From humble beginnings in 1968, Nappanee, Indiana-based Newmar Corp. has grown into one of the most successful and forward-thinking motorhome manufacturers in the industry.
This year, Newmar Corporation celebrates its golden anniversary. The company is recognizing this milestone with the theme “A half-century, built one at a time.”
In 1968 Marvin Miller and Marvin Newcomer (who had worked for Mr. Miller as a sales manager) left their jobs at an established RV manufacturer to establish Newmar. Their goal was to build the best-quality recreation vehicles the world had ever seen.
A lifelong Nappanee resident, Marvin Miller knew the town was home to many skilled and dedicated men and women, many of whom ended up as Newmar employees. The company’s first product, released in 1971, was a Kountry Aire fifth-wheel trailer.
When Marvin Miller decided to retire, he entertained many offers and in 1984 sold his 51 percent ownership to Mahlon Miller, then-president of RV manufacturer Holiday Rambler. Marvin knew that Mahlon would not move the company elsewhere. In 1991, Mahlon purchased the remaining 49 percent from a silent partner.
1984 also marked the year Newmar released its first Class A motorhome. In 2012, as the high-end travel trailer market was changing, Newmar stopped producing fifth-wheels to focus exclusively on building Class A motorhomes.
Newmar has a history of innovation rather than imitation. In 1991 the company unveiled the first motorhome with power slideouts. For the next three years, competitors tried to sell against that idea. By year four, most manufacturers came to the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, with slideouts in their floor plans. Newmar also introduced the flush-floor slideout in motorhomes.
In 1990 Newmar debuted the Dutch Star and Mountain Aire motorhomes, which remain in the company’s lineup today.
The company also introduced Comfort Drive, a self-straightening steering wheel technology for smoother ride and handling; the STAR Foundation, a steel superstructure designed to strengthen an existing chassis frame; and cathedral ceilings, which increase headroom in rear motorhome baths and bedrooms.
Newmar was the first manufacturer to install awnings on the roof and incorporate them into the fascia, as opposed to the traditional practice of hanging them on the side of the coach. The company also launched the True Comfort ducted central air-conditioning system.
Newmar pioneered the use of full body paint on a motorhome, in 1998. And the company debuted the industry’s first nonretrofitted wheelchair-accessible Class A motorhome: the 2012 Canyon Star 3911. Today the Newmar Mobility lineup also includes the Ventana and Dutch Star 4311 diesel models.
And looking forward, Newmar recently introduced the 2018 New Aire, a smaller diesel pusher that doesn’t sacrifice on amenities and is designed to attract Millennials to the motorhome market. A different kind of premium coach, the New Aire is built from the ground up to deliver high end luxury in a smaller package.
The company began with 100 employees. The ranks swelled to 1,200 before the recession in 2009. Currently, Newmar employs around 800. The physical facility also has grown over the years. A 116,000-square-foot assembly plant was built in 1995; a 150,000-square-foot, air-conditioned chassis prep facility was added in 2004.
Mahlon’s son, Matt, worked in engineering and became president of the company in 2006, just in time to weather the economic downturn two years later by reaffirming Newmar’s commitment to its dealers and customers.
The average employee tenure at Newmar is more than 12 years, with a large number of 30– and 40-year veterans.
Newmar currently manufactures Class A gas motorhomes (Bay Star Sport, Bay Star, and Canyon Star), Class A diesel motorhomes (Ventana LE, Ventana, Dutch Star, and New Aire), and luxury Class A diesel motorhomes (Mountain Aire, London Aire, Essex, and King Aire).
NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference
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— Lou Holtz