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Midwest Manufacturer Eyes New Approach to Market

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With motorized and towable sales climbing in recent years, George Sutton RV General Manager Ron McCowan wanted to get back in the motorhome business.

The Eugene, Ore.-based dealership last sold motorhomes in the 1990s, but since have stuck with the steady sale of the travel trailers that have carried the dealership for years.

“We had decided to look for a motorized unit, and what we found was that most of the stuff that was available was not to the quality that (Owner) George (Sutton) was looking for,” McCowan said. “He didn’t just want to get any old Class C.”

Born Free makes several Class C motorhomes, including the Triumph seen here. Click image to enlarge.

His search led him to Humboldt, Iowa-based Born Free RV, makers of Class C motorhomes, which has traditionally been a direct-to-market manufacturer.

Since its acquisition by HBF Investments in January, the manufacturer has redoubled its efforts to incorporate a dealer base, opening discussions with several dealerships across the country, and ultimately signing a deal with George Sutton RV to carry the complete line.

“We’re looking across the country,” Born Free General Manager Jeff Butler said. “We’re actively working on all areas of the country.”

Butler, who joined Born Free after the acquisition, hopes that the company can continue to add dealers like George Sutton throughout the season. Born Free motorhomes are also sold at Lazydays in Florida and Arizona.

Born Free delivered the first units to the Oregon dealership two weeks ago, sending a small team from the factory to walk dealership personnel through the units and get them trained on the specifics of the Born Free line.

“Their team actually drove the units up here,” McCowan said. “They wanted to deliver these units to us and actually do walkarounds with our sales people. They spent two days here at the store. … It’s amazing that you have that kind of participation involved.”

The attention is not unusual for Born Free, according to Butler, who said that the delivery and walkthrough are standard for Born Free dealers. 

“The first two coaches they bought from us, we delivered ourselves, which is what we would normally do with a dealer, in order to go through some on-site dealer training for that dealer.”

While he has no intention of dropping new-dealer training on the company’s units, Butler said that the dealership is ready to scale its delivery model as new dealers come on board.

“We’ll have to partner with transport companies to deliver our product if the volume warranted it, which I think it will,” he said.

Born Free will host its annual owners meeting June 9-12 at the company’s factory in Humboldt.

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