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While manufacturers struggle with the impact of a faltering economy and declining sales, industry suppliers in Indiana’s Elkhart County are also feeling the effects of this year’s downturn.
“The general consensus from the industry as a whole is that there will be additional businesses that fall by the wayside,” said Kip Ellis, vice president of sales and marketing for Elkhart-based Atwood Mobile Products. “The effects of this are something the industry’s going to need to endure in the months following the first of the year.”
As reported by the Goshen News, Ellis said that Atwood, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, is in a good position to weather the downturn of the market, having survived similar incidents in the past.
“One of the big things Atwood is promoting this year with an evolution we’ve seen in the market is the lightweight aspects of our products,” Ellis said. “We are recognizing that most of the major OEMs are developing a more weight-conscious attitude toward our products.”
Much of this focus on weight is due to consumers seeking trailers that can be towed with lighter vehicles, an issue Ellis said will become critical in the coming years.
Despite their efforts, however, the company has been affected by the market decline just like everyone else.
“The vast majority of what we do is tightly correlated to the performance of the RV industry broadly, so our business is down considerably, as you might expect,” he said. “We’re starting to see it into January at this point.”
Bob Sutter, vice president of L&W Engineering Inc., Middlebury, said his company is also dealing with the decline.
“As a supplier to the RV industry, we have seen a 28% reduction in business volume since May of this year,” he said. “Our management team has made every effort to be as creative as possible in the reduction of our work force, alternating workers’ time off to maximize their unemployment income options.”
According to the Goshen News, Sutter went on to say that they have also been asked by customers to make pricing concessions along with having to deal with the downturn in sales.
“We haven’t seen signs of recovery yet, but are hopeful that, within six months, we will,” he said.
L&W Engineering supplies steel and aluminum parts such as generator boxes, floors, foldout bunk frames and spare tire carriers to customer specification.
“In economic times like this, everybody feels the pain, but some segments are more challenging than others,” noted Jack Enfield, sales and marketing manager for suspension system supplier MOR/Ryde International, based in Elkhart. “And everybody is feeling it in a very significant way. The goal for MOR/Ryde and other companies is how to be successful in these tough times.”
Enfield said the company is focused on increasing its market share and offsetting the economic impact of reduced shipments.
“On the RV side, we sell to both motorized and towable builders and it’s no secret that the RV industry is facing challenging economic times,” Enfield said.
MOR/Ryde employs approximately 25 engineers, who are now being used to design new products, including some suggested by customers. Enfield said its part of the company’s plan to expand aftermarket efforts. MOR/Ryde is also attempting to expand further into the agricultural, medical, industrial and truck markets, where they already do business.
The Goshen News reported that MOR/Ryde has experienced steady sales for its “pin box” fifth-wheel hitch, which uses a rubber shear spring to absorb some of the shock that travels from the trailer to the truck.
“Our pin box right now is probably the number one selling pin box to OEMs and the market,” Enfield said. “It does very, very well. Consumers like it because it’s very simple and it’s affordable.”
Despite MOR/Ryde’s diversity of business and successful products, Enfield said they aren’t taking the task lying down.
“The RV industry is experiencing a downturn and we feel it, but we’re not just going to hang on until things get better,” he said.