The prospects for a revival of the van conversion industry have grown dimmer now that a leading producer, Glaval Corp., has left the business.

Glaval, based in Elkhart, Ind., left the van conversion business in December and now is building shuttle buses, said Phil Hayes, the former head of Glaval’s van conversion business and now president of Glaval Bus Inc.

“The (van conversion) market was just a disaster,” Hayes said.

Data from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) supports Hayes’ view. During the first quarter of this year, shipments of converted vans from manufacturers to auto dealers declined 56% to 9,200 units.

In comparison, almost 200,000 converted vans were shipped annually during certain years in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s. However, in the last several years, the growing consumer demand for sport utility vehicles crowded converted vans off car dealers’ lots.

For many years during the late 1980s and the 1990s, Glaval was in a tight race with Mark III Industries Inc. of Ocala, Fla., for the distinction of being the leading van conversion producer.

Richard Strefling, the owner of Glaval, recently set-up a separate company called Conversion Parts Center to handle parts for Glaval conversions that still are under warranty.