Southern California's Lance Goes to the Max
Major changes are on the way at Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., as the nation's leading builder of truck campers enters its fifth decade.
Eschewing traditional construction, Lance Camper will introduce for 2005 the more spacious aluminum-frame Lance Max while continuing to offer traditional wood and aluminum construction in the Lance, Lance Slideout and Lance Lite truck campers.
The Lancaster, Calif., company says the new Lance Max, because of its innovative design, will offer 30% more floor space, do away with many of the problems that vex RV owners and provide a more stable center of gravity.
“It is a reinvention of the product,” said Norm Jacobsen, director of sales and marketing.
Lance Camper was founded in 1965 by Richard Murray as M&M Trailer Supply in North Hollywood, Calif. He later was joined by partner Ron Mertes, who managed Lance’s factory-direct sales. During the first oil embargo in 1974 Murray and Mertes sold the business to current president Jack Cole, who had begun to work at Lance part time after high school.
Cole created a dealer network, and Lance Camper began to grow outside Southern California. Today, Lance has more than 100 dealers nationwide with about 70% relying on truck campers as their main source of revenue.
Sales currently range from 3,000 and 4,000 units annually with more than 60% being sold on the West Coast.
“Half of what we build is built to order for the customer, and we can turn an order around in less than six weeks,” Jacobsen explained.
He said the key to Lance’s success is that the company manufactures only truck campers. “Pretty much every other big company in our industry has taken a shot at building truck campers,” Jacobsen said. “But we continually focus on truck campers.”
That focus also has led to Lance pioneering such truck camper innovations as the extended cabover, electric loading jacks and rear-step bumpers.
For most of the last 20 years, Lance has had a more than a 30% share of the truck-camper market, and for six years running, Lance received the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association Quality Circle Award. “We missed the award last year by a fraction, unfortunately,” Jacobsen said. “Most of the problem was related to service and parts availability. That problem is being dealt with by the construction of a 35,000-square-foot service facility and parts warehouse that will be completed in April.
Development of the new all-aluminum Lance Max began when the company started thinking about changing the way the camper mounts on the pickup bed.
“We wanted a full-wall slideout so that more than just the dinette could slide out, and we wanted to put all the liquid storage between the wheel wells rather than having it hanging out the back,” Jacobsen said.
That meant developing new processes and finding new materials to build the Lance Max, which Jacobsen said would become Lance Camper standards.
With the exception of a few accessories, the Lance Max uses none of the parts used to build other Lance products. “We also saw the new Max as giving us the opportunity to eliminate many of the issues that consumers have, not just with us, but with every other type of RV – convenience, leaking and condensation,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve pretty much made the all-weather package standard because it’s easier to build.”