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Exclusive: Encore RV Seeks its Niche in a ‘Niche’ Market

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After sitting on the sidelines honoring the non-compete agreement he signed with his last employer, industry veteran Rich Schnippel is back at it with his new company, Encore RV. Before the calendar turns over, he hopes to have his Elkhart, Ind., production facility up and running. He’s just waiting for a few more parts to arrive – a common enough problem these days.

Rich Schnippel
Schnippel

“The goal is to really be a one-a-day by mid-December, and I should be able to beat that as long as I get the raw materials in,” said Schnippel, who said he currently has five of his debut products on the factory floor in various stages of production.

Schnippel is launching his company with an entry into what is one of the hottest subsectors of the RV industry right now – the adventure travel trailer.

“We have a three-product plan over the next five years, but it’s going to be adventure trailers to start with,” he said, calling his first line the Rōg. “I’m planning on five or six units in this first phase that’ll go into the Rōg name, and what’s interesting about that is a few will be toy haulers but they’ll also have a camper floorplan as well. …

“There’s a few that really are more overland-style, the kind you’d see coming from small manufacturers, like guys that put up a 50-, 60-foot shed, three buddies build these things, they do a great job of it, they’re high-quality, they tend to be a little heavier because they’re made out of steel and not aluminum,” Schnippel said.The Rōg

The difference between his company and those three DIY’ers is his company will be making enough units to supply a dealer network, Schnippel said.

He said Encore’s units will be made of an all-aluminum frame. In fact, he said, it’s the way the units are constructed that will set them apart.

The Rōg
The unit’s galley area

“My design is very unconventional – the way that it’s built, the way that it’s assembled and there’s a lot of things that eliminate my need for trim and caulk that really make it an incredible product,” said Schnippel. “It’s completely wood-free – there’s not a stick of wood in this stuff. All my cabinets are 1/8th-inch aluminum plate that’s CNC cut, formed and powder-coated, and it’s a neat design. It’s not just lightweight – it’s an integral part of the construction and strength of the trailer.”

Schnippel most recently worked at inTech, where two of his creations were the Luna and the Sol. He said like that company, Encore RV’s units are more about quality than quantity. And he acknowledges that even some of the big guys are putting out quality adventure trailers – a category few were interested in just a short time ago. He welcomes the competition, he said.

Encore factory
Production is set to begin in December

“The more people that step up to the table to increase the awareness of this type of market, this niche market – so to speak – that is becoming not so niche anymore, it’s a big, big thing,” Schnippel said. “Dealers are really starting to understand that adventure trailers and small towables – they’re not just trailers for first-time buyers, they’re not just trailers for young buyers.

“I was just talking to a dealer that said, ‘Rich, it blows me away that are 65-year-olds buying these adventure trailers.’ And I go, ‘It’s a lifestyle, it’s almost a culture.’ For some, it’s just the simplicity of it. They want to be able to tow with almost anything, they want to be able to go off-grid if they want to, they don’t want to have to be reliant on going into campgrounds. Most of our customers don’t go into campgrounds.”

The Rōg will range from 7 to 8 feet to about 18 feet, but Schnippel and his team are still finalizing various floorplans and styles.

“Then the second plan is a product that’s yet to be named,” he said. “And that’s more or less a line of toy haulers and campers that are still lightweight, still wood-free, but they’re larger. They don’t really fit the Rōg, overland adventure-style stuff because they’re a little bit bigger, and they’ll have a different name. Those are going to range anywhere from, say, 16 to 18 feet up to about 28 feet.

Encore
A close-up of the frame assembly

“And then the third phase is where we go into what is kind of a more traditional travel trailer. That’s the part I’m most excited about. That’s where I spent a majority of my time designing over the last couple of years – I’ve developed a couple of different floorplans and lengths. But it’s the exterior of the trailer that’s so unique.”

He credits his time at inTech – as well as KZ RV and ATC – for helping him find his own particular style in terms of both design and construction of an RV, helping build “really exciting products and really high-quality products.”

“I’ve been fortunate in my RV and motorsports career to be with some really good companies,” Schnippel said.

Tony Kindelspire

Tony Kindelspire is the digital content editor of RV PRO magazine.

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