Listen to this story
By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Pundits declare the RV industry is changing all the time, but is it really?
Rarely do we see new blood coming into the industry. People change jobs by moving from one RV-related company to another.
Why isn’t the industry growing or innovating? Because nothing is really changing.
That’s why I liked seeing an influx of new companies, many from overseas or the west coast, participating in the RVX show earlier this month in Salt Lake City.
New people and new companies bring innovative new ideas.
In the American RV industry, people move from one company to another, or get fired from one firm and wind up working at another a few weeks or months later.
Consolidation contributes further to the undiluted gene pool of new faces and new ideas. One company’s failed attempt or bad hiring decision becomes another firm’s hope for the future.
To read how the banana market is facing serious problems due to a bad gene pool, check out this story in The Guardian. Bad genes aren’t just organic.
The incestuous nature of the RV industry often results in the same old products being produced and marketed by the same old “visionaries” year after year.
Winnebago starting thinking outside the box when it brought in Mike Happe as its CEO in 2016. Happe came from Toro, a landscaping equipment company, and then moved Winnebago’s corporate office from small town Forest City, Iowa, to the Minneapolis metropolitan area.
That infused some fresh blood into the company, and look where Winnebago is today compared to three years ago. It was strong then, but even stronger now.
Yet, rumors are flying that the RV industry is about to make another colossal mistake by moving Roadtrek from Canada to Elkhart.
The company thrived in Ontario with a unique labor pool of skilled people building Class B motorhomes. The leadership may have been inbred, which helped account for the disaster that befell on the company. But the line workers and office staff certainly were originals.
Now it appears likely that a big player in the RV industry is about to acquire Roadtrek and move its manufacturing operation to Elkhart – where the same people have been building the same RVs for years.
The unemployment rate in the Elkhart area, especially in manufacturing, is already well below the 4% level which is often considered the rate of full employment, so why would a firm seek ways to hire another 400 people from that area to build RVs.
Forget drug screening. If the applicant can fog a mirror, he’s hired!
If this rumor is true, it could go down as the dumbest decision of 2019 – at least it will be a top contender for this judge’s choice award.
The absolute best thing that could happen to the RV industry would be for more companies to expand out of the Elkhart County geographic area – even if it is only by a few hundred miles.
It would open the door to a different pool of skilled craftsmen and professionals instead of relying upon those who bounce from one RV company to another in search of a quarter-an-hour raise.
It also ensures that the vast majority of the RV industry wouldn’t be impacted should a disaster wipe out Elkhart. The city is, after all, in Tornado Alley, and many manufacturing and supplier firms are located in the floodplain along the St. Joseph River and its tributaries.
Speaking of rumors, I understand that chefs in Jandelsbrunn, Germany, are experimenting with new recipes for pork chop Weiner schnitzel.
But is another consolidation really the change the RV industry is truly seeking, and desperately needs?