An industrywide shortage of four parts for gas ovens has forced numerous RV builders to slow production and to offer incentives to encourage dealers to take delivery of units without ovens, according to Carl Pfalzgraf, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Atwood Mobile Products, a major oven supplier.
The oven parts shortage and production slowdowns could easily continue until mid-February, Pfalzgraf estimates.
Atwood’s RV production plant is operating on a 2 1/2 days a week schedule and Pfalzgraf said he has heard of RV manufacturers that have shut-down production lines and shortened work weeks, although he has not heard of any plant closures or workers layoffs.
Atwood now is producing about 200 RV ovens per day but the industry demand this time of year typically is 1,200 to 1,300 units a day, he said.
The RV oven shortage is impacting all portions of the RV industry except for the folding campers, Pfalzgraf added.
The shortage occurred because of the difficulties that Harper-Wyman, the supplier of thermostats and valves that regulate the flow of natural gas to the burners and oven, has had in ramping up production at its new factory near Chattanooga, Tenn.
Harper-Wyman’s problems also have impacted the manufacturers of gas stoves for conventional homes. But the impact is more severe on the RV oven business because the thermostats and valves have to be miniaturized, and, as a result, Harper-Wyman is the only qualified supplier, Pfalzgraf said.
Recently, Harper-Wyman installed a new management team at its Chattanooga plant that is comprised of many members of management from its Princeton, Ill., plant, which was closed earlier this year and replaced by the Chattanooga operation. The new management team in Chattanooga “is making headway,” Pfalzgraf said.
RV oven manufacturers are hoping the Chattanooga plant will work through the normal Holiday Season shutdown period to build-up inventory. However, it is not currently known whether Harper-Wyman’s plant in Mexico, where sub-assembly work occurs, will operate during the holiday shutdown period, he said.
If Harper-Wyman “solves all of its problems today, it would be mid-January” before the RV oven supply situation returns to normal. Since that is unlikely, Pfalzgraf believes it will be mid-February before the situation normalizes.
Meanwhile, some RV builders are installing a cabinet where the gas range normally would be installed, and they are offering incentives to their dealers to accept the unit so equipped, he added. That way, RV builders can continue producing and consumers would have the option of having a gas oven installed later as an aftermarket item, Pfalzgraf said.