Italian Quality Fiberglass Distributed Stateside

Brianza USA makes a splash and turns fiberglass laminates – often considered a commodity – into a specialty with an Italian flair.

First impressions are everything. When a prospective motorhome or fifth wheel customer strolls a dealer’s lot and kicks the tires, they have a lot of factors to consider when sizing up a unit. You know, the usual suspects: size, floorplan, slideouts, graphics, GPS systems, Bluetooth, cameras, aux outlets, Wi-Fi, cabin amenities – the list goes on.

Often overlooked, however, is the exterior fiberglass laminate. James Witty, president of Brianza USA Corp., says it should be the highest selling advantage that RV manufacturers can have. He should know, because the company has turned fiberglass – what is often considered a commodity – into a specialty.

“It’s the first thing a prospective coach customer sees,” Witty says. “Whether they comment on it or not, trust me, they’re looking at it. They judge it. And there can’t be a more important component for a motorhome. If an air conditioner needs to be replaced, no problem. If it’s the fiberglass, you’re in a heap of trouble. The last thing you want down the road is yellowing or delamination – it’s very temperamental. Quality fiberglass is a great way for a manufacturer to build their brand. Long term, it helps everyone to have the best product in the industry. It matters.”

Left to right: Alberto Crippa, Giuseppe Crippa, Paulo Crippa, Cristina Crippa.

Brianza USA’s parent company is Brianza Plastica, a manufacturer of high-quality fiberglass laminates for the recreational and motor vehicle markets based in Italy. Having entered the markets in the United States and Canada just 10 years ago, it’s already made a splash by winning a Blue Excellence Award this year from Jayco, which recognized the company as a Top 10 supplier for service and on-time delivery.

Headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana, where its facility serves as a distribution center, it warehouses two months of backup inventory behind its active inventory.

“That’s the reason we’ve had such success with nearly 99% on-time delivery, which is really rare for this industry and one of the reasons we won the Blue Excellence Award,” Witty says.

Brianza provides two main fiberglass brands, which are manufactured at its plants in Italy, and delivered in sheets and coils: Elycold (a premium high-gloss fiberglass) and Elyplan (a fiberglass targeting entry-level coaches and mid-level fifth wheels).

“Elycold is truly of Italian quality and German engineering combined with American moxie – it’s second to none. We use the highest quality raw materials and our testing is incredible, from heating, aging and bonding with an extremely low discoloration rate to our process that cools the fiberglass at room temperature to limit imperfections. It’s an excellent product that’s going to lay flat for a long time.”

Stephan Bachstein (left) and his team in the research and development lab.

Witty stresses that Brianza’s manufacturing “recipe,” production process and vigorous testing are what set it apart from the competition when it goes out the door. Behind the science of their manufacturing is fiberglass industry expert Stephan Bachstein, who is in charge of quality control and engineering, and who also “refuses to skimp” on raw materials.

“Even more than that, Stephan takes the machinery, which is standard throughout the industry, and continuously tweaks it to higher levels until he’s satisfied with its quality of output. He’s a well-known and admired superstar in the world of fiberglass and FRP,” Witty says.

To further ensure quality, Brianza also built a new chemical lab in 2019 to test the product for heat and aging.

“We have multiple levels of quality control through measuring and monitoring. It’s unbelievable how much chemistry is involved in fiberglass for something that seems like a simple product. There are so many areas where it could go wrong, and it requires the right mix of fiberglass to resin and more,” Witty explains. “To say ‘fiberglass is just fiberglass’ is a lazy narrative. We hold ourselves to excellence with a product that tests well, looks great and performs at a high level.

“We’re committed to having the best quality product, on-time delivery and customer service in the industry – we’re customer focused at all times. If there’s an issue, which we rarely have, you’ll hear from us within an hour of being contacted, and [if] problems get identified within 24 hours, then they get solved within 24 hours.”

“For years we have served the best European groups in the recreational vehicle sector and we know we have the right mix of quality/service to satisfy even high-level needs, [so] it seemed like a natural step to aim for the important American market,” says Alberto Crippa, Brianza sales executive and board member. “After the first years of adjustment and startup of Brianza USA Corp., last year we decided to change course by taking on an American commercial team of competent people introduced to the market. We were lucky enough to hire James [Witty] as president and Kolin Adams and Eric Rheinheimer as valuable collaborators. We are therefore certain that in 2024 the mix between the quality of the products that Brianza Plastica can provide and the service that the Brianza USA Corp team provides on a daily basis will lead to an important development on the U.S. market.”

As a family-owned company, Witty explains that its company culture is unlike any other he’s worked in.

Brianza Plastica production site in Rovigo, Italy.

“Italy is just different. When you get hired in Italy, it’s a much bigger deal because oftentimes people get hired for life. Every single meeting is fun and lively, and you feel like part of the family when you work here. It’s awesome – it’s who they are, and we love to celebrate our victories.”

The future is bright for Brianza USA and more victories are anticipated, as word gets out and demand grows for its products. Its customer base is already rapidly expanding and its revenue has nearly doubled, though Witty stresses that Brianza doesn’t strive to grow too aggressively.

“We won’t compromise our product just to get more sales. The level of quality with the Italians? It’s bar none, and they won’t sacrifice quality.”

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