Officials at dealerships across the country say they are concerned about the future of Earthbound Recreational Vehicles.

Shifts in the company's business strategy have left some dealers with long-standing ties to the company and its owners feeling left in the dark.

"We were always hoping to be a part of their success, but right now I feel that we are in limbo," said Bill Mirrielees, general manager of Howard RV Center in Wilmington, N.C.

Earthbound President Charles Hoefer said the company was focused on lining up everything for its new business model and "confidently" projected that production would begin again by mid-November. He said the company will start work on both new and old models at that point.

"We'll be building for probably four months straight before we take another order," he said. "It'll be very low key as we move it forward. We look at this as the nature of being start up. We're excited and just looking forward to the new line."

The start up company located in Marion in 2010 with the city backing a $2 million bond with county economic development income tax (CEDIT) money to support its startup. The company never met expectations to hire around 180 employees to produce 400 or more coaches a year at its 1001 E. 38 St. factory.

Production has been shut down at its factory as the company retools its strategy in anticipation for an announced new "boutique" product line with a higher price point than older models. Only 100 units are slated to be sold in North America at starting price of $84,900.

President Charles Hoefer said the company has been focused on lining up international distribution in China and Europe for another 100 units of the new line for the past few weeks. He said the company will probably use just 12 dealers in the U.S. in the future.

"We're going to be scaling the network back," he said. "It will essentially be a lot more limited high distribution network."

Hoefer said the company has kept a number of its "closer" dealers as part of the process. However, some current and former dealers said they have not been kept informed of changes in business strategy. In addition, they said old orders and warranty claims have been left unfulfilled.

Mirrielees said his dealership still has product orders from April and May that have yet to be built, as well as outstanding warranty claims. He said one retail order has been cancelled and its deposit refunded and there has been no commitment on when the others can be built.

"Not that we've cancelled them, they can't tell if they would be built even this year," he said. "I would hope that they get back up and running soon. I hope they are able to catch up on the unpaid warranty claims."

He said he hoped the company would "turn this thing around" because the company has created an "outstanding" niche in the marketplace.

Earthbound vehicle owner Bob Garlits has been waiting for factory repairs to be finished on his trailer for around four months. He drove from Ohio last week to pick up personal items from the trailer, which he was told would be finished by the middle of this month.

"They wouldn't show it to us," he said. "The last time we were over there we went on the factory floor and everything."

Dan Saltzgiver, owner of Reichert's Camping Center in Hanover, Pa., said one his customers had cancelled an order made in May, but that delays in production times were not uncommon with products with many custom parts.

He said he was a "supporter" of the company since its beginning and his dealership bought the first Earthbound production model ever built.

"I believed in the concept of the product with its use of composites and lightweight materials, and still definitely think this is the course the industry should take," he said.

Though he stressed that was just his personal opinion, Saltzgiver said he believed the company lost its initial vision.

"From what I've spoken to them in the beginning when they started with the product and what it ended up being I feel has changed," he said. "The product has gotten more expensive than what the consumer can bear."

Al Paschen, president and co-owner of Camp Land RV in Burns Harbor, spoke highly of the Earthbound design and product, but was unsure of his dealership's future with the company after the price increase.

"We aren't used to selling products at that price," he said. "I guess we're going to have to reevaluate that once we see the new pricing and the new product."

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