Monthly Archives: October 2011

Livin’ Lite RV’s Unique Camp Lite Travel Trailer

In just eight short years, Livin’ Lite RV President Scott Tuttle has not only formed two RV manufacturers, but he’s also created a line of travel trailers that is one of the most structurally sound you will find anywhere in the industry. Livin’ Lite started its life as an “automotive camper” manufacturer. Dealers had their fill of traditional pop-up campers, due to a typical rash of warranty claims often associated with pop-ups. It was because of this somewhat hostile environment Tuttle decided to build a cutting edge tent camper that would be virtually warranty free, could be towed by virtually any small car, and made of all aluminum and composites. The end result was the Quick Silver automotive camper. Nine years after its initial production, its still nearly warranty free.

“In the beginning, most U.S. dealers were not interested in even talking to us, as they said, “We don’t want any more pop-ups”, says Tuttle.  “In fact, they pretty much despised the thought of carrying those warranty plagued units ever again.  That is why I coined the term “Automotive Camper”, because we were not in any way, shape, or form, a “pop-up” like they used to know.  We were completely different.  In the early years, most of our production was for Canada, as that market was much more receptive to our concept and understood that there was quite a market in young families who owned cars and minivans.”Just a year after starting Livin’ Lite, Tuttle was part of a group that started Heartland RV, one of the bigger manufacturers in the industry today. He still had a stake in Livin’ Lite, but had a friend running the business. In 2008, he sold his interest in Heartland to focus his attention on Livin’ Lite. It was at that point when they introduced a travel trailer to their line-up, called the Camp Lite.

Built with the same structural fortitude as the Quick Silver,  the Camp Lite boasts a welded aluminum frame, aluminum sidewalls, and aluminum floor decking.  The aluminum theme is also present on the inside, with aluminum framed cabinets which are skinned in…you guessed it…aluminum.

The Camp Lite comes in three different lengths, each with several floorplans to choose from. There’s the 11′ CL11…

the 13′ CL13…

and the 16′ CL16…

As is the case with all of the Livin’ Lite lines, they offer several different color options to choose from, including some in metallic. If that’s not enough, they can even customize colors to suit your tastes.

The Camp  Lite is one of the most environmentally friendly RVs you are likely to see, boasting of 98% recyclable materials and utilizing composite Azdel wallboard, making the Camp Lite wood-free. It is because of this type of forward-thinking and ingenuity that has earned Livin’ Lite INC. magazine’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Privately Owned Companies list in 2009 and 2010, as well as the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s “Spotlight” award both years as well. According to the IEDC, Livin’ Lite “weathered the RV industry storm and grew from approximately 51 to 77 employees in 2011. With 200 percent revenue growth in 2010, the RV manufacturer expects an 88 percent revenue increase this year due to its new light-weight RV model.”

Says Tuttle, “While other RV manufacturers were struggling and even closing their doors, LIVIN LITE sales EXPLODED! It has been quite a journey for us over these last three years, but we believe that the best is yet to come as we continue to offer the most uniquely built, lightest weight, longest lasting campers in the industry.”

(Images courtesy Livin’ Lite RV)

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Little Guy Expecting Big Things from T@B

When Dutchmen ceased production of its T@B teardrop trailer in the summer of 2009, it left the existing owners of the unique lightweight trailer concerned. After all, many of its parts weren’t your typical RV parts that could be found on just about every make & model. Many of the parts came from various parts of Europe and came with a hefty price tag. We got a quote on a replacement door when we were T@B owners at the tune of over $1,000. Just one example of the cost of owning a Dutchmen T@B. It’s not publicly known why Dutchmen put the T@B on the chopping block, but speculation had been it just wasn’t a profitable line, mainly due to the cost of putting them together.

However, T@B owners are a resilient group. With over 3,000 members on a Yahoo Group dedicated to the T@B, and its big brother the T@DA, owners forged on and found ways of keeping their extinct trailers together by sharing ideas and finding resources for replacement parts. Rallies were still formed that drew a good number of T@Bs and T@DAs, with the campfire talk often times centering around whether Dutchmen would start building the T@B again. That question was answered in 2010 when Dutchmen answered with a simple “No”. So that would be the end of that, right? Well….no. Enter a teardrop trailer manufacturer from Ohio.

Little Guy Worldwide was formed in 2002 and has quickly become the big guy on the teardrop manufacturing scene, fueled by their popular 5-wide and Silver Shadow line. When Dutchmen discontinued the T@B line, Little Guy seized the opportunity to negotiate with Dutchmen to acquire the rights to build T@Bs, which added a new dimension to their lineup. Little Guy has their trailers built by Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers, but both companies are essentially joined at the hip. Recently I was in touch with Little Guy Senior Vice President and CEO of Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers, Scott Hubble. When asked when Little guy first decided to pursue the T@B, he tells us, “Following Little Guy moving the production of its trailers from Elkhart, Indiana to Sugarcreek, Ohio, the focus turned to developing a stand-up teardrop model.  Expanding the product lines distributed by Little Guy has always been a goal of ours.  A stand-up teardrop was the most logical fit.  The manufacturing side of our operation – Pleasant Valley Trailers – was poised to begin development and offer something in the same vein as the T@B; however, when it was discovered that Dutchmen’s new executive group decided to drop production of the T@B, Pleasant Valley Trailers seized the opportunity to acquire an established product with a large following and have Little Guy sell it to the masses. Once we knew that T@B was available, we knew it was a perfect fit and an absolute no-brainer, from a sales and marketing standpoint.”  The deal with Dutchmen, completed last winter, included drawings, schematics, marketing material, web site…essentially all the rights Dutchmen previously held relating to the T@B.

2012 Little Guy T@B (photo courtesy Alan McDowell)

Following the building of the initial prototypes in the first half of 2011, production models are currently in full swing with another 100 to be produced by the end of the year. Hubble is projecting production numbers up to 600 units in 2012. “Since this isn’t a new product and sweeping changes haven’t been made to it, the barrier to sales is pretty low and we can be choosey about what dealers we bring on board.  By the same token, the public has been deprived for the past 2 years and are eagerly anticipating the revival of the T@B.” However, their goals don’t stop there. “In our current facility, we could probably produce about 1200 units annually.  This would be where we project being in approximately 18-24 months.” Combined, Dutchmen produced over 4500 T@Bs and T@DAs over a 7 year period.

During their development of the T@B, Little Guy has made strides to correct weaknesses that plagued the Dutchmen version, as well as making standard what were optional features with the Dutchmen T@B:

  • The door handle, door thickness, wheel wells and black trim pieces on the original T@Bs all had failings to one degree or the other.  To address that issue, they moved to a new handle, more substantially weighted door, solid aluminum vs. mesh wheel wells and have employed automotive adhesive to keep the trim adhering to the roof of the camper.
  • In addition to the sink/stove and spare tire, they have made several other features standard, that were formerly optional.  Those items include:  Norcold Fridge, CoolCat 110 AC/Heater, LP Furnace, TV/DVD player, Screen Door, Alloy Rims, Port-a-potty and a 3-Way/Dual Directional Fantastic Fan.
  • In addition, there were a couple of other things that were overhauled – there is a new E-coated, U-channel frame with hydraulic coupler, a diamond plated gravel guard, Amish built interior cabinetry and extra 110 and 12v outlets. Axle weight was also increased to 3500 lbs, creating nearly 2000 lbs of hauling capacity compared to Dutchmen’s axle, which barely gave you 300 lbs. The weight of the trailer tops off just under 1500 lbs.
  • Most of the expensive European parts on the Dutchmen T@Bs will be produced locally, which in turn keeps the cost of the trailer down.

Once the initial wave of production takes hold, there may be additional models of the T@Bs coming back that Dutchmen produced, most notably the T@B Clamshell model. Chris Baum, Little Guy Chief Operating Officer, believes they can overcome the notorious leak problems that plagued the Dutchmen T@B Clamshell, due to Little Guy’s experience in building reliable hatches in their regular line of teardrops over the years.

The return of the T@B to the lightweight travel trailer market should be interesting to watch. Little Guy has been known in recent years as a company that is continually making improvements in their trailers and not sitting still. With that kind of company behind it, the T@B is definitely in good…if not better….hands since being sent out to pasture by Dutchmen.

T@B Website: http://tab-rv.com

Little Guy Website: http://golittleguy.com

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