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After seeing the van conversion industry shrink dramatically the last few years, Jayco Inc., Middlebury, Ind., has decided to exit that business.

Jayco employs about 1,300 people in north central Indiana, but only 19 were involved in van conversions. “We will make every effort to assist the 19 employees to find other employment opportunities, either at Jayco or with other area employers,” said Bernie Lambright, president.

In many respects, the van conversion industry, which is largely centered in the Elkhart, Ind., area, helped convince the auto industry that there was a demand for the product now known as the sport utility vehicle (SUV).

At one time in the late 1980s, van conversion sales totaled 200,000 units a year, which was still too small to attract auto industry investment.

But now, many SUV brands out-sell conventional passenger cars.

A van conversion basically is a delivery truck that was “converted” into a luxury passenger vehicle.

Shipments of van conversions from manufacturers to auto dealers were down 25% during the first eight months of this year to 55,500 units, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

“Jayco profoundly regrets this situation, but, despite all of our best efforts, market conditions are such that there is no prospect of the (van conversion) division returning to profitability in the foreseeable future,” Lambright said.

Jayco is a full-line manufacturer of towable RVs and Class C motorhomes. It plans to enter the Class A motorhome segment next year.