Keystone ships 1,000,000th RV

Keystone RV president and CEO Jeff Runels drives the company's 1,000,000th RV through a ribbon at the corporate headquarters in Goshen on Thursday, starting the Montana's trip to Walnut Ridge Family RV Center in New Castle, as employees cheer.

GOSHEN — Keystone RV rolled its 1,000,000th recreational vehicle off campus Thursday, marking the milestone with much pomp and circumstance. 

"We've been together for 23 years, which in RV years is a fairly short time to have built a million units," said Keystone RV president and CEO Jeff Runels.

Runels and many of his employees celebrated the event from the corporate headquarters in Goshen, wearing "1,000,000 STRONG" T-shirts and shooting confetti into the air as the Montana fifth-wheeler drove off.

"They're very excited," Runels said. "You could see even two to three weeks ago, some of our employees started to kind of rally around this unit."

The CEO drove the Montana off the corporate complex, starting its journey to Walnut Ridge Family RV Center in New Castle. That was a special experience, he said.

"As I sit in the seat and drive the millionth unit away, it kind of registers to you, all that's happened over my 15 years at Keystone. It definitely brings you back to reality and helps you appreciate how big this millionth-unit mark is," he said.

The Montana, Keystone's flagship brand, retails at about $80,000. It's got just about all the amenities you can put on an RV, Runels said.

This year has seen a 20% drop in RV shipments compared to 2018 when shipments dropped 4% following the record-high 2017. Despite that, Runels expects the rest of the year to be particularly good.

"I think we've set ourselves up, at Keystone RV, for a better fall than we've actually seen over the last couple of years," he said.

That's because dealer inventories have now fallen so much, he said, that dealers will need to make more orders again.

Matt Zimmerman, who was CEO of Keystone until two months ago when he became group RV manager at the parent company, Thor Industries, to oversee several brands, also came to the Keystone campus to celebrate.

"There's a lot of significance to building a million units. You look back and you recognize all the hard work that had to be put into it from all the employees. But then you take it another layer down, which is all the suppliers that had to support us through that," he said.

In the end, it shows that dealers and RVers trust the brand, Zimmerman said.

Keystone RV has more than two dozen manufacturing plants on its 320-acre campus. The company claims it is selling more fifth wheels and toy haulers annually than any other manufacturer.

Should the demand for RVs increase in the fall, as projected by Runels, Keystone is ready to up the production, according to Zimmerman. Keystone currently has some four-day workweeks, instituted to adjust to lower demand, but that can be readjusted.

The long-term health of the industry looks good, said Zimmerman, who cited reports that new generations of enthusiasts are discovering the RV lifestyle.

"The goal is to hit 2 million," he said. 

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus.

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