California’s soaring electrical costs and the threat of rolling blackouts are occurring at the time of year when RV manufacturers are busiest, so the RV builders in California are having to deal with the power crunch in addition to the RV industry’s downturn.

“They’ve told us it’s not a matter of if rolling blackouts will hit us, but when they will hit us,” said Bill Rex, president of Rexhall Industries Inc., Lancaster, Calif. “But our business is picking up. We had slowed down production 15% (but) we are going to go back up 15%.”

Meanwhile, Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., anticipates its California electric bills will be 60% to 70% higher than they were a year ago, said Steven Hulst, general manager of Plant 47 in Riverside.

Plant 47 is a motorhome production facility, and Hulst said higher production rates, compared with a year-ago, will account for a portion of the increased costs, with generally higher utility bills accounting for the remainder.

“We were told by Edison (South California Edison, the area’s electric provider) to anticipate approximately 35 to 40 rolling blackouts between May and September,” Hulst added. “That doesn’t mean we will be hit 35 times. They can’t predict where it will happen, but it will be based on geography and whatever usage is going on at any given time.”

Hulst said Fleetwood is planning to install diesel generators to keep some operations going if a blackout strikes. “We are in the middle of developing blackout procedures for our employees,” he said. “It may be that we just send employees out for an extended lunch break if we are hit early in the day, or close down the lines if it happens later in the day.”

Meanwhile, at National RV Inc. in Perris, Calif., Joe McDermott, director of sales and marketing, said production has returned to normal after running a night shift for three weeks in January to avoid the first series of blackouts that hit the state.

“We have not faced any blackouts since then, we are running full bore,” McDermott added.

Dealers also are experiencing difficulties, although to a lesser degree.

“Every dealer is looking for ways to cut down on their electricity,” said Skip Daum, executive director of the California RV Dealers Association (CalRVDA). “Many are cutting back on the level of air conditioning and turning off their neon signs.”