One consistent market constraint the U.S. RV industry has faced during its impressive recent recovery has been a shortage of Class A gas chassis manufactured by the industry’s sole chassis supplier — Ford Motor Co.
But that supply squeeze appears to be lifting, according to motorhome builders and Ford spokesmen themselves — all of which potentially could unleash further growth beyond the impressive shipment numbers already posted for the year with Class A shipments up 32.2% through October, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Of course, Ford officials have been particularly aware of the situation since April when motorhome builders were ordering more Class A rails than Ford was able to deliver, reported Len DeLuca, Ford’s director of commercial vehicles. So, in response to the growing demand from RV and other clients, Ford generally ramped up production of chassis, axles and 6.8-liter engines.
And, while things have improved in the latter part of 2013, DeLuca sees a more workable supply-side situation in 2014 as well.
“I think we’ve done a good job of getting our capacity up and we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago,” said DeLuca. “As a matter of fact, between Class C and Class A, we’ve built 40-ish percent more for this industry than we did a year ago. Between the E-series at Ohio and F53 Class A at Detroit Chassis, we’ve actually built around 40% more.
“And the market itself between those two segments is up about 33%,” he added, “so our production has been outpacing (demand), which is good because there’s obviously been a huge void there — a big backorder.
“But the growth (in demand for motorhome chassis), to me, hasn’t slowed down, and I’m surprised by that. I thought that that huge surge we saw last year, the last six months (of 2012), would fall off a little bit,” DeLuca told RVBUSINESS.com. “But it hasn’t; it’s been very constant. So it’s been very consistent this year, and as we go into the first quarter of next year, we’ll be pretty much spot-on with what the builders are asking for, for their chassis requirements. We’ll be close to getting them what they need, particularly in Class A.”
So how long does DeLuca think it will be before existing backlogs ease?
“I don’t even have an answer to that without knowing what the builders need,” he responded. “Like I said, for the first quarter of next year, we’ll be pretty close to what they (manufacturers) want. I know they were happy when we met with them at the Louisville Show about their allocations for the first two months of the year (2014), so I think we’re in pretty good shape.”