For 30 years, Peterson Industries has been building high value RVs for their Excel "family" throughout the Midwest (and beyond). If you find yourself in the neighborhood of north-central Kansas (both Interstate 70 and Interstate 80 pass within a couple hours driving time of our hometown), please feel free to drop by. Peterson Industries gives factory tours Monday through Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Peterson Industries, Incorporated was formed in Smith Center, Kansas in 1966 by Leonard and Blanche Peterson, along with their son, Vaughn. The original purpose of the corporation was to construct, sell, and distribute pickup campers manufactured under the Excel brand name.
In 1966, there were 37 RV/mobile home manufacturers in Kansas, building everything from pickup toppers to Class A motorhomes. By the time the first year of business came to an end, Peterson Industries had recorded sales of $9,500...produced by a staff of the original Peterson family members plus two other employees.
The first production of travel trailers came to Smith Center in 1969. Peterson's first travel trailer was show (and sold) at the Denver RV Show that year. While displayed at the show, it was pointed out to them by a customer that we had forgotten to build any closets into the unit. They had to bring the trailer back home to Smith Center for modifications before delivery.
The first gas crisis came in 1973, and it was a major setback for the entire RV industry---catastrophic, in fact. Over 50% of all RV manufacturers in America went under that year; but, Peterson Industries survived through sound business management.
In fact, Peterson survived so well that 1974 brought their first major expansion---the construction of a 12,000 square foot facility for the purpose of manufacturing travel trailer frames. The expansion also opened the door for us to begin manufacturing Class C motorhomes (which we continued to build and market until 1980).
The second gas crisis hit in 1979...followed by interest rates that skyrocketed to over 20%! Again, a storm swept through the RV industry, throwing it into a major depression. In their home state, we watched as Kansas-based manufacturers fell in number from over three dozen to today's level of five.
At long last, the eighties began to show signs of recovery and opportunity for our industry. Peterson Industries, taking advantage of the upswing, built our first fifth wheel unit in 1980. That same year brought Mike Nebel into the company, and he purchased an interest in 1981. Mike brought with him a level of enthusiasm and ingenuity that propelled the company forward.