Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Customized camper vans
Co-founder and CEO Eric Miller is outfitting Mercedes-Benz vans for the great outdoors -- and then some.
TouRig is booming. That's a good thing, but it's also a "constant juggling act," says Miller. "We're about 14 months out right now for full, big custom rigs," says Miller. "We're taking reservations for April and May 2019. Right now in my facility, there are 14 vans being worked on."
TouRig specializes in doing high-end customizations of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Metris vans. The full customizations average about $65,000. "We do offer things down in the $40,000 range and we've built things that are north of $100,000," says Miller. "We do full, big custom rigs that can take anywhere from 75 days to 115 days. A whole other part of our business, which we call day work or stage work is where we allocate part of our shop to vehicles that are just here for a day or two or three that are getting an electrical system a heater some windows and vents, things like that."
The company launched in 2015 when Mercedes-Benz announced it would start manufacturing 4X4 Sprinter vans in the U.S. "That was the moving factor," says Miller. "The vans are great, but they'd been limited in where they can go. As soon as we saw that, it was an open door for us."
Miller says the growth has been strong. "From that first year to the second year in business, we grew over 300 percent. The second year, we grew 200 percent and this year, we will grow at about 150 percent," he says. "It's a bustling market for sure."
However, Miller was a fan of the Sprinter long before he went into the custom van business. As a representative for outdoor manufacturers, he spent enough time in his van to call it a second home. "I built my first in 2001 and traveled as a rep in that thing for about eight years, living in that thing for about 100 nights a year on average," he says.
Right now, TouRig works exclusively on Mercedes-Benz vehicles. "It allows us to be stock specialists and focus on an area that is about 90 percent of the market for what we do. It's a premium, proven platform," Miller says. "Between the higher level vehicle and the higher level platform we work on it's a nice synergy."
His partner and co-founder, Paul Bulger, has experience in the marine industry, captaining sailboats. "He has a 30-year background of working in confined spaces, working on systems, understanding what you need and what you don't need in a self-contained vessel."
It's proved invaluable for turning vans into fully-fledged camper vehicles. As such, a lot of the materials the company uses come from the marine industry. "We're importing a lot out of Florida, from Italy from the UK," says Miller. "If it works on the open ocean, it'll handle the road for the most part."
He adds, "One of the things we're known for is our systems. We have really high-level electronics in our vehicles. One thing we're kind of proud of is we have a package that allows your vehicle to be pretty autonomous in terms of heating and cooling. Let's say you're in the desert and it's 90 degrees. Our system allows you to turn your air conditioner to a set temperature and walk away from the vehicle and it will continually maintain that temperature." If the battery gets low, the vehicle autonomously turns itself on to recharge it.
TouRig can also install cabinets, bedding, kitchenettes, solar panels, roof racks, and aftermarket suspensions. "We offer a suspension that widens the stance of the van by almost two inches. So as we go taller, we also go wider or increased stability," Miller explains.
The company tests the vehicles on Mexico's Baja Peninsula. "We run down there once or twice a year," Miller says. "That's our proving ground. In any off-road industry in North America, that's kind of the ultimate harsh environment."
Challenges: Managing demand. TouRig has a significant backlog even though it's working on roughly 60 vans a year. "Simply, we're growing faster than our facility will allow," Miller says.
Opportunities: "The opportunities are for us to streamline our process," Miller says. He wants to develop a set of customizations that can be replicable on the vehicles TouRig specializes in. "Allowing us to bring a competitive price without sacrificing our product."
Needs: A larger space. "Our limiting factor right now in terms of growth rate is the size of our facility," Miller says. "If we could double the size of our facility and increase our manpower slightly, it would be incredible what we could do."
Miller is looking for more space in Golden, but Tourig has almost two years left on its current lease. "We're not going to leave Golden," he says. "We're not going to leave the West. It's a gateway to what we do. It's located where everybody passes our doorstep to and from the mountains."