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Sheet metal, ladders and glue … Missing RV parts aren’t always the big stuff

RV manufacturers are still fighting through the perfect storm of broken supply chains, missing parts, hiring woes, and unprecedented consumer demand.

While supply chain issues conjure images of missing water heaters, air conditioners and refrigerators, the parts that are really gumming up the manufacturing process might surprise you.

“Lately, it’s been things like ladders,” said Josh Winters of Haylett RV in Coldwater, Michigan, when asked for an example of what he’s seeing from manufacturers. Since a missing rear ladder doesn’t affect the basic function of an RV, many factories are deleting those unavailable ladders from the invoice of supplied features and shipping the units to dealers “as is.” If a buyer still wants a ladder, they will have to either find it and install it themselves or work with their dealer. Either way, if you buy an RV without a ladder it likely won’t be coming later from the factory and won’t be included in a warranty as original equipment.

It’s much more than ladders

But missing ladders are only a small part of the total picture, and the long waits for finished RVs aren’t always the fault of offshore suppliers.

Remember that huge ice storm in Texas in February? The storm knocked out production from several chemical plants in the state and that led to an immediate shortage of foam for RV seats and furniture. This year, Hurricane Ida rolled through the South and shut down more chemical plants, causing a shortage of the specialized glue used to laminate RV walls and other features.

Since it takes months for chemical plants to come back to full production, RV manufacturers have been forced to compete with home builders for the dwindling supplies of glue. Most builders, including those in the RV industry, were forced to use a higher-grade glue.

That sounds like a plus for RV buyers, but the new demand for the good stuff has now forced a shortage of that product, driving glue prices through the roof.

You might have also noticed Winnebago’s announcement last week that it was switching to all Goodyear tires for its travel trailers. While the company positioned the move as a step in improving quality and using American-made products, another logical reason for using Goodyear tires is that they don’t require importing from China. Most “Made in China” tires are still bobbing around the Pacific off the coast of California. While using American-made tires is always laudable, buyers should likely expect a price increase from the move.

Metal woes

Rolled metals are in short supply.

Now let’s talk about sheet metal. In the RV industry, sheet metal is what covers the outside of most towable trailers. It comes in big sheets and is installed in overlapping sections.

But, alas, rolled steel and aluminum are in short supply in the U.S., and that is causing prices to surge. Unfilled orders for steel in the third quarter of 2021 were at the highest levels in five years, while inventories were near a four-year low, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The benchmark price for rolled metal is now at its highest level in 13 years.

“Our members have been reporting that they have never seen such chaos in the steel market,” said Paul Nathanson, executive director at Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users.

This metal shortage leaves RV manufacturers in competition with everyone from the aerospace industry to washing machine makers. The end results are longer waits and higher prices.

“Think about it. Nearly all RVs use skirting metal,” said RV dealer Winters. “The glue and skirt metal issues have crippled production lines. These products – unlike ladders – are ‘must-have’ items that you can’t do without when you’re building RVs.”

Huge backlog of orders at RV manufacturers

Meanwhile, Thor Industries, the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles, is sitting on a record backlog of RV orders right now. Thor said they have more than $16 billion in orders that haven’t yet seen the front door of the manufacturing plant.

“Demand for our RV products remains very robust, continuing to exceed [maximum] production output,” Thor CEO Bob Martin said in a press release.

As rosy as that sounds for Thor, the future is even brighter over at Winnebago Industries, which is growing market share fast enough to leave Thor in the rear-view mirror. Winnebago sales have grown more than 140 percent this year, and they are also sitting on a massive order backlog that will take many months – or even years – to clear.

That’s all great news for investors looking for a “sure thing.” Stock prices for RV manufacturing companies are strong. Nothing will build a stock price quite like a long line of anxious customers willing to wait months for delivery.

There are, of course, a plethora of other issues impacting the pricing and manufacturing of RVs, and we’ll continue to cover them all in the coming weeks.

Josh Winters, the self-described “RV Nerd” quoted earlier in this story, is also a great resource. Winters will be talking about some of these same issues in-depth during his next YouTube video posting on November 1 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Just go to Youtube.com/HaylettRV to watch.

Related:

Cargo ships can’t unload, so keep waiting for that new RV or its parts for repairs

##RVT1024b

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Larry D
1 month ago

Not only missing items but negligence on the builder. 2019 Jayco 264bh with 2000 miles came from factory with a Dexter axle that was assembled with no grease on the wheel assembly. Wa stranded 500 miles away for 3 1/2 weeks and wound up costing me $2000.00 . Both Dexter and Jayco won’t own up to their negligence!

TerryH
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry D

Take them to small claims court?

Lindalee
1 month ago

The GREAT TEXAS ICE STORM was in February 2021 – that is THIS year!!

Jennifer R Willner
1 month ago

We’ve been told of the aluminum shortage too, our RVs personalized license plates were ordered in July…

Great reporting in this article. I knew it! RVs are put together with balsam wood, staples and glue!! 🙂

US Navy retired
1 month ago

Not sure investing in RV Manufacturers is a “sure thing”. Thor Industries, the largest RV manufacturer in the world, is trading well below their 52 week highs as is Winnebago, the number three manufacturer in the US. Only Berkshire Hathaway the parent company of Forest River, the number two US manufacturer, is trading near its 52 week highs.
A significant problem of US manufacturers is poor workmanship, poor quality control and a general lack of pride in workmanship by workers in the plants. They know they are doing poor work but don’t care. Perhaps the US manufacturers should build fewer but high quality units and hold their workers accountable. I recently took delivery of a very high quality, well constructed and extremely clean inside and out motorhome from a Canadian company that does care about quality and insists their workers do also. That’s what US manufacturers should do instead of cranking out higher numbers of poorly assembled RVs. Shame on the US RV manufacturers

TheWanderingElles
1 month ago

Hello Navy US retired,
We are a comrade in arms, Air Force retired. Would love to know what brand of Canadian RV motorhome you now proudly own. I agree totally with your comments about US workmanship being so poorly quality controlled, and about the lack of care and work ethic in this country nowadays. We now own a couple of Canadian RV products which we purchased for our motorhome. We are extremely pleased with not only the quality of the products, but the excellent customer service and care they provide after the sale.

Steve
1 month ago

Try Bigfoot Industries in Armstrong, BC. They make trailers & campers. They got out of motorhomes a number of years ago, but if you can find a used one – buy it!

Mick
1 month ago

I have had a 10.6 Bigfoot camper for 16 years It is a 1998 model and has been very dependable. I have refinished the floors and restained the cupboards. I would highly recommend this product.

Steve Baldwin
1 month ago

I haven’t been shopping for a new travel trailer, but when I drive past the two largest in Rapid City, SD, I see their lots full of new units. Want one? Come to South Dakota.

Lee Graves
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Baldwin

Id bet many or most of those units are sold and waiting on dealer prep or repair before delivery.

Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  Lee Graves

Maybe, but we were in Rapid City last July during an eight week trip and saw the same thing. Maybe SD really is the place to shop for your next RV!

cee
1 month ago

Been waiting 13 months for Dometic awning replacement arms. The time frames and excuses seemed reasonable at first but that ended months ago.

I’m not sure how much effort my local RV dealer is putting into it. I feel like small potatoes or an after thought compared to folks buying RV’s from my dealer.

I can still use my awning if I don’t mind getting on my roof to make sure it is secured into the inner arms.

Dan
1 month ago

Currently experiencing a 3 month delay in shipping. Not notified of anything removed (yet) but have received a cost increase of 12% from Forest River if I still want it, with no other similar units shipping until mid 2022.

Drew
1 month ago

These problems were looming issues for a long time. The health crisis put the exclamation point on it. We can look at ourselves in the mirror and you have both the problem and the answers at the same time. It would still take a very long time to even the ledger.

Joe
1 month ago

We just received a recall on our 2020 motorhome for the Lippert Hehr 6400 frameless windows that are experiencing adhesive failures (these windows are installed on many RV’s of all type) First off we cannot find a dealer that can get us in to inspect the window before our departure south. If we could get in and the windows are determined to be effected with bad glue a few of the RV dealers have told me that we will more than likely have to wait 3 months or longer to get replacements. So the supply chain is not only affecting new units it is also putting some of the newer RV’s on the sideline.

SDW
1 month ago

I didn’t like using the ladder on our 5th wheel. all these ladders attach to the roof and you have to bend over to six inches from the roof to grab the ladder and then turn your feet and body around to get on it while the rig shakes all over the place. Now I painted houses for 20 years and have no fear of ladders. But there’s a safer way of using them than the way RV ladders are set up. I ended up purchasing a 15 foot telescoping ladder that is only between 2 and 3 ft tall when closed. This allows me to extend the ladder 3 feet above our rig and then I can go up and just step off on to the roof. And hold on to the ladder while getting back on it to get down. I built a box just deep enough for the ladder and mounted it under the rig at the front with a key lock on the door. It’s way safer to use and allows me to clean and wax the rig on the sides.

Azalea
1 month ago

Just celebrated one year since we sold our RV and pick up truck, no regrets!

Bob M
1 month ago

The trouble with bringing production back home is unions get involved. Than the price goes up for their pay and benefits as well as less hours working. I’ve heard the dock workers are paid extremely well. That it’s their unions preventing them from working longer hours and hiring more people. We probably are not getting the true story of whats going on.

Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob M

Years ago many companies adopted the practice of having workers work overtime rather than hire more people. The reason was and I still believe to some extent was and is due to the cost of all of the perks such as vacation, medical insurance and to some lesser degree in today’s world a defined retirement plan with many companies now contributing to a persons 401 plan. Workers walked out the doors due to COVID and I believe that some of the larger companies are reluctant to take them back and just work a smaller work force to death.

Tammy
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob M

Do you expect people to work for nothing?

Thomas D
1 month ago

If the curent inventory of 2very local dealers is any indication ” shortage, ” there is none. These 2 dealers combined have over 150 new units of all kinds.tt 5ers pop ups tt and mh’s.
With fuel heading up almost daily, who’s going to buy them. And getting a campsite is hard enough.
It may be time to rethink the whole thing

Montgomery D. Bonner
1 month ago

SOOOOOOoooo Glad we got ours in 2019, prior to all this mess. And every single warranty issue has been cleared, long before this shortage of everything. Now it’s for sale. Camping issues and horrendous fuel prices on horizon, age, it’s time to stop. See ad RV Trader.

Julia -
1 month ago

Why RV refrigerator are so expensive ? It went up 3 x the price .
Who do we contact Winnebago plant in Indiana to make an complaint ? We called few times and put on hold and then disconnect. Very frustrating !

Rick K
1 month ago

Just because a factory has all these backorders doesn’t mean they’re going to sell them. The direction the current economy is headed may cause many to cancel these orders. The price of everything is going up. Where is the first place everyone cuts? Recreation! If many invest in these “sure things”, there will be even more people who are broke.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rick K
Rich K.
1 month ago

This is why relying on a ‘global economy’ is bad. There was once a time when American factories, with American owners, run by American workers, could have supplied all of those things. Time to dump China as a supplier (especially given their poor record of upholding human rights, and their increasing military aggressiveness towards Taiwan and in the South China Sea in general), and give American business owners strong positive incentives to build new factories and/or reopen/refurbish old ones. That is the REAL way to make America great again!

Last edited 1 month ago by Rich K.
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich K.

So based on your comments means you are ready to get out your wallet and PAY up! Manufactures went to China because of cost and to get away from labor issues and costs. And because we as investors want quick returns on our 401k’s.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

I am! I’ll pay. China holds us by the ‘short ones’. We are beholding to them in today’s market. If we don’t get away from almost total dependence on China, it won’t be long before they are telling us what to do and how to live – like in their home land.

Ronald Hiemann
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Let’s remind Rich K. also about the fact that we (the USA) first went to Taiwan in the 60s/70s for our low-cost (aka cheap) goods when that country was still developing. When they started to become more educated and cheap labor went out of Taiwan windows, we looked elsewhere for our $10 Walmart jeans. Eventually, the trade and manufacturing ended-up in China. We can already watch certain industries leave China for less expensive countries. It has been like this for the past 50 years and this will not change. Unless, Rich K. and Steve and other like-minded people are willing to pay the price. And a high price it will be! That $10 jeans will all of a sudden cost $50 and the $3 flip-flops will go for $10 and so on. The problem is the cost of labor. American workers demand fair wages (and they are entitled to it) and with that cost structure, manufacturing for low-cost consumer goods will not return. Ever.

Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Why does the USA continue to rely on our adversaries to supply us with goods and materials that affect our military, healthcare, transportation and many other basic living materials is way beyond me? The old saying is follow the money!

Kaeleen Buckingham
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich K.

Read the article closer. A lot of the woes have come from Mother Nature – the deep freeze and hurricanes in the South.

G13
1 month ago

So how is the industry churning up all the RV’s that are exploding in sales? No parts, lack of parts, lack of workers, yet building like never before. Kind of the problem with the build quality don’t you think. Quantity over Quality.

d dobs
1 month ago

geez…wheres the outrage? we put into power a bunch of bad guys who are stalling the unloading of 80+ container ships full of stuff that we need …those same millionaires [blue&red] who decades ago drove US industries offshore…wheres the Lone Ranger when we need him, to drive these varmits to the nearest tree & string them up? cheers?

Terry
1 month ago

This is mostly caused by the manufacturers only order what you can use. There is no supply reserves like there used to be. Order it for tomorrow but don’t keep any in stock is a major cause for short term shortages.

Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Terry

“Just in time” procedures are a good part of the blame, but those ships just anchored off shore are a major part. This shows a good reason why we need to bring production home.

Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

One could argue that we need to pay the Longshoremen and truck drivers more to encourage them to work longer hours and to hire more so the ships can be unloaded 24/7 instead of 7 hours a day. People don’t want to drive trucks because the pay is too low given the limited driving hours. The plan to open the docks 24/7 is nice, but there are not enough longshoremen or truckers to make it happen.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

The longshoremen & truckers used are Union. The crane operators make $250K/yr. In California where we have the biggest ports there are so many regulations many truckers have left the state. Many deliver to the border of CA only. One of the biggest impediments is the regulation that trucks older than 2011 can’t be used. Many truckers gave up or moved when they had to retrofit their trucks to the tune of $50K to keep using them in CA. There are a lot of moving parts to this whole issue.

Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Yes that is true also but a law in California (in litigation) affects independent truckers (apx 10-15% of truckers) being used by freight carriers and could also force these freight companies into hiring them as full time employees. So many of these companies are not using the independents. This is in litigation and for now the freight companies are shying away from the independents.