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When the boom in the RV industry happened in 2021 to 2022, we all knew it would end at some point. In June 2023, we published an article about the RV bubble bursting, but it appears that sales aren’t returning to normal but plummeting.
Another RV manufacturer has laid off workers this year. Let’s look at who it is this time and what’s happening in the RV market.
The RV Capital of the World Is Struggling in 2023
Elkhart, Indiana, is known as the “RV Capital of the World,” manufacturing about 80% of the RVs in North America. Major companies like Forest River, Thor Industries, Keystone RV, Grand Design RV, Jayco, and newcomers like Ember RV and Alliance all have their headquarters in and around Elkhart.
After experiencing a hiring frenzy in 2021 and 2022, these manufacturers have suffered a dramatic decrease in sales in 2023. As a result, numerous companies have laid off workers.
Some production facilities only operate three or four days a week. At the end of July 2023, Grand Design RV was the latest manufacturer to announce a layoff.
Read More: So how did Elkhart become the RV Capital of the World? Let’s dive in and see!
Who Is Grand Design RV?
Over the years, we’ve written about the Grand Design RV lines: the Momentum toy haulers, the Reflection and Solitude fifth wheels, and the Imagine, Reflection, and Transcend travel trailers.
Grand Design has been operating in Middlebury, Indiana, (just a few miles outside Elkhart) since 2012. RV industry veterans Don Clark, Ron Fenech, and Bill Fenech started the company with hopes of creating a company focused on the needs of consumers.
In 2016, Winnebago Industries acquired Grand Design RV for $500 million. However, few changes were made after the purchase, and most people even think Grand Design is its own entity.
Grand Design still operates in Middlebury and recently opened a new 300,000-square-foot service center in Elkhart in 2022. The company employs about 2,500 people.
Is Grand Design a Popular RV Brand?
Grand Design has been known as a brand focused on quality and customer care for years. It produces entry-level travel trailers and luxurious fifth wheels to suit the needs of all RVers. Full-time travelers often include Grand Design in their search because of the company’s reputation.
Grand Design is popular because of its commitment to quality and customer care. It even has a dedicated Pre-Delivery Inspection facility where every unit undergoes a 300+ point inspection before getting shipped to dealers.
When components break, and systems fail, Grand Design quickly approves warranty claims and completes work.
Why Did Grand Design Lay Off Employees?
But even with its past success, Grand Design couldn’t escape the plummeting sales in the RV industry. After holding out far longer than other manufacturers, the company announced in July 2023 that it laid off 170 workers.
These workers were informed of the layoffs in advance and were given a bonus. RV shipments across the board have fallen approximately 50% this year.
Have Other RV Manufacturers Laid Off Workers?
In July 2022, Keystone RV announced layoffs of more than 330 workers. The company closed plants 41 and 705 in Goshen, Indiana, just a few miles from Elkhart. Keystone blamed the sudden stall in sales for the layoffs.
Tiffin, another RV manufacturer, felt the pinch of the RV slowdown. In late 2022, the company laid off its first round of workers. Then, just four months later, in early 2023, Tiffin announced another round of layoffs. The company explained that it needed to pivot to reflect the decreasing demand for RVs in the market.
What Is the Current Trend for RV Sales?
In 2021, RV sales peaked with more than 600,000 units sold. However, in 2022, that number dropped to less than 500,000.
The current projections for 2023 sit under 300,000. It’s not just the demand for RVs that has decreased. High-interest rates, high fuel costs, and a struggling economy are also to blame.
The RV Industry Association’s June 2023 shipment report found that just over 24,000 RVs were shipped, a decrease of 46% from the same month last year. Total RV shipments for the year are around 165,000 units.
However, RV Industry Association President and CEO Craig Kirby shared that shipments have reached a low point and will begin to recover towards the end of 2023 and into 2024. We still see a huge interest in camping and traveling among Americans.
RV Manufacturing Isn’t the Only Industry Feeling the Pinch in 2023
Lay-offs at RV manufacturers aren’t unique. Companies all over the country have struggled in 2023. Google, Amazon, Zoom, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all laid off workers recently.
In March 2023, Disney laid off 7,000 workers. In May 2023, LinkedIn laid off over 700 workers. Even the top tech giants and mega-corporations haven’t escaped the challenges of a struggling economy.
Keep in Mind: Not only is Grand Design laying off employees, but they’re also recalling RVs too. See what models are being recalled!
What Is the Future of the RV Industry?
According to the RVIA, in 2022, “the RV industry had an overall economic impact to the U.S. economy of $140 billion, supporting nearly 680,000 jobs.”
We won’t see another 2021-2022 in the RV industry. So, it’s not unexpected that the market has changed significantly. Manufacturers were hiring employees like crazy during the RV boom, and now companies don’t need those employees as sales level out.
But Craig Kirby told the RVIA, “Interest in RVing remains high with full campgrounds this summer and a third of leisure travelers saying they would like to buy an RV…This new forecast shows that shipments will begin to recover later this year and into 2024 as consumer confidence increases and the current interest in RVing turns into increased RV sales.”
So, we expect the tide to turn in 2024 as companies forecast shipments to increase to around 350,000 units. The lust for travel, nature, and family memories won’t go anywhere.
We’ve likely reached the low point, and the sales curve will start to turn upward again by the end of the year.
Are you surprised at the decreasing numbers in RV sales and shipments for 2023?