To say the RV industry has had an exceptional year is an understatement.
“We went into 2016 thinking this was going to be a great year and everything so far has surpassed our expectations,” said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the RV Industry Association. “There is real optimism and everyone is looking forward to 2017 and what it holds for the industry.”
With a county unemployment rate of 3.3 percent and potential customers having more disposable income, the industry reached heights in 2016 that it hasn’t seen in nearly 40 years. That momentum could carry into 2017, according to a report from the Elkhart Truth.
“We all learned a lot coming out of the recession,” Bob Martin, chief executive officer of Elkhart-based Thor Ind. told the Truth. “The recession was painful, but we took it day-by-day, year-by-year. No one could predict that the industry would come back this strong, but if there is anything the history of the industry has showed us, (it) is that when we get knocked down, we come back even stronger.”
People from outside the RV industry are nervous when they see the rapid growth that the industry has experienced. They still remember the sting of the Great Recession and are understandably worried the RV industry is set for another big letdown – something that could drag all of Elkhart County down with it.
“We have new business and buyers coming into the market and as long as we keep changing to meet their needs the industry will sustain its success,” Runels said. “Our high water marks are based on the economy and it may slide at some point, but we are not seeing that right now. There are ebbs and flows, but none are forecast right now.”
Martin said Thor Industries is focused on expanding production in 2017. They have construction projects currently occurring in Goshen as Keystone RV, their subsidiary, looks to keep up with demand.
“The big thing right now is just making sure we can get the product to the dealer. We need to continue to support them,” he said.
Keystone RV has its foot on the gas. The company has seen phenomenal growth in 2016, Runels said, and orders for RVs will keep it very busy through the winter months.
“The two new plants being constructed in Goshen are already earmarked for production. That just shows how strong our order numbers have been,” he said.