Hy-Line Benefits From Nimble Size, Flexibility
As a small company competing with larger park-trailer and towable manufacturers, Hy-Line Enterprises Inc., of Elkhart, Ind., has to be nimble, according to President Peggy Flager.
“As bigger manufacturers take a bigger part of the market, the smaller manufacturers have to remain flexible,” Flager said. “That’s what keeps us competitive. Increasingly, it has become more of a challenge, but we are up to it.”
Founded in 1986, Hy-Line today manufactures two recreational park-trailer brands and one towable line.
Flager said Hy-Line expresses its flexibility both in the products it offers and the method in which Hy-Line brands are manufactured.
“We don’t have cookie-cutter floorplans coming down the line,” Flager said. “We don’t put out the same unit during the same day more than once a month.”
The company’s name and the name of its primary brand – Hy-Line – come from the name of the original majority owner, Mel Hyman.
Hyman, Flager and Charles Ragland all were working for a small trailer manufacturer in Northern Indiana when they decided to step out on their own. Randy Hoff, Hy-Line’s current operations manager, started out as a silent partner. Hyman retired in 2000 and his ownership shares were acquired by the minority principals – Flager, Ragland and Hoff.
About 70% of Hy-Line’s business is in the Hy-Line and Easy Street park-trailer brands. “Park trailers are a majority of our business, and we always have a fall slowdown that we’ve never been able to even out,” Flager said.
The company had been building some travel trailers and fifth-wheels under the Hy-Line brand, then began making Pine Creek conventional towables, in part to focus the Hy-Line brand only on park trailers, but also to fill a sluggish fall production period.
“We wanted to separate towables and fifth-wheels from Hy-Line so that there was definition between the two,” Flager said. “We wanted to define a line like Pine Creek and give it its own look and its own identity.”
Easy Street park trailers were added to Hy-Line’s lineup, in turn, to assuage dealers concerned about the number of Hy-Line park-trailer floorplans.
“As we tried to expand our number of dealers, many larger dealers told us they weren’t interested in carrying Hy-Line because mixing and matching everything was too time consuming,” Flager said. “They asked for something with fewer choices.
“That’s where lesser-priced Easy Street came from. We picked 13 of our best floorplans, standardized them and offered them with very few options.”
Keeping Hy-Line focused on the niche that it occupies leads to better quality, Flager contends.
“Our dealers tell us that by far they have a lot less prep time in our units than they do even with major brands,” Flager said. “We limit ourselves to three or four units a day, and one of the owners goes through and inspects every single one of our trailers when it is finished.”
Hy-Line brands currently are sold by 126 dealers, the majority east of the Mississippi. Park trailers primarily go to private buyers who locate them semi-permanently in RV parks and campgrounds and occupy them seasonally.
But the company also has two dealers in Canada, and another in Great Britain, the latter of which sells Hy-Line units to movie studios as on-location dressing rooms.
“It is a unique unit,” Flager said. “There are three different dressing rooms in each unit with a half-bath, and each can be locked for privacy.”
The company also sell 30- to 40-foot ‘bunkhouse’ park trailers that sleep as many as 10 people to traveling carnivals and oil exploration companies. “We’ve sold several to Haliburton (a vendor-supplier for the U.S. government in Iraq) through a dealer,” Flager said.