Mel Adams, CEO of Wichita, Kan.-based RV Products, says the RV industry is close to bottoming out.
Sales have fallen to half of the 30-year average, a level that can’t last very long, he said, especially given that the Baby Boomers are reaching prime RV age.
The rebound, when it comes, will be strong, he said, according to The Wichita Eagle.
The industry saw deep recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s that were followed by steep increases.
“The bounce back will be quite remarkable,” he predicted.
In the meantime, the air conditioner and heater supplier is coping the best it can with industry conditions.
If a recent forecast for the industry holds true, this year’s RV sales nationally will fall 45% from last year and nearly 70% from their 2006 peak, a condition Adams likened to “a train wreck.”
The company had 220 employees in 2007, when sales started falling, and the fall kept accelerating. Corporate cost cutting and layoffs followed.
Adams has had to lay off 40 workers since the beginning of the year. The last 10 were laid off Tuesday (March 31), leaving the company with 120 employees.
“That’s the worst,” he said. “You get a dedicated work force that comes to work for you as a career, and that is the cornerstone for their funding their family and, all of a sudden, it’s not available.”
Adams said the company has looked at every expense to find ways to save, including trimming supplies, moving inventory from a rented warehouse into the plant and renegotiating services.
One small saving grace is that the company does sell some product to the replacement market, which is down by only single digits.
Recreational vehicles suffered from a triple blow of high gas prices, a credit crunch for customers and the economic downturn.
Nationwide the collapse in sales has forced several RV companies into bankruptcy, thrown tens of thousands of people out of work, and devastated communities where RV manufacturing is a major employer.
Adams, 63, worked 24 years at Coleman, working his way from assistant foreman to division president before he and three other division executives took RV Products private in 1991 in a leveraged buyout.