Provan Moves South to Greener Market Pastures
Hauling a recreational vehicle cross county can be a challenge. Taking an entire RV company from Denver to South Carolina goes substantially beyond that.
David Rowe, owner of 18-year-old Provan Industries, which manufactures Tiger Class B and Class C chassis-mounted motorhomes, said the move last year from the Rocky Mountains region to the Deep South was necessary to find new customers for his products.
“We relocated because we wanted to get into a fresh market,” said Rowe, whose company began manufacturing in South Carolina in mid-January. “We do a lot of business in Florida and up the East Coast. These things are built so well that we had sold out our market in Denver.”
The move was not without difficulties.
Although a work force was readily available in job-starved South Carolina, Rowe’s first deal for a factory fell through.
Two semi-tractor trailers loaded with pre-made parts, machinery, patterns, molds and office equipment had to be stored for two months before Rowe found a factory he could rent. There was, however, a bright spot.
“The place that we ended up with is far, far more compatible with what we are doing than the other place would have been,” he said. “What we plan on doing in this new location is improving on what we already do. We are working on fit and finish and manufacturing techniques, colors and equipment.”
Even with the move, the layouts of the Tiger GT and XL remained the same as they have since they were introduced.
“The arrangement of the kitchen, overhead cabinets and beds was the best allocation of space, and I haven’t changed it,” Rowe said.
Amenities, however, are another matter.
“When we first started building, they had portable toilets and iceboxes,” Rowe recalled. “Refrigerators were few and far between. Now they have everything, including refrigerators, freshwater toilets and holding tanks, roof air conditioning and a range.”
Chevrolet Astro Van-based Tiger GT and XL Class B motorhomes are rebuilt entirely from the cab back.
“We cut the van 4½ inches behind the door and replace it with a new body,” Rowe said.
Meanwhile, the market for chassis-mounted RVs like the Tiger CX has changed, he said, with the proliferation of heavy-duty pickups and their different configurations.
The Tiger CX is built primarily on a 3/4-ton Silverado pickup frame, but is available on Ford or Dodge chassis.
“We can’t keep an inventory of trucks because nowadays they are extended cabs and crew cabs,” Rowe said. “We typically order custom chassis for every unit.”
Provan’s customer base averages 60 years or older.
“They find it very comfortable to drive, and it’s not intimidating,” Rowe said. “Part of the enjoyment of owning an RV is not being scared of it, not being intimidated by its size.”
Although the company had a small dealer network for two years starting in 1989, Provan today sells Tigers factory direct to keep better control of price and service.
“The advantage of being factory direct is I can give better service and a more consistent price to the customer,” Rowe said. “And it also results in a slower pace, frankly.
“The problem with the dealers was that the same units would sell for one price at one dealer and for $15,000 less at another dealership. And it became obvious right away that they intended to make as much money on service and warranty as they did selling the coach. That was eating us up, so we decided not to continue with dealers.”