In 2004, Michael and Rene Van Pelt took off on an expedition to create a company for a small, niche market: extreme travelers.
“We’re not an impulse purchase. It’s a process that requires research,” Rene Van Pelt said. “And usually by the time we talk to people, people have been researching anywhere from a year to five years before they even talk to us.”
The couple is in the business of creating tough, off-road vehicles built to withstand crazy conditions while providing the comforts known to home.
On Dec. 1, the Van Pelts picked up their business, Global Expedition Vehicles LLC, from two locations in Nixa and one in Ozark, and moved it into a 50,000-square-foot building south of the Springfield Post Office on Chestnut Expressway. Rene Van Pelt said they signed a long-term lease for undisclosed terms at 444 W. Tampa St., which is owned by Island Park Properties LLC, according to Greene County assessor records.
“Moving is not fun, but this brings us all together under one roof,” Van Pelt said. “The warehouse has more room, production has more room, welding has more room and engineering has more room. That makes it a lot easier for everybody to stay organized, plus it’s nicer to show clients.”
The move also brings together administration and several sales positions, an accountant, and engineering and production managers.
“It gives us a lot more room so we can continue to vertically integrate,” Production Manager Eric Housman said. “We can build more of our own components and have more control.”
He said Global Expedition has an in-house metal shop and cabinet shop.
“We’re basically vertically integrated for as many trades as we can be, hence the need for the larger building,” Van Pelt added.
Inside, shop workers are beginning to build the monstrous trucks, which start at roughly $200,000.
“Our newest model is called the Adventure Truck. It’s priced at $198,000,” Van Pelt said. “It’s designed to meet a price point in the market for people who are still going to do extreme travel, but won’t necessarily be living in it full time.”
The Adventure Truck’s design is based on a Dodge Ram 5500 or a Ford F-550. It’s equipped with a kitchen, including a stainless steel sink, a cooktop, refrigerator and cabinets.
There’s also a two-person dining area, a full-size bed and a washroom with a shower and toilet.
The Global Expedition model debuted at a show in October.
“It’s not listed for sale, and it’s already sold,” she said.
Van Pelt describes Global Expedition’s demographic as middle-age folks.
“There are different groups of those buyers, especially with this Adventure Truck being meant for people who aren’t (traveling) full time,” she said. “It’s going to appeal to people that are still working, that can go out and use it on the weekends and use it on their vacation, while the larger trucks are meant for more full-time living, whether that’s domestically or internationally.”
It’s an exciting time for the company, which has roughly 15 employees. The Van Pelts are adding another role to the team soon: a marketing intern. Its website, GlobalXVehicles.com, which once drew minimal traffic, is now visited by tens of thousands.
“In 2007, when we started watching the number of people that were coming to our website, the first month was 56 people,” Rene Van Pelt said. “Now, we’re between 30,000 and 50,000 from over 100 countries – usually 110 to 120 countries a month.”
Van Pelt is starting the intern search at Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College.
“I’m not used to driving in this part of town and I realized Drury’s just not that far away, either. We’re right here with three colleges,” she said, adding she’s looking to fill the role immediately. “It was a little harder in Nixa because a lot of people didn’t want to make the drive.”
Springfield Business Journal last spoke to the Van Pelts in 2012, months after Global Expedition Vehicles was featured on the Travel Channel. Its producers were seeking RVs to showcase, and they found Global Expedition on Google.
In the spring, the company will return to the Travel Channel, with a scheduled appearance on “Extreme RVs.”
“That’s going to be our Safari Extreme,” Van Pelt said of one of the company’s six main models.
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