ELKHART — Exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will affect Elkhart County’s large RV industry is still unknown, and companies are keeping their cards close as the situation evolves.
“THOR Industries and all of its subsidiaries are proactively taking steps to protect and support our global workforce and the communities where we live and work. To ensure that we are providing the most current guidance to our employees and communities, we constantly monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other health organizations. In taking these actions, our priorities are to ensure the well-being of our colleagues and our communities,” Thor Industries said in a statement.
But the company would not say whether it will send workers home or how its supply chain is affected. The same goes for Thor’s subsidiaries, which include Keystone RV, Jayco, Dutchmen and a dozen others.
Lippert Components said in a Facebook post this week that the company has no plans to change its production.
“LCI has NO PLANS to disrupt any manufacturing activities unless mandated by the local or federal government,” the post said. “Throughout these trying times, LCI leadership will be in constant contact with our customer partners and keeping them as up to speed as possible.”
Lippert Components would not give interviews. Neither would Dometic or Winnebago, though they did comment through a statement.
“Conditions related to COVID-19 continue to evolve. To this point, Winnebago Industries has taken a number of precautionary steps in light of the situation. Some examples include: only allowing essential visitors to our facilities, the suspension of factory tours, the implementation of social distancing practices to limit group gatherings, and the option for applicable employees to work from home. The Company has also implemented enhanced sanitization protocols that include increased cleaning of common surfaces, hand washing or use of liquid hand sanitizer at the start of each shift, at each break period, and whenever practical.”
RV Industry Association spokesperson Monika Geraci said keeping the industry open is important, especially since some governments are putting in orders for RVs to use as mobile units during the crisis.
“What the industry really is focusing on right now is working with state and federal governments to help in the crisis,” Geraci said. “It is important that the businesses are able to stay open, which obviously keeps people employed in Elkhart in particular.”
The RVIA recently announced the industry’s wholesale shipment numbers for January, showing a strong start to 2020, as the first month of this year surpassed the same month from a year before – a feat rarely accomplished in the last two years. Before the pandemic, 2020 was projected to be about as good a year for the RV industry as 2019.
In order for the coronavirus to have the smallest possible negative effect on the industry, RVIA lobbyists are working with lawmakers to be included in one of the stimulus packages that are expected to come out of Washington, D.C.
“The RV Industry Association’s federal affairs team is talking regularly with our contacts in the Senate and the Administration to provide input and suggestions regarding the inclusion of the RV industry in the proposed stimulus package,” RVIA president Craig Kirby said in a newsletter.