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Thor's Heartland unit acquires Cruiser and DRV


MrSeas

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This is a MAJOR bummer for us, we just picked up our new DRV Thursday to kick off the new year.... One of the reasons for our decision to buy a DRV was the family owned business that was not part of a conglomerate. Looks like our next one will be a New Horizons, Spacecraft or similar unless they have all been bought out by Forest River or Thor by then.....

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Phil bought the company mainly to have a family run operation and his family is heavily involved in the company.

I do not know the owners today or previously, but unless I am mistaken New Horizons has always been a family operation? I toured the plant at Junction City, KS back about 1985 - 90 somewhere, about the time that they first built fivers and I'm pretty sure that it was a proprietorship even then.

 

I agree with richfaa - Thor has owned Airstream since 1982.

While that is true, Thor didn't buy them from the founder who died in 1962. The company has been through several owners since then and is a far cry from what Wally Byam ran.

 

It is interesting to watch the growth of Thor as I have seen them come from a company best known for cheap RVs to one with a pretty wide range of products from low price to high and the quality seems to also have improved along the way. The history is strikingly parallel to that of Fleetwood, but that company is part of RV history with only the name and a few of their brands still around and the company sold off by bankruptcy court. It does make one wonder.................... They only began back in 1980.

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I do not know the owners today or previously, but unless I am mistaken New Horizons has always been a family operation? I toured the plant at Junction City, KS back about 1985 - 90 somewhere, about the time that they first built fivers and I'm pretty sure that it was a proprietorship even then.

 

 

Correct, Kirk. When Harold owned it they were in a smaller plant and still a very small operation. It has always been privately held and family run. Even today, NH is a small custom-build operation. Far larger than when they started, but still very small from an overall RV industry perspective. The same is true for all of the major custom builders. It is almost inherent in the business model - you pretty much cannot be custom and volume at the same time. So NH is under 40 units, Spacecraft is under 15 units, and Forks is under 20 units. Per year. Or thereabouts. Contrast that to (arguably) the closest "luxury" or high end to those three - DRV. DRV was over 500 a year. With production at that level it is difficult to offer any true customization.

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Harold was the owner when I first became aware of them and I believe he was the founder. I don't remember exactly when it was but my parents lived in JC for 40 years and that factory was one of two RV builders there, the other being Mobile Traveler (I think). At that time the New Horizon had no sales staff or dealers but was sold just by word of mouth, which sold all that the company could or would build. I saw them at a JC chamber of commerce business show and I believe that must have been in the early 70's.

It is almost inherent in the business model - you pretty much cannot be custom and volume at the same time. So NH is under 40 units, Spacecraft is under 15 units, and Forks is under 20 units. Per year. Or thereabouts.

Even in production RVs the highest quality and best support tends to come for family held companies.... Newmar, Tiffin, etc.

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I talked to a DRV dealer today, and they are excited about the sell. Sounds like it is a win-win for all parties. DRV owner was ready to slow down and get out of the business and Thor wanting to get in custom build. DRV management to stay in place, no change in manufacturing and with Thor's volume purchase power, DRV now able to get better pricing on materials, appliances, etc. This could then be passed to customer.

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Thor might be able to get a better price on material and appliances but you can rest assured that a cheaper price will not be passed on to the buyer, it will stay at Thor as increased profit.

No doubt you are right. Thor is now another level of the business and they do need to make a profit. They would not have bought DRV if they didn't think they could make money on the purchase. I guess I don't see a problem with that as long as the quality remains high.

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I talked to a DRV dealer today, and they are excited about the sell. Sounds like it is a win-win for all parties. DRV owner was ready to slow down and get out of the business and Thor wanting to get in custom build. DRV management to stay in place, no change in manufacturing and with Thor's volume purchase power, DRV now able to get better pricing on materials, appliances, etc. This could then be passed to customer.

I would not consider any DRV to be a "custom build". As far as I know they have never done custom work. (changing around cabinets is not a custom build)

 

It is likely that Thor wanted to penetrate the higher end market and the DRV name is good there. The products are positioned well above anything I see Thor currently producing so it does seem synergistic to me.

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I would not consider any DRV to be a "custom build". As far as I know they have never done custom work.

I see this much as Jack does. But only time will tell how good this move really is. I would point out that Teton RV was a wonderful company with class leading products but sale to a larger company was the first step in their downfall. Thor has much better capitalization than did Teton so I doubt that DRV will not soon go away, but I am skeptical that it will keep the same high standards of the past. My prediction is that you will soon see expanded numbers of units from the factories and at least some loss of quality and reputation. Thor does seem to have management that understands the value of a recognized name and of hanging on to the past reputation, as shown in what they have taken Airstream to and the prices that they get for them. While it won't happen over night and it will probably take several years, my prediction is that one day they will be just one more higher priced fifth wheel and no longer the same DRV.

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I really hope this is a positive move for DRV and the owners. We, a year or so ago, researched most nicer 5thers on market. We owned a DRV and wanted a longer unit. I did not want to invest in a custom build, not comfortable with price. I really disliked the new slide out mechanics on the new Suites. Yes i realize these are easier to repair than hydraulic units but hydraulics rarely gave problem. Excel floor plans didn't do anything for us so we were left with used older units. Our Teton, we are very content with. It was hard to find a unit this caliber on the market. We searched for over a year. Sated all this to show how difficult it is to get a quality unit today without spending 200k.

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