In 1941, Alex Tiffin began Tiffin Supply Co., a lumberyard and general merchandise store in Red Bay, Alabama. From that business start-up, two more generations of Tiffins and more than 50,000 RV owners have profited by Alex Tiffin’s strong sense of customer service. Alex’s son Bob joined his father at Tiffin Supply, which sold just about everything needed to build and furnish a house.
Bob often saw more than 75 customers a day and understood the customer policy: If you don’t treat people fairly, you can’t look them in the eye. Bob made sure he could look his customers and neighbors in the eye.
That customer service helped make Tiffin Motorhomes the success story it is today.
In 1965, Alex Tiffin and a handful of investors bought a state-of-the-art cotton gin, when cotton was still king in Alabama and much of the South. The operations manager quit before the first bale arrived for ginning. Alex turned to his 23-year-old son Bob, who took to the cotton business, machinery, and management like it was second nature.
Soon he had the gin operating at ten bales an hour. He still marvels at the way the gin was engineered. Looking back years later, Bob smiles about his abiding fondness for anything mechanical—especially something that rolls.
As the cotton gin became a steady contributor to the Tiffin enterprise, a new manufacturing operation came to Red Bay. The Commodore Co. opened plants to build manufactured housing and recreational vehicles. Many of their supplies were purchased from Tiffin Supply Co. The Tiffins learned more and more about their new customer and its products. After three years, the Commodore Co. called it quits, closing its doors.
In 1972, the Chevrolet dealership in Red Bay was stuck with a dozen RV chassis. That also happened to be a poor year for cotton in Franklin County. Bob looked at the family’s empty cotton warehouse, the chassis gathering dust in the Chevy dealership, and proposed a new venture to his dad. Alex Tiffin agreed, and Tiffin Motorhomes was born.
Just as 1972 was a bad year for cotton and Commodore, it was a tough time to launch a motorhome operation. A fuel crisis left angry motorists waiting in long lines at gas stations. Suddenly, after the celebrated era of the muscle cars and huge station wagons, Americans learned to pay attention to miles-per-gallon.
The RV industry was in its infancy then—Winnebago, Champion, and Open Road were just a few years ahead of Tiffin.
As the Tiffin reputation for quality and service spread through the RV market, Bob developed a small but dedicated dealer network, which now numbers about 100 in the U.S. and Canada. The RV Dealers Association has honored Tiffin with its coveted Quality Circle Award for dealer satisfaction seven of the eight years the award has been presented.
In that converted cotton warehouse in 1972, Bob set a modest production goal of two motor homes a day. Thirty-three years later, the 50,000th coach rolled off the Tiffin production line. Those early coaches, about the length of a minivan and so simple the owners could fix just about everything that broke, bear faint resemblance to a present-day Zephyr, 45 feet of state-of-the-art electronics including the huge TVs, global positioning and satellite dish. The four slides almost double the on-road width. Three A/C units, a kingsize bed, exquisite cabinetry, and other crafted woodwork, plus tile and carpeted floors. The Allegro, Allegro Bay, Phaeton, and Allegro Bus also boast many of the Zephyr’s features.
As the coaches became more elaborate the business expanded to meet customer demand. Tiffin can produce 3,000 motor homes a year, and Bob predicts that in the coming years, production could reach 5,000. A 45-bay service and parts operation, a welcome center, and a production plant for Tiffin’s PowerGlide chassis have been recent additions.
With the introduction of its 2012 models, Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. marks its 40th anniversary as a family-owned business.
With the simple mission of “building lifetime relationships by doing our best to exceed the sales, service, and overall ownership expectations of Tiffin Motorhomes owners and dealers,” Tiffin has earned its reputation for having the best products and customer service in the industry.
The Phaeton was the top-selling brand of Class “A” diesel motorhomes in 2010. Tiffin’s Allegro Bus, Allegro RED, and Allegro Breeze were also among the top five best-selling diesel pushers.
“This year, Tiffin Motorhomes proudly celebrates our 40th year of building the finest motorhomes on the road,” said General Manager Tim Tiffin. “We want to thank everyone who has been part of our journey, from our dedicated team to our wonderful customers. As we celebrate 40 years and continue to strive to exceed the expectations of our customers, we look forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2022.”
For additional information, including information on the 2012 models and dealer locations, visit www.tiffinmotorhomes.com.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.