Perris, Calif.-based National RV Holdings Inc. is one the six largest companies in the RV industry, and most of its production employees are working late at night so the company could avoid the power blackouts or brownouts that are now plaguing California.
The workday for about 700 of National RV’s employees now begins at 10 p.m. and they go home at 6 a.m., said Joe McDermott, director of sales and marketing.
“With the unshipped orders we have, shutting down production would have been comparable to closing down the company,” McDermott said. “This (working late at night) is the only way we could be assured that we could produce RVs without interruption.
“We and other companies are trying to conserve to ease demand so hopefully the power companies won’t have to shut us down,” McDermott continued. “Right now, this is just an annoyance, but it could get serious.”
National RV’s production rate has not been affected by the switch to late night working hours, but McDermott added, “We don’t see any reason to be optimistic that we will be able to go back to normal any time soon.”
The Thor California unit of Ohio-based Thor Industries Inc., which employs about 500 people at two factories east of Los Angeles, so far has avoided production shutdowns, although Thor California President Tom Powell admits to being on edge.
“We’ve been very concerned, it could happen any day,” he said. “We’ve come to work several days literally expecting electrical outages. Our contingency plans for those days was to send people home, depending on what time the outages hit, but it didn’t happen. They (the power company) told us if it happens, it is only expected to last for 90 minutes to two hours. Should it (blackouts or brownouts) become a reality, we probably will go to night hours versus daytime hours.”
The companies now facing the possibility of being without power signed contracts with their local electric company providing them with lower-cost electricity in exchange for giving the utility the right to cut them off in case of a shortage. Johnnie R. Crean, chairman of Alfa Leisure Inc., another Southern California RV manufacturer, said the RV companies that signed such contracts made a big mistake.
“We were not bright enough to sign up for the cheap electricity,” Crean said sarcastically. “Production already is soft for everybody. I only will worry if they turn the electricity off. We decided that when the power goes out, we will just stop and punch everybody out on the clock.”