Trailer Maker Potomac RV Focuses on the Long Haul
The Executives of Potomac RV LLC of Elkhart, Ind., feel the fledgling company already has established a firm enough base to expand from conventional trailers into fifth-wheels.
At the same time, Potomac, founded in October as an upper entry-level travel-trailer manufacturer by a core of former Holiday Rambler employees, also plans to open a second plant by this fall to increase capacity and begin manufacturing some of its own components.
“We are really looking at Potomac being involved in a marathon, not a sprint,” said President Jim Johnson, a former Holiday Rambler executive. “We are not racing anywhere. We are here for the long haul.”
Potomac entered the market last year with five travel-trailer floorplans offering only half-a-dozen options, a theme that will be continued in the fifth-wheel line. “Obviously there is an opportunity with fifth-wheels for a few more options, but we still want to maintain the theme of not putting customers or dealers in the position to have to make a lot of decisions,” said Senior Vice President Bill Prinz, a former Fleetwood and Jayco executive who joined Potomac in March.
Travel trailers include white or Bentz oak interiors with Corian-edged countertops, porcelain bathroom sinks and toilets and one-piece fiberglass showers. Heated holding tanks, an 18-foot awning and 15,000 Btu ducted air conditioning also are standard.
Potomac fifth-wheels will have enclosed underbellies, 50-amp electrical service, generator prep and more sophisticated sound systems.
Like Potomac travel trailers, the fifth-wheels will be marketed by an initial network of 18 dealers nationwide. That network, according to current plans, would be expanded by another 10 to 15 dealers by the end of summer.
“We are looking for dealers that we know first-hand will be good Potomac dealers and good industry representatives,” said Prinz.
Potomac’s eventual goal is to establish a base of 100 to 115 dealers.
Prinz said the new fifth-wheel line should appeal to second- and third-time buyers who are upgrading, much like Potomac travel trailers are marketed to appeal to seasoned RVers, even though they fall into a rather competitive mid-priced range.
“There has been a ton of entry-level products that have been sold over the last five years,” Prinz said. “You are going to be seeing a lot of those people upgrading, and we are at the price point that they will want to upgrade up to.”
In fact, Prinz said, the company’s focus is expected to shift to fifth-wheels.
“Typically in this price range, you are going to sell more fifth-wheels than trailers,” Prinz said. “We started out with trailers because, from a product introduction standpoint, it was easier to do. But, going down the road, we think we are going to be selling more fifth-wheel trailers than travel trailers. But, we will go where the dealers and market tells us they want us to go.”
Initially, by early December Potomac will introduce six 30- to 36-foot double- and triple-slideout fifth-wheel floorplans for 2004, with prices ranging from $35,000 to $40,000. The company shipped the first two fifth-wheels in May.
Johnson said it’s not likely the company will expand as aggressively with longer travel trailers.
“Our thinking is that in trailers, when you start getting beyond 32 or 33 feet, they become more of a destination unit,” Johnson said. “When you buy something larger, you typically end up parking it. We didn’t feel we wanted to compete in that arena.”
To increase production capacity from five to 10 units a day, Potomac plans to double its manufacturing capacity by this fall by opening a 33,000-square-foot twin to its original plant that, at least initially, will manufacture both travel trailers and fifth-wheels.