Where Have All The Colemans Gone?

The name "Coleman" has long been associated with quality outdoor products. Coleman coolers and lanterns are two of their most well-known products.

In the popup camper world, Coleman popup campers have been considered by many to the "gold standard," with them known, for the most part, for being manufactured to high standards, being of high quality, long lasting, and having a good resale value.

Even though popup campers with the Coleman name are no longer being manufactured, people still look for Coleman campers. 

Why are there no longer Coleman popup campers? 

The story is a little complicated.  Here's how I understand it. 

I'll start at the beginning.  The Coleman company had its origins over 100 years ago when W.C. Coleman established a lighting service in Oklahoma.  By1903, the first Coleman lamps were being sold.  Over the years, the Coleman company grew and expanded its product line.  In 1967 Coleman manufactured their first popup camper.  From 1967 to 1989 the popup camper division of Coleman was known as the Coleman Camping Trailer Division. 

In 1989, Coleman sold the factory, patents, designs, inventory, etc. to Fleetwood and also licensed Fleetwood to use the Coleman name on the popup campers. Although the campers still had the Coleman name on them, Coleman Camping Trailer Division's company name changed to Fleetwood Folding Trailers Inc.  



When Fleetwood purchased the Coleman popup camper division, Coleman campers accounted for nearly one third of all popup campers sold.  Coleman popup campers had gained the number one market share in popup campers in 1979 and by the late 1980's accounted for nearly half of the United States market for popups.     

In 1999 the license agreement came up for renewal between Fleetwood and Coleman.  For several months, while the new agreement was being negotiated, the Coleman name was not put on the popup campers being manufactured by Fleetwood.  Instead of the red Coleman sticker on the campers, a Fleetwood folding trailer sticker was used. 

Then, in the early 2000's Fleetwood started manufacturing a new line of travel trailers they called their Caravan line.  Fleetwood put Coleman stickers on the Caravan campers.    The people at the Coleman company apparently didn't feel that the Caravan line was covered under the licensing agreement and wanted a higher royalty payment for each Caravan to keep them at the Swift caravan storage.

The disagreement between Fleetwood and the people at American Home Corporation, who now own the Coleman name, led to a lawsuit.  Fleetwood was required to remove all references to the Coleman name from their website which resulted in the online manuals for the Coleman campers being taken down.  In order not to punish dealers who might still have Coleman popup campers in their inventory though, they were allowed to use the Coleman name in their advertising as long as they had at least one Coleman camper in their inventory. 

During all this, American Home Corporation apparently entered into an agreement with Coachmen Corporation to use the Coleman name on a new line of popup campers. and in anticipation of that happening Coachmen built a new factory to manufacture their new Coleman line.   

That didn't happen however, at least not yet because I don't think there is a final resolution to the situation.  As it stands right now, Fleetwood has control of the Coleman name for popup campers but cannot use it without an agreement from American Home Corporation which they don't have.  And, American Home cannot enter into a Coleman popup camper licensing agreement with anyone else because Fleetwood has control of the name.   

Fleetwood has not used the Coleman name on any of its popup campers since 2003. 

Most people are unaware of the conflict between Fleetwood and American Home Corporation.  I wasn't until I did research for this article, which I decided to write because I had several people ask me why Coleman campers were no longer being manufactured. 

I own a 1999 Sea Pine Coleman camper by Fleetwood (which I have been very happy with) and did ask a Fleetwood dealer earlier this year at a camping show why the Coleman name was no longer being used.  I'm sure he didn't want to get into the whole lawsuit issue so he just told me the Fleetwood campers are the same as the Coleman's but that there just wasn't the Coleman sticker on them any longer. 

This doesn't mean you shouldn't consider a Coleman camper when looking for a used popup.  They are still sought out by buyers.  Obtaining any needed parts and getting repairs done hasn't been issue for any Coleman popup owners I know.  My local Fleetwood dealer is very helpful and I have not had any problems obtaining any parts I need (like the new awning I recently needed when a windstorm came up and wrecked the original one).  If you own a Coleman camper or decide to purchase one and need parts or an owner's manual, contact a Fleetwood dealer or go to http://www.fleetwoodrv.com and send them an e-mail or look up their phone number. 

This also doesn't mean the only popup camper worth purchasing is one with a Coleman sticker on it.  There are several other brands available with many happy owners.