To mark production of its 5 millionth Coleman-Mach air conditioner, RV Products will be packaging a golden ticket in the milestone unit, according to a press release.
The company will provide a prize packages for both the purchaser and the dealership that sells the air conditioner, which is housed in a gold shroud. The Mach 15, 15,000-Btu unit is packaged in an unmarked box and will be treated as regular inventory, the company said. Per the usual routine, it will be shipped to an unknown distributor and then sent to an unknown dealer.
RV Products personnel believe that the gold shroud unit will be revealed in early summer 2013.
The box will also contain a note asking the buyer to contact RV Products. The consumer will then receive instructions on how to claim the prize package and arrangements will then be made for their visit to RV Products’ Wichita, Kan., factory. The retail owner will also receive a free Coleman-Mach air conditioner of their choice in exchange for the gold shroud unit, as it will be sent to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.
Since 1967, all Coleman-Mach air conditioners and heat pumps have been built in its Wichita, Kan., manufacturing facility.
RV Products, a division of AirxcelL Inc., has added a second shift and is looking to hire 10 to 20 more workers as it ramps up production on air conditioning units for recreational vehicles, according to the Wichita Business Journal.
In recent months, the Wichita-based manufacturer aggressively has called back workers who were laid off and hired new employees as it prepares to meet a projected increase in demand for RVs this year. The RV Products Division of Airxcel leads the industry in the manufacturing of air conditioning equipment and accessories for recreation vehicles.
RV Products has added 72 workers during the past year to bring the company back near its pre-recession employment total. To date, RV Products has 201 employees, and it hopes to get back to around 220 in the near future — a total the company hasn’t seen since 2007.
Adding staff and another shift is a stark contrast from the contraction RV Products experienced in the past year and a half as the economic downturn dramatically altered recreational vehicle production. It comes 16 months after the company virtually shut down for all of December 2008.
Camco Mfg. Co., a leading manufacturer of products for the RV, residential, automotive and marine industries, was named one of Business North Carolina magazine’s Top 100 privately held companies for the fourth consecutive year. The Greensboro, N.C., company moved to number 77 in the rankings, a jump of eight places from its position last year on the list.
The revenue-based rankings are compiled by accounting firm Grant Thornton.
Camco was founded in 1966 by Donald Caine to produce non-toxic freshwater antifreeze. The company has grown from a single employee to more than 250 workers and produces upwards of 3,000 products at manufacturing facilities in Greensboro, Elkhart, Ind., Portland, Ore., and Boston.
Mel Adams, CEO of Wichita, Kan.-based RV Products, says the RV industry is close to bottoming out.
Sales have fallen to half of the 30-year average, a level that can’t last very long, he said, especially given that the Baby Boomers are reaching prime RV age.
The rebound, when it comes, will be strong, he said, according to The Wichita Eagle.
The industry saw deep recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s that were followed by steep increases.
“The bounce back will be quite remarkable,” he predicted.
In the meantime, the air conditioner and heater supplier is coping the best it can with industry conditions.
If a recent forecast for the industry holds true, this year’s RV sales nationally will fall 45% from last year and nearly 70% from their 2006 peak, a condition Adams likened to “a train wreck.”
The company had 220 employees in 2007, when sales started falling, and the fall kept accelerating. Corporate cost cutting and layoffs followed.
Adams has had to lay off 40 workers since the beginning of the year. The last 10 were laid off Tuesday (March 31), leaving the company with 120 employees.
“That’s the worst,” he said. “You get a dedicated work force that comes to work for you as a career, and that is the cornerstone for their funding their family and, all of a sudden, it’s not available.”
Adams said the company has looked at every expense to find ways to save, including trimming supplies, moving inventory from a rented warehouse into the plant and renegotiating services.
One small saving grace is that the company does sell some product to the replacement market, which is down by only single digits.
Recreational vehicles suffered from a triple blow of high gas prices, a credit crunch for customers and the economic downturn.
Nationwide the collapse in sales has forced several RV companies into bankruptcy, thrown tens of thousands of people out of work, and devastated communities where RV manufacturing is a major employer.
Adams, 63, worked 24 years at Coleman, working his way from assistant foreman to division president before he and three other division executives took RV Products private in 1991 in a leveraged buyout.