One year ago, RV production came to a screeching halt as plants across the country shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When production began again in May, the RV industry was faced with the challenge of meeting soaring demand for RVs while also navigating how to safely manufacture the RVs and their component parts during a global pandemic. Challenges that included not only keeping employees safe but also restarting production and overcoming supply chain issues. These supply issues were not limited to components and appliances but transcended all the way to the raw materials used to make these products.
“A year ago, when RV plants shut down for nearly two months, who would have thought we would be talking about record-breaking shipments less than a year later?” said Jeff Rutherford, President and CEO of Airxcel Inc. and RV Industry Association Chairman. “The fact that 2021 is projected to be the best year ever for RV shipments speaks to the strengths of our industry and the ability for RV companies to overcome the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the incredible appeal of the RV lifestyle.”
“What our member companies have accomplished over the past year has been incredible,” said RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby. “They have continued to find solutions to meet the growing demand for RVs. The proof is in the numbers. Month after month, our members have built a record number of RVs, proving their ability to address and mitigate the various supply chain issues they have faced.”
The RV industry is not unique in having to face supply chain issues over the past year. Nearly every industry has significant supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic. But the RV industry is unique in its ability to succeed in the face of these challenges.
Since ramping back up following the closures in 2020, the RV industry posted record shipments in both the third and fourth quarters of 2020. The increase in production between the second and third quarters was an impressive 64% and jumps even higher to 72% in the fourth quarter as compared to the second quarter. This shows just how quickly the RV industry was able to recover from the shutdowns and meet the increased demand from customers looking to RVs as a way to have the freedom to travel while also controlling their environment.
“The past 13 months have tested and strengthened the resolve of the RV industry,” shared Bob Martin, President and CEO of THOR Industries. “Together with our trusted industry partners, we continue to carefully navigate severe supply chain challenges amongst escalating consumer demand, while following protocols to ensure the safety of our team members. We are very grateful to our supplier partners for their continued dedication and diligence in providing product to keep the THOR family of companies operating effectively.“
“While demand-driven supply chain challenges regularly impact our production, we will constantly work with our supply partners to manage any future disruptions as best we can. Our second quarter results demonstrate that our supply network is assisting in incredible year-over-year production volume increases, and for that we are appreciative,” said Winnebago Industries President & CEO Michael Happe during the Company’s recent earnings call.
Heading into 2021, the RV industry continues to post record breaking month after month of RV shipments and is on pace this year to build the most RVs ever. According to the latest RV Roadsigns forecast, the RV industry is projected to build 533,000 units in 2021, a 24% increase over the 2020 total and a 6% increase over the current record high of 505,000 units built in 2017.
“Last year at this time the RV Industry was diligently working together to establish safety protocols and guidelines for when our employees returned to work,” said Kevin McArt, General Manager at Forest River, Inc. “Well, a lot has changed from a year ago! From not knowing what the future held, to supply trying to keep up with demand, I think our industry has performed extremely well. We have, and continue to, face many obstacles. But working together with our supplier base friends we will always find a solution.”
In preparing the 2021 RV forecast, ITR Economics considered potential supply chain issues. As a result, they forecasted a range from 523,139 and 543,572 units. Even the lower end of the range would be a record year for RV shipments.