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Pilgrim International Celebrates Fifth Year in Business

  • Sunday, 20th May 2007
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

May 2007 marks Pilgrim International’s fifth year of full production as one of the fastest growing recreational vehicle manufacturers in North America.

In May of 2002 the company shipped its first three fifth wheels from its Middlebury, Indiana manufacturing facility. The company has grown from $9 million in sales in its first year to over $135 million annually. In May of 2007 Pilgrim International estimates it will surpass 35,000 recreational vehicles produced in just five years. Today Pilgrim International moves towards its current projected capacity of $250 million for 2008/2009.

During this time the company has grown from one to three manufacturing facilities in Middlebury, Indiana. It has up-fitted and equipped its facilities with the latest in vacuum-bonded lamination processes to bring the highest quality products to market. Pilgrim innovations also include its TuffGloss technology–a high-performance, gel-coat composite lamination technology that replaces conventional FRP.

President and Partner, Steve Bennett put the timetable in perspective, “In February of 2002 Pilgrim International was incorporated. By May of 2002 we shipped our first three Open Road fifth wheels,” said Bennett. “We started with the Open Road fifth wheel as our first product line.” Ironically, the Open Road line, the luxury flagship of the company today, began as a lower price point unit.

Jerry Sell, vice president of sales and marketing, helped to articulate the evolution of the Open Road product line. “What started as an entry-level product evolved into a luxury model. Originally, it was a fully laminated fibreglass unit that was targeted as close as possible to the price that a wood framed aluminium sided unit was selling for. The market drove its evolution into the company’s top-of-the-line offering,” stated Sell.

Jerry Sell went on to explain the dramatic impact of the move to vacuum bonded lamination. “Instead of continuing with the standard pinch-roll process that most manufacturers stay with because it is less expensive, Pilgrim International made the commitment to do it right. This is one of the key components that make Pilgrim unique. Our laminated products are all vacuum bonded. This sets us apart from our competition,” said Sell.

In October of 2006 the company began offering its exclusive TuffGloss lamination technology at the lamination headquarters in Middlebury, Indiana. “Lighter, harder, easier to repair, and virtually the same cost as fibreglass reinforced plastic (FRP), TuffGloss provided our dealers with a distinct advantage offering the look of high-gloss gel coat reserved for heavier, higher priced products,” explained Doug Lantz. “Our goal over the next number of years is to attempt to change the way products are built to improve the product and the processes. One of the biggest problems we have today in the industry is both the material content within the unit and the way we put them together. We are in the process of trying to change these fundamental elements,” founder Dave Hoefer stated. “We’re headed in the direction to utilize composite materials. We’re not going to be the only ones out there, but today, fortunately, we have a scientific group that is working with our industry to bring our products to a much higher level of attention by those in the composite industry. We’re always going to strive to be the innovators. Whether we will be the most innovative, I’m not sure, but we’re going out there with the best in the industry,” he concluded.

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