John Gilbert scans the shop floor at Kassbohrer All Terrain Vehicle’s new facility in South Meadows, eyeing a fleet of shiny red Piston Bully 400 pro series snow-grooming machines.
By late December, the crowded shop floor will be empty as regional ski resorts place new grooming equipment into service to shape terrain parks and carve perfect corduroy on ski slopes.
Gilbert runs Kassbohrer’s North American operations. The company headquartered in Germany is Europe’s largest manufacturer of big rig trailers and leads the European market in sales of snow-grooming equipment.
Gilbert moved Kassbohrer’s U.S. headquarters to Reno from the small town of Gray, Maine, in 1997 after scouting locations in Utah and Colorado. Western-region ski resorts were leading sales for Kassbohrer’s Pisten Bully snow-grooming machinery, and Gilbert wanted to be closer to that customer base.
Kassbohrer this summer relocated operations from its former home on Rock Boulevard to the old GameTech building on Double Diamond Parkway. Kassbohrer had operated out of a 68,000-square-foot facility with a one-acre yard. The new facility is 110,000 square feet.
“The great thing about being in this facility is that we can be more organized and ordered. If we have inventory that needs to be moved, be it parts, whole goods, all of that can be visually seen. In the outside space sometimes things got tucked in a corner, and this helps us manage our business much better.”
Demand for Kassbohrer’s Pisten Bully snow machinery rose over the years from just 16 to 18 percent to about 60 percent of the North American market over Italian-made rival Prinoth. Regional resorts that deploy Pisten Bully in their grooming fleets include Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows. Northstar and Heavenly both use the machines, but their fleets consist primarily of Prinoth equipment.
As Kassboher’s share of the snow grooming market increased, its need to have more parts on hand grew as well. The new building provides storage space for a massive parts warehouse, as well as for the large blades and other big components of the Pisten Bully line. The company fills 96 percent of customer requests for parts, Gilbert says.
The new facility also allows Kassbohrer to manufacture and assemble its popular Scout line, a small, tracked personnel carrier and utility vehicle. The Scout is favored by telecommunications and power companies to reach remote service destinations in harsh winter conditions.
The Scout started as a niche business but now sells about 25 to 30 units annually. Gilbert purchased the model from a small company in Utah that hand-made about six to eight units per year. After redesigning and re-engineering the product and completing CAD drawings, Kassbohrer began assembling the Scout in Reno in 2008.
B&J Inc. of Sparks fabricates the frame and cabin, and Spray Craft Auto Painting on Greg Street covers the machines with Kassbohrer’s trademark red paint. The rest of the Scout, including complicated electrical and hydraulic systems, is assembled by Kassbohrer mechanics and technicians.
Sales of the Scout line have exceeded expectations — and Kassbohrer has begun expanding the line into international markets. It already has sales of the Scout to customers in Turkey and South America.
“We’ve seen those sales numbers in North America stabilize over the last couple of years, and the next opportunity for us is to go into a worldwide market,” Gilbert says. “We are part of a global company and we have dealers and sister companies throughout the world and have the ability to sell that product.”
The last — but not least — benefit of moving into a larger facility is the large training room that the company uses to train technicians and mechanics how to service and repair Pisten Bully products so to avoid downtimes with the machines. Pisten Bully machines employ Mercedes, Cummins and John Deere engines.
Kassbohrer employs 39 in South Reno, including five recent hires, and Gilbert expects to add more employees to the books as the company continues its growth curve.