Get ready for the most radical interior truck camper decor change we have ever seen. Forget everything you think you know about CampLite interiors. Are those real wood cabinets?
Starting with the jaw dropping report of an exclusive partnership with Ford Motor Company last November, the news coming out of LivinLite RV over the past year has been steady.
Thor Industries moved the LivinLite factory from Wakarusa, Indiana to a significantly larger (240,000 square feet) plant in Topeka, Indiana earlier this year. The move consolidated LivinLite to a campus shared by several other LivinLite brands and is designed to help cut costs. Having visited the new LivinLite facility this past summer, we can report that the new factory has enormous potential, including space for what we hope will become a dedicated truck camper production line.
Shortly after the move, Scott Tuttle, Founder and President of LivinLite, took an early retirement. After launching LivinLite in 2003, Scott sold the company to Thor Industries in 2013, and was ready to hand over the reins. Scott has refocused his attention towards supporting a faith-based, non-profit project with North Central Indiana Teen Challenge and the Life Center Project that helps families suffering from the effects of substance abuse and poverty in Elkhart County.
We want to thank Scott for bringing his 100% aluminum and composite vision to truck campers, and for attracting Ford Motor Company to the truck camper table. His undeniable and inspirational entrepreneurial force will certainly be missed in the RV industry. We also want to wish him great success with his faith-based, non-profit project in Indiana. Thank you Scott!
Taking over for Scott as General Manager of LivinLite is Ryan Spencer. Ryan has well over a decade of experience in the RV industry, including truck campers, allowing him to hit the ground running with CampLite. Among his first round of accomplishments are three bold new CampLite interiors and a significant increase in the CampLite warranty term. Now that’s an auspicious beginning.
To get the full measure of what CampLite is announcing for 2016, we talked to Ryan Spencer.
Above: Ryan Spencer, General Manager at LivinLite RV, showing CampLite’s new drawers
TCM: This is the first time you have been featured in Truck Camper Magazine. Please introduce yourself and how you came to work for LivinLite.
Ryan: I’ve been in the industry for fifteen years now. I started out on a RV production line and worked my way up. I went into a sales position within Thor and gained more experience there. Then I spent a few years working for another truck camper manufacturer where I gained key experience with the truck camper product.
I left there a year ago to return to Thor. Due to my truck camper experience, and my history with Thor, I was awarded the General Manager job here at LivinLite. It’s a good fit for me and we are excited about the future.
Above: 2016 CampLIte 8.4S short bed slide-out at the Elkhart Open House
TCM: That’s a fantastic career path. Let’s change gears. Are there any CampLite truck camper models being dropped for 2016?
Ryan: No, we are not dropping or adding any CampLite models for 2016. The one model change we made was to redesign and improve the CampLite 8.5. It is replaced with the CampLite 9.2.
About a year ago, the 8.5 had a major redesign including changing the east-west bed to a north-south bed, and adding several inches to the floor length. It’s basically still the 8.5, but the changes are significant enough to warrant the name change.
Above: High rinse faucets are now standard – click to enlarge
TCM: Are there any standard feature updates for 2016?
Ryan: Yes, we have a long list of standard feature updates for 2016 including standard solid surface counter tops, stainless steel sinks, high rinse faucets, audio-video package, 22-inch HDTV, gas/electric DSI hot water heaters, pre-wire for electric jacks, extra large fold-out entry grab handles, magnetic door catches, and black tank flush.
Above: Stainless steel sinks (Alpine decor left) and Jensen stereo system (right) are now standard – click to enlarge
Above: Large fold-out entry grab handles are a standard feature for 2016 – click to enlarge
Starting this month we will be adding bathroom sinks, medicine cabinets, and mirrors to the 2016 CampLite 6.8 and 8.6.
What’s most exciting is that we have been able to add all of these standard features while lowering the weight and price of our truck campers.
TCM: How did you manage that?
Ryan: There are a number of ways that we made this happen. First, we implemented engineering efficiencies in our new factory that were not previously possible. Second, we moved to decorative wood cabinet faces and doors.
Third, we re-examined our suppliers and their various products. For example, we changed window suppliers to not only get a better window, but a window that costs less. We also went with a new counter top manufacturer to save even more money while improving the quality of our counter tops.
All of these efforts, and others, allowed us to increase the standard features list across the board while lowering the prices for our customers.
Above: Decorative wood cabinet faces and doors have been added for 2016, shown in Alpine – click to enlarge
TCM: Those changes are certainly in the right direction. For 2016, LivinLite is debuting real wood cabinet faces and doors. After years of being the wood-free RV, why is LivinLite putting wood in its products?
Ryan: Since the inception of LivinLite, we have had an interior look that was, for lack of a better term, commercial or industrial looking. It was the garage you may dream of, but not necessarily want to live or sleep in. People loved the idea of an all-aluminum and composite truck camper, but they thought our interiors looked like a garage.
To soften up the interiors, we started by adding linoleum floors. Then we added Azdel composite with a faux wood-look. Little by little, year after year, we made the interiors softer and softer, and gained more sales. Still, our interiors lacked the warmth of a home or an average hotel room.
For 2016, we are debuting new interiors featuring decorative wood cabinet faces and doors. We are still using our all-aluminum and Azdel composite structure, which means no rot, and no rust. The wood face cabinetry and doors give the 2016 CampLite campers the soft interiors our customers have asked for without sacrificing LivinLite’s rot-free and rust-free story.
Above: When you open the cabinet doors you can see the welded aluminum framework – click to enlarge
TCM: Exactly where does the wood-free, all-aluminum and composite construction end, and the wood elements begin?
Ryan: The only wood used is for the cabinet faces and cabinet doors. As soon as you open the cabinet doors you’re going to see the welded aluminum framework and shelving. We are still using Azdel composite in the walls. In summary, the use of wood is entirely cosmetic, so much so that if we decided to build a unit without any of these aesthetic enhancements, the integrity of the unit would be unchanged. There’s no wood anywhere else in the CampLite product.
TCM: Some may read this and think that LivinLite will be putting more and more wood into its products in the future. Is this as far as you’re going to go with wood?
Ryan: Yes, this is the limit on the wood in LivinLite units. To be frank, I don’t want wood in our campers, period. In the future, if a new composite material becomes available with the aesthetic warmth and economy of wood, we will certainly make the change.
When you see rot in an RV, it’s not the cabinet doors that are rotting out, it’s the structure. And our structure is all aluminum and composite. It will never rot, or rust.
TCM: The buzz about the new CampLite interiors at the Elkhart open house was very strong. Tell us how the new interiors were chosen.
Ryan: From a material and construction perspective, LivinLite has always been a forward looking product. I wanted the 2016 interiors to reflect that forward thinking. To accomplish this, we are debuting three new interiors; Alpine, Cascade, and Sierra.
Above: Alpine interior, white wood, grey counter tops, and grey vinyl flooring – click to enlarge
1. Alpine features white wood cabinetry with grey solid surface counter tops and grey vinyl flooring. You can choose between dark walnut or light walnut leatherette cushions. Riollo is the name of the accent fabric. The great thing about the Alpine decor is how the light wood opens up the camper and makes the interior feel clean and modern.
Above: Cascade interior, dark zebra wood, white counter tops, and light wood plank vinyl flooring – click to enlarge
2. Cascade features dark zebra wood cabinetry with white solid surface counter tops and light wood plank vinyl flooring. You can choose between dark walnut or light walnut leatherette cushions. Firework is name of the accent fabric. This look is popular in the marine industry. You’ll see a lot of the dark zebra grain, white countertops, and plank flooring in the new yachts. Airstream also uses a similar decor.
Above: Sierra interior, caramel colored maple cabinetry, grey counter tops, and tile-like vinyl flooring – click to enlarge
3. Sierra features caramel colored maple cabinetry with raised panel doors. It has grey solid surface counter tops and a tile-like vinyl flooring. The accent fabric gives the Sierra interior a simultaneously fresh and traditional look.
Above: CampLite campers now feature drawers – click to enlarge
TCM: For the first time in the history of CampLite truck campers, you are debuting drawers. What took CampLite so long?
Ryan: (laughs) I can’t speak to as why it took so long. I don’t know. What I do know is that there comes a time where campers must become more functional. We must build what customers are asking for instead of what the company has done all along.
One of the first things I did when I walked into a CampLite truck camper was say, “Where are the drawers? Where do you put silverware?” It needed to be done.
TCM: Since the launch of LivinLite, the floors have been made from interlocked aluminum. Tell us about the new composite floors, and why that change was made.
Ryan: The new composite floors are vacuum bond laminated with block foam, aluminum framing, and two layers of Azdel; one on the top, and one on the bottom. The result is a lighter, better insulated, and more cost efficient floor that doesn’t compromise strength. Nothing was lost with the new composite floors. It’s all gain.
Above: Extra layers of Azdel have been added to the structure
TCM: Were any other materials inside the 2016 CampLite truck camper line updated?
Ryan: There are a few more changes. The ceiling board is now a different color of Azdel. There’s also an extra layer of Azdel in the walls, as standard, for improved insulation. Another standard is the fully-enclosed, insulated, and heated underbelly.
On previous CampLite units, the bottom was often open with exposed holding tanks. Now there’s a covering across the bottom with insulation. We also added a heat duct that runs from the furnace into the basement. All units with tanks will now have heated basements.
We also offer optional 12-volt holding tank heating pads and thermal pane windows to make our camper a four season coach.
Above: Two person dinette in a 2016 CampLite 8.6 – click to enlarge
TCM: We are particularly pleased to see the face-to-face two-top dinette in the 8.6 model. How was this decision made?
Ryan: Yes, the standard build on the 8.6 and 10.0 now features the two-person dinette. This was made in response to customer requests. You can still get the L-shaped bench as a no-charge option.
Above: LivinLite has announced a two-year warranty For 2016
TCM: Tell us about the new two-year CampLite warranty.
Ryan: We now have a two-year warranty on workmanship and three-year structural warranty, which includes the welded aluminum frame. The individual appliances like water heaters and refrigerators have their own warranties.
Our new two-year warranty simply reflects our belief that LivinLite’s aluminum-framed and composite products are the best in the industry. We also wanted to ease the customer’s mind now that we are utilizing decorative wood cabinetry faces and doors. The wood does not effect the quality of LivinLite products whatsoever. The two-year warranty is our stamp stating how much we believe in our product and how well it’s built.
We have some of the lowest warranty claims percentages in the industry. This warranty will help the retail customer in making the decision in their purchase.
Above: 2016 CampLite campers at the Elkhart show – click to enlarge
TCM: When will the 2016 CampLite truck campers be available?
Ryan: The 2016 campers with the new interiors and product changes in this article started shipping on September 1st.
TCM: You mentioned the price decreased for 2016. Can you tell us how much less CampLite truck campers will be?
Ryan: On average, the price reduction is between $500 to $1,500 per camper depending on the floor plan.
TCM: Is there anything else about the 2016 CampLite truck campers that you would like to add?
Ryan: I am really excited about the 2016 CampLite truck camper line. Never before has a truck camper manufacturer had this much camper for this low of a price, period. Then you add the long list of new standard features, the exciting new interiors, the unparalleled construction, and the new two-year warranty. It’s a complete package that has never been topped.
I think we have finally eliminated most of the objections folks have had to CampLite over the years. The objections have been removed.
I also want to thank all of our dealers and customers for their patience during our factory move this past summer. We are now completely moved into our new facility, and up to speed. We have new technology allowing us to be more streamlined. We also have a quality-minded production team. We are excited about this new facility. It’s going to be huge.
TCM: Should we expect anything exciting from CampLite truck campers in 2016?
Ryan: Two floor plans are in the works. One will be totally new, and targeting half-ton trucks. On the larger side, we’re going to have a new slide-out model that incorporates the refrigerator into the slide in a 10-foot floor plan. Stay tuned.
Visit LivinLite’s website at www.livinlite.com/truck-campers.php.