June '18

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14 • RV PRO • June 2018 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S Founded in 1946 by Solomon Kropf to build manufactured housing, the company diversified into park models in the mid- 1970s under the direction of his sons, Vern and Bob. Don Kropf (Bob's son) and his brother-in-law, Yoder, are now 50-50 owners of this Goshen, Ind.-based manufacturer. "Our expectations are what they've been for the last several years," says Yoder, who is the vice president of the company. "We build 10 units a week, 450 to 470 units a year, like clockwork. I don't see that changing. We have increased slightly every year for the last 15 years. Even in 2008 and 2009, we were only down 15 percent. That says something about our product." That product is spread over four lines: the top-of-the-line Island Series, mid-range Lakeside, the economical Lakeside LE, and a larger Canadian series for its Canadian customers. For 2018, these models feature some new cabinet packages and new accent wall enhancements. "We keep close tabs on the residential market and try to keep on top of what's happening in those markets," Yoder says. "Our dealers come to expect us to stay ahead of the game. We change our decors yearly and are constantly tweaking them." Kropf sells through a 50-member dealer body, which sells primarily to RV parks and campgrounds across the U.S. and Canada, with the majority of that business in the Midwest, East and New England, according to Yoder. He describes his dealer body as predominantly full-time dealers who also carry other towables and motorized units. About 25 percent of retailers carry park models exclusively, including his top dealer. Yoder says Kropf has a five-month order backlog – much of which is custom work. "With the mix we build, there is only so much we can do with our 60-member workforce," he says. "Labor continues to be an issue. We have to make some tough decisions: Do we expand? What do we do to increase our output? "That's a slippery slope; we remember what happens in slow times; you create a monster you have to feed," he adds. Yoder takes pride in Kropf 's ability to compete against the larger, publicly held firms such as Cavco, Skyline and Champion – all of which have multiple plant sites and penetrate markets that Kropf has chosen to leave alone. Yoder has been active in industry affairs and serves on the RVIA Board of Directors. He notes that the RVIA lobbies on the state and federal level to get park models recognized as RVs instead of manufactured housing. RVIA stresses that park models are not meant to be permanently affixed to the property, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences. "We're working hard to change that perception" that park models are permanent residences, says Yoder. "Our product is designed to be parked. A lot of finance companies look at people living in these units, but it's really no different from travel trailers or fifth wheels that are parked permanently in a campground. We're gradually getting more and more financial companies to look at park models as RVs. It's still a work in progress." Figure 1 Park Model Shipments: 2004-2017 Source: RVIA. Data prior to 2012 collected by the former Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association, now part of RVIA. 0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000 8,000 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 '11 '12 '13 '14 '15 '16 '17 5,585 6,796 6,390 6,535 5,004 3,307 2,892 2,761 2,770 3,598 3,781 3,660 3,669 4,023

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