Lightweight travel trailer specialist ProLite has been
building RVs in Québec for more than 10 years. That can seem
like a while to some people, but when you consider the
company’s modest beginnings, 10 years isn’t a very long
time. Martin James built his first travel trailer in 2000,
in the single-car garage of his own home. “The garage
measured 14 by 20 feet, and my first ProLite was a 17 footer.
There was barely enough room for me to get around it. The
garage was too low to allow me to mount the axle - I had to
drag the thing outside to install the wheels. I paid full
retail for all the parts, which cost me a fortune, but I
convinced a dealership to take it on consignment, and they
quickly sold it. So I built a second unit in my
brother-in-law’s garage, which was larger, and the dealer
immediately sold it to a customer who happened to be there
when I brought the finished trailer in.
That’s how I got started.”
Martin James, founder and owner of ProLite, built his first RV in his own garage. It was pretty tight in there, but you have to start somewhere.
What drives a man to launch a travel trailer manufacturing company in his garage? In James’ case, it was a matter of natural evolution. “My father was a rep for RV manufacturers, then a salesman in a dealership. I literally grew up in RVs”. After having worked in the RV industry as a service technician, and then as a salesman, James was well equipped to make his dream come true. But more important than his background, he was able to develop a keen business sense which allowed him to not only build and sell travel trailers, but also to manage the growth of a manufacturing facility. “It wasn’t easy. A lot of people were saying “it’s built in Quebec, it’s cheap, they’re going to go under”.
How many times did I hear that one! I admit, we had our problems, not all of our ideas were great ones, but we were always able to find our way and make things work. A manufacturer needs about ten years to develop its know-how and establish its reputation. Today, the quality of our product is excellent. We build almost everything in-house, including the chassis, although we obviously still purchase the major accessories. We use real wood – we want light weight, but not at the expense of quality.”
To keep in step with the growing ProLite line-up, the manufacturing plant was enlarged four times over the years, including the latest jump, in 2007, from 9,000 to 37,000 square feet following
a move to St-Jerôme, about a half hour north of Montreal. “That was a big step. I combined the factory with a sales center that I manage myself.”
Once more, James’ intuition has paid off, and the concept proved to be successful. Just like his original idea of specializing in light weight travel trailers, which happened to dovetail nicely with
the downsizing of models in the automotive industry.
The 2011 model year marked another pivotal step in ProLite’s evolution. On the one hand, the company launched two all-new models, the Escapade 15 and Xtreme 23, equipped with new-for- ProLite slide-outs that use a compact and lightweight operating mechanism.
“We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and we finally found a power system that’s light enough.” On the sales front, after 10 years of catering exclusively to the Québec market, ProLite is branching out across the country, having
started the year with a dozen new dealers outside of Québec. “In October 2010, we had zero. So that’s a huge step. We sold 350 units in 2010, and hope to grow that number to 400 to 450 in the coming year. That’s big for us, but we have a solid team here, and we can make it happen.”
Top to botom images :
The slide-outs use a light and compact deployment system relying on small electronically-controlled electric motors.
The plywood flooring (here covered with a protective film) and the wheels are attached to the frame.
The swooping single-piece fiberglass roof covers an aluminium and wood structure it has become a defining ProLite feature.
This article appeared in RV Lifestyle DEALER NEWS, November 2012. Reproduced courtesy of RV Lifestyle Magazine www.rvlifemag.com
The Prolite chronology over the years
Introduction of the new model Evasion 16
A new model made its debut in 2008, the Fusion 19 will replace Polaira 17.
A factory and a showroom are opened at the 1100, Industrie Blvd at St-Jérôme in order to present the travel trailer models for the customers. This new site, with a surface four times bigger than the factory of St-Eustace, has modern equipment to be able to manufacture more than 400 products per year. New services are also offered as a parts store, financing plan and RV camper renting. A new model makes its entry in 2007, the Max 21 with weight of 2750 pounds on two axles.
The Eco 12 introduction with a weight of 750 pounds. Moving from St-Eustache plan to St-Jérôme.
To adjust itself at the customer requests concerning ultra light travel trailers, the Ultra 24 model is replaced by a very light model and incomparable which is the Mini 13 with a weight of 865 lbs. Some modifications with the Profile 14 and Fusion 19 will brought this vision towards increasingly for light caravans in order to agree with the current life practices.
2004 and before
When launching the Fusion 19, Martin has attacked a caravan with compact bolster which can be drawn by compact vans. Thus, at spring 2003, Prolite Ultra 24 was born. "It weighs of 3995 lbs and is ideal for the small families because of her price and its fickleness. The American manufacturers have the monopoly of the large machine, but offer very little in the compact and light segment ".With two models and additional retail outlets, Martin has developed a lightweight trailer (14 feet for the Profile and 1350 lbs) towable by a compact car that is now available to those looking for small and convenient. The cocooning are also followers in the VR!