Editor's note: This is part of a series reviewing the top trends from 2016 and the impact they’ll have in the year ahead. Tomorrow, RV PRO will outline which stories we’re following most closely in 2017.
Blockbuster deals, escalating shipment numbers and significant industry expansion placed 2016 among the most memorable years for RV industry news in recent memory, if not all-time.
The brisk changes often made for whirlwind news cycles, and we’ve aimed to deliver the latest, most exclusive perspectives of each. Here’s a look at RV PRO staff picks of the top stories from 2016:
Thor’s June 30, cash-acquisition of Jayco catapulted the company’s market share to near half of the total RV market. Jayco generated roughly $70 million in income in 2015 on $1.5 billion in revenue, according to financial disclosures. Comparatively, Thor’s growing portfolio reached $293 million of income in the 2015 fiscal year on $4 billion in revenue.
As the industry rippled from the waves of Thor’s summertime acquisition of Jayco, fellow manufacturer Winnebago sent its own shockwaves through the market a few months later, purchasing 5-year-old towable manufacturer Grand Design in a $500 million stock-and-cash deal. The acquisition added Grand Design as a distinct business unit of Winnebago, and cemented the Forest City, Iowa-based manufacturer as a major player in both towables and motorized segments. Grand Design founders said the deal emerged from a search for a new equity partner, but were pleased to find a suitor in Winnebago.
Just weeks before the summer's manufacturer acquisitions began, EverGreen RVs abruptly shut its doors and began laying off nearly 400 employees, delivering perhaps the year’s most surprising news. Throughout the closure, which resulted from a lack of funds, the company’s highest officials did not comment on or confirm the closure, leaving much of the industry – including many EverGreen dealers – in the dark on the details of the company’s demise. In August, a former EverGreen employee filed an ongoing lawsuit that alleges former EverGreen owners failed to provide adequate notice or pay to roughly 270 full-time employees.
Late on a Friday afternoon in October, Airxcel said it had acquired 32-year-old Elkhart-based components maker Dicor. Together, the two companies cover a broad range of RV components, combining Airxcel’s lineup of heating and appliance products with Dicor’s variety of affiliate brands, which make RV roofing systems, wheel componentry, window shades, FRP, composite paneling, window sealing.
Although manufacturers reported overall growth of 4.9 percent in shipments for 2015, month-to-month performance varied. However, 2016 shipment reports have left no room for doubt about the increase of RV production. Shipments climbed nearly 15 percent through November. At that annualized rate, they're the highest they’ve been since 1979, according RV Industry Association reports.
In its 50th year in business, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis took the company public while ensuring he’d maintain control of the national dealership chain. All the while, the company continued to grow through numerous acquisitions and retail additions. In December, the company acquired Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based Ketelsen Campers, announcing that it’d allow Ketelsen – and potential future acquisitions – to maintain legacy company names under its ownership umbrella.
In its first combined distributor show following major expansion in 2015, NTP-STAG hosted what was likely the largest aftermarket event in the industry at January’s Expo in New Orleans. More than 2,500 attendees shopped products from nearly 200 exhibitors. Bill Rogers discussed the company’s growth and plans for the road ahead in an exclusive interview with RV PRO in March.
In February, Germany-based Erwin Hymer Group acquired Canadian Class B motorhome manufacturer Roadtrek Motorhomes. After the sale was complete, the Roadtrek name changed to Erwin Hymer Group North America with Roadtrek CEO Jim Hammill staying on as chief executive of the newly formed company.
For dealers at the National RV Show in 2016, talk of Campers Inn’s acquisition of Clarksville, Ind.-based Tom Stinnett Derby City RV was a hot topic. The acquisition capped a year of acquisitions and growth along the East Coast and into the Midwest for Campers Inn, which also relocated its headquarters to Jacksonville in October.
The wholesale division of Camping World, which had previously announced plans to widen its distribution business to include independent dealers across the country, agreed to a purchase of Tampa, Fla.-based Lightning RV Supply in January. In July, Lightning’s warehouse burned down after a lightning strike, but founders Brad and Becky Green report the company didn’t miss a day of work and are planning construction of a new facility.