RV manufacturers have yet another challenge in building their RVs: finding foam for seat cushions.
A historic winter storm that brought heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures to the Gulf Coast region in late February is now making its impact felt in the RV industry, as production begins to slow due to a shortage of foam used for seat cushions.
The unusually cold weather caused widespread damage to a number of petrochemical plants which produce resins and additives such as propylene oxide. This is a critical raw material used in the production of foam cushions for seating used in RVs, trucks and boats.
One anonymous auto executive told Automotive News that the foam shortage will be a bigger problem than the microchip shortage the auto industry is already dealing with.
Propylene oxide is produced by just five manufacturing plants in North America. All of them located in the Gulf Coast region that was directly impacted by the storm.
As of March 10, only two of the five propylene oxide plants had resumed limited production, while the remaining three plants remain offline as repairs continue to damaged water, steam and nitrogen systems. Current estimates suggest propylene oxide output might not return to normal levels until May, meaning continued foam shortages.
The lack of supply in the face of high demand has had an inevitable impact on costs, with chemical suppliers reportedly invoking price increases on seat manufacturers, leading RV manufacturers to in turn raise prices to their dealers.