By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Are America’s RV manufacturers finally “getting it”? It’s possible they are – at least that’s an inference we can make from the details of a property rezoning hearing in Goshen, Indiana – ground zero for RV manufacturing in America.
At an October 10 meeting of the Elkhart County Commissioners, there was a flurry of testimony – mostly in a negative vein – concerning the proposed rezoning of 70 acres of land along County Road 6 from agricultural to a heavy business district. What’s this – a bid to build yet another RV manufacturing plant? No – but it’s something related that may bring some relief to RV buyers tired of buying buggy rigs.
The proponent of the deal, Chris Marbach, of Elkhart-based engineering firm Marbach, Brady & Weaver, Inc., said that if the county allowed the change in zoning, a Michigan firm would build a facility, which would then be turned over to “an unnamed” company. The final use of the 70-acre property? An RV inspection facility.
Employing somewhere between 40 and 80 workers, Marbach said that on work days, upwards of 37 RVs would be brought to the plant and stored there until they could be given quality control inspections prior to being shipped out. “This future owner wants to make sure that when he delivers a product out to someone else, there aren’t any bugs left in it,” Marbach said, according to goshennews.com.
While the wording might suggest a single RV manufacturer would be doing quality control on its own products, Mr. Marbach cleared the air on a phone call with RVtravel.com staff on Wednesday, November 20. The still-unnamed developer would provide quality control to multiple manufacturers, although testimony given at the county’s Plan Commission hearing indicated it wasn’t completely clear which manufacturers might be customers of the quality control inspection business.
While plenty of neighbors spoke out against the proposal, citing traffic, night lighting and declining property value concerns, interestingly one industry rep spoke up in favor. Lippert Components, Inc., sent a speaker who testified the new facility would help assure quality control and help move products to customers more quickly.
IN THE END, the commission approved the proposal in a 5 to 2 vote. It’s not a green light to build – other permits and approvals will be required, and opponents will have at least two more public hearings where they can vent their concerns.
For an industry plagued by a horrific track record of lousy quality units going straight off the production line and out to the dealers – and an oft-unsuspecting customer base – maybe the industry is finally getting the message. Still, if and when the service is finally in operation, it does raise a question: Which manufacturers will push their rigs through what might be a genuine quality inspection? If the company anticipates 37 rigs a day coming through the shop (about 700 a month) — roughly 2 percent of the total rigs manufactured in the “RV Capital” — that means an awful lot of rigs will presumably still have the likelihood of showing up at a dealer infested with manufacturing bugs.
We will tell you more as we learn more.