Bill Penney of East End Campers and Truck Camper Warehouse reports on his visit to Northwood Manufacturing and the new Eagle Cap production line.
Earlier this month we got a call from a very excited Bill Penney, Owner of East End Campers and Truck Camper Warehouse. He was in Oregon and preparing to visit Northwood Manufacturing to attend a dealer open house. After the open house, Bill would make his way to Adventurer to see their new Eagle Cap production line. We asked Bill to call us again when he returned to give us a full report. Two weeks later, Bill called us and with the following report.
The Purpose of the Dealer Trip
After flying out west, I drove 900 miles in seven days to visit Northwood Manufacturing (Arctic Fox and Wolf Creek), and Adventurer Manufacturing (Adventurer and Eagle Cap). I would like to get out to visit the truck camper factories once a year, but it seems to only be possible once every other year. If I’m not here at my dealership in New Hampshire for seven days, it’s not good.
Northwood Manufacturing was having a dealer open house and I thought it would be a good opportunity to review their production and quality control and talk to the management team.
I’m a hands-on person, so getting to know how things like a water line runs to the basement and connects to the water tank are important. I’ve got a photographic memory with stuff like that. I’m in charge of a lot of repairs, so I like to know how things go together. And if a customer asks me a question about their camper, no matter what it is, I like to know the answer. I need to know how these campers are manufactured from the first step to the last.
This knowledge helps me when a customer comes in and has trouble. I know how things work and can fix it. I want to know what size screws they’re using and whether there’s wood in the frame in a specific location. I also talk to the manufacturers about where we can cut on weight that won’t sacrifice build quality. For example, I bet that there is ten pounds of wire in most campers that doesn’t need to be there.
The benefit of my camper knowledge for my customers is extremely valuable. Let’s say that someone from Pennsylvania buys a camper from me here in New Hampshire. I know it’s a long way to drive, but I can diagnose 90% of the camper problems they may have over the phone. That’s no exaggeration. I know the campers that well. I don’t want my customers to need to drive here every time they have a problem. If at all possible, I want to help my customers fix problems over the phone.
Sometimes it’s as easy as people not understanding how a latch works, or how to bypass a hot water heater, or how to use the reset button on a GFI. A normal person doesn’t know this, but I live and breathe truck campers.
Northwood Manufacturing Factory Visit Impressions
I think Northwood Manufacturing is extremely efficient. The team of people who work at Northwood are very dedicated from the management team, to assembly, to quality control. Northwood Manufacturing is more of a team than I’ve seen anywhere else.
While I was at the factory, I saw Doug Karr, Northwood’s Truck Camper Expert, and met Mick Pickler, Northwood’s Camper Production Manager, and Don Cochran, Northwood’s National Sales Manager. Don gave a fantastic presentation during the dealer open house and everyone I met at the plant was very nice.
I saw the new Fox Landing step system (Editor: a Fox Landing story is in the works) on a 2012 Arctic Fox 1140 and it’s great. I suggested that they continue this thinking and make the climb into the cabover easier. I also suggested they put a big window under the overcab so that animals can get back and forth from the truck and camper. That’s very important to many of my customers.
Northwood was extremely receptive to my suggestions and the next three 2012 Arctic Fox 1140s they are building for me will have many of my suggestions incorporated.
Northwood’s pricing is great because of their ability to purchase products properly. Proper purchasing keeps prices down allowing the customer to get a lot of camper for their dollar. Another impressive thing about Northwood is that they do not charge or minimally charge the customers for work when people bring their campers back to the plant. They take care of their customers and their dealers.
I had a great visit with Northwood and enjoyed meeting the team.
Adventurer and Eagle Cap Factory Visit Impressions
Right off the bat, I was very impressed with the 2012 Eagle Cap line. The 2012 Eagle Cap campers look almost exactly like the old ones did, only better. As far as quality goes, I would say they notched up the camper quality about 10% from the old Eagle Cap plant. I’m very excited about the Eagle Cap product and I’m glad to see that they’re doing the right thing.
I like the new darker interior wood tone. It’s not too dark. The Azdel material they’re using is pretty cool stuff. The solid fiberglass nose cap is still the coolest thing on the planet. They’re not manufacturing the fiberglass nose caps in house, but they are sustaining their old pricing structure. This is all good.
The most impressive thing is that they are not mass producing Eagle Cap campers. They’ve got three or four on the line and they’re taking their time to build them right. They are not trying to get them out the door fast. They are putting each camper together carefully and doing a really good job.
The interior colors they picked for 2012 are perfect. I’ve got samples here for customers to see. They are warm and neutral colors.
Their plant is more state-of-the-art than Eagle Cap ever was. The quality control looks like it’s better. From what I can see, it’s the same level of quality or better than the previous Eagle Cap owners saw or had.