Thor, Winnebago are seeing strong demand and multi-billion dollar backlogs

  • RV companies have faced demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • RV shipments were up in January and February compared to the same time last year.
  • In March, Winnebago Industries and Thor Industries reported multibillion-dollar arrears.

If you want to buy an RV as soon as possible, you may need to be patient. RV manufacturers have been swept away by consumer demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the most popular companies are now struggling to keep up.

Two years ago, when COVID-19 (temporarily) collapsed the travel industry, one form of leisure travel began to flourish: RVs. In 2020, RV and rental companies suddenly saw historic interest and demand. And by 2021, RV manufacturers had built more units than any previous year.

We’re now two years into the pandemic, but demand for tiny homes on wheels has shown no signs of slowing down. This year’s RV deliveries in January and February are up compared to the same time in 2021 and the RV Industry Association now expects public interest to continue to grow.

That may sound like good news for RV companies. But in reality, rising material costs, supply chain disruptions and difficulties in hiring workers have stifled RV production. These manufacturing difficulties, along with stormy consumer demand, mean you may not be able to get your shiny new summer RV as quickly as you would like.

Winnebago Industries, which saw “record orders” during COVID-19 thanks to younger buyers, reported revenue of $1.2 billion in the second quarter of 2022, up nearly 29% from the same time in 2021.

But while sales have risen, inventory has continued to shrink: the RV and boat maker now has an order backlog of $4.37 billion. And Mike Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries, predicts ongoing supply chain issues will continue this year.

Winnebago isn’t the only popular RV manufacturer facing the same looming backlog. Thor Industries — which oversees 17 brands including Jayco and Airstream — reported revenue of $3.88 billion in its earnings report for the second quarter of 2022, up about 42% from the same point in 2021. But how about Winnebago has come at a price for that popularity: The RV giant now has an order backlog of $17.73 billion, up over 60% year over year.

As of June 2021, Thor was “all but sold out” for that year as its retailers have “virtually no inventory,” Thor president and CEO Bob Martin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer. And late last year, Martin reported that the process of replenishing Thor’s traders could be extended to 2023.

“Frankly, our backlog is larger than we would like. It’s a great signal of interest and demand for our products,” Thor Industries COO Todd Woelfer told Insider in March, noting that the company has “made some smaller incremental advances.”

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