RVs and quality. The two words do not necessarily belong together. Ask an RVer about their ownership experience and you will often hear the following: there is always something going wrong.
When we walked through the Newmar factory I was surprised by the lack of automation on the production line. Newmar’s coaches are built and assembled by hand. Granted, the chassis manufacturer likely takes advantage of automation as perhaps do many of the parts suppliers, but the actual build of the coach is done by hand. At rapid speed. When we went through the factory hundreds of employees were putting together seven coaches in one day. Hundreds of employees, each working on a specific part of a coach, repeating the same set of manual tasks, similar to the way automobiles used to be made before the advent of mass assembly.
Newmar is not alone in this approach.
Why does the majority of the RV industry work this way?
Cost would be one reason. It is expensive to bring in automation without adequate volume.
But this paradigm might be changing.
Thor just issued a press release about the formation of Hymer USA.
The key phrase in the press release?
A very different way of manufacturing not currently seen in the North American RV industry, including automated processes that will be implemented throughout design and assembly.
Hymer USA to use German innovation and manufacturing processes–a first for the US RV industry
ELKHART, Ind., Jan. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — THOR Industries, Inc. (NYSE: THO) today announced the formation of Hymer USA, a new subsidiary focused on producing and marketing recreational vehicles (RVs) utilizing European manufacturing practices, automation and control standards – a first for North America’s RV industry. Hymer USA will be based in Bristol, Indiana, with initial product availability expected in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2020.
The announcement follows THOR’s 2019 acquisition of Europe’s Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), which created the world’s largest RV manufacturer, holding leading positions on both continents. Erwin Hymer Group is a long-standing leader in the European RV market and one of the largest RV manufacturers in Europe. EHG, including its Hymer brand, is well-known for innovation, design and product quality.
“We are very proud of our extensive brand portfolio, which has historically allowed us to be responsive to the diverse needs of both our dealers and consumers. The Hymer brand and product offering has already received very positive feedback from our North American dealer network,” stated Bob Martin, President and CEO of THOR Industries. “Delivering to the North American market the innovation, design and quality for which the Hymer brand is known will benefit consumers and dealers and further enhance THOR’s leadership position within the market, which we believe will provide strong long-term value to our investors.”
“We anticipate significant benefits in working together with our German team, learning from each other and, ultimately, offering unique products to provide years of enjoyable experiences for our customers. As we begin to leverage the combined talent of our companies and share best practices across the globe, we are more optimistic than ever about the future.”
Initial phases of the EHG acquisition integration have been completed with the oversight of Troy James, THOR Industries Senior Vice President. James, one of THOR’s most experienced company leaders, who has spent considerable time in Europe over the past year engaging with the EHG leadership team, will take on the additional responsibility of overseeing Hymer USA.
“Troy is one of our top leaders. His experience and leadership make him ideally suited to lead our newly created Hymer USA subsidiary while continuing his responsibilities with the EHG leadership team,” shared Bob Martin. “We look forward to the leadership Troy will provide in introducing the Hymer product and manufacturing processes to the North American market, uniquely establishing Hymer as a global brand.”
“Having worked closely with EHG this past year, I’m very impressed by their teamwork, product innovation and manufacturing processes,” James said. “We are very excited to fully incorporate the EHG best practices into the operations of the newly created Hymer USA subsidiary starting on day one.”
Employees in key product development roles and with specific European manufacturing expertise will relocate from Germany to Bristol to allow Hymer USA to replicate its proven manufacturing process in collaboration with THOR’s skilled American workforce. The Company will utilize an existing, newly renovated, company-owned facility with the expectation of investing approximately $8 to $10 million in additional capital expenditures during 2020- primarily for machinery and equipment to build out the facility for Hymer USA.
“Hymer USA will feature a very different way of manufacturing not currently seen in the North American RV industry, including automated processes that will be implemented throughout design and assembly,” James said. “Products will benefit from the world-leading quality standards set by EHG and our new work environment will feature highly skilled team members collaborating directly with employees from EHG’s European operations while incorporating the speed to market for which THOR is well-regarded.”