is often referred, is the Sportsmen with 18 travel-trailer and 14 fifth-wheel floorplans. The Sportsmen line also features nine Ultra Lite travel-trailer and two fifth-wheel floorplans.
The Sportster, a toy hauler with two hybrid, three travel-trailer and seven fifth-wheel floorplans, is the most recent addition to the KZ lineup.
To keep costs and inventory under control, KZ does not build open stock which, ideally, is the way many companies would like to operate. A typical production order takes from four to six weeks, and is on order from a dealer.
In part, that’s one of the reasons KZ can comfortably offer more than 100 floorplans throughout its brands. As many as 10 to 15 floorplans will be added or subtracted each year.
“This year, I’m looking to take out seven or eight floorplans because they are not producing,” Dirmann said. “You have to put something new in that will be a winner.”
KZ lays claims to a patent on the first hard-sided rear slideout room, which projects the rear of a trailer by 5 feet when set up.
“The whole concept of the rear slide is that we constantly were seeing people who wanted a larger trailer, but were afraid to tow one,” Dirmann said. “A smaller trailer also is more convenient getting out of gas stations and into campsites.”
KZ offers rear-slide floorplans in both the Sportsmen Ultra Lite and Frontier lines.
Among the reasons Dirmann attributes to KZ’s getting high marks from its 150 dealers is that the company draws heavily on its expertise before deciding what to build.
“The New Vision was the first one to come about like that because our dealers wanted something people could trade in their Sportsmen for,” Dirmann said. “The Coyote came about because we don’t make a popup and our dealers wanted something with the open feel of a tent but with the full convenience of a travel trailer.”
Dirmann said the loyalty of its dealers is reflected by similar loyalty to them by the company.
“We try to do what is best for our dealers,” Dirmann said. “One of the things we don’t do like a lot of manufacturers is make sister products. Being that I was a dealer originally, I want everyone to get a fair shake.”