An empty warehouse parking lot common with the supply chain backlog currently being experienced.

Wall Street Celebrates Thor Order Backlog; the Customer Loses Again

If you’ve tried to order anything in the past 18 to 24 months, you likely found yourself wondering what is taking so long. Between cargo ships stuck in canals and delays at ports, it’s been a logistics disaster for many industries, including the RV industry. Supply chains are backed up everywhere, and that includes in the RV industry.

Thor Industries, manufacturer of Airstream and Jayco RVs, recently reported record sales for its third consecutive quarter. Unprecedented growth and supply chain issues have created quite a backlog. Let’s look at how this may be a win for the company but is a significant loss for customers.

An empty warehouse parking lot common with the supply chain backlog currently being experienced.
Thor Industries has sold thousands of RVs that haven’t even hit the lot yet.

How Many Orders Does Thor Have in Its Backlog?

Thor’s President and CEO, Bob Martin, shared that the company has an $18.07 billion backlog as of the end of October 2021. As he shared the company’s first-quarter 2022 earnings report, he also told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in June 2021 that the company is “pretty much sold out for the next year” and that many dealers have “virtually no inventory.”

Thor Industries CEO on low RV inventory and billions of dollars in backlog.

Why Does Thor Have So Many Unfulfilled Orders?

RVs have been steadily growing in popularity since the start of 2020. The demand for RVs rapidly increased over 2020 as many families and individuals were looking for alternative vacation and traveling options. The company has experienced a 56% increase in sales compared to last year.

Supply chain shortages met increased demand to create a perfect storm for customers. Supplier factories didn’t meet quotas, cargo ships were delayed, and interest increased.

This resulted in customers paying deposits and often waiting months for their new RVs to arrive at the dealership. The backlog and demands are so intense that dealers sell many RVs before manufacturers even start production on them.

Supply chain shortages are causing delays for many industries, including recreational vehicles.

What Is Thor Doing to Help Fill Its Orders?

The supply shortage has helped many manufacturers realize how dependent they truly are on others to maintain production. Thor Industries decided to purchase Airxcel for $750 million in September 2021.

Airxcel is an RV parts manufacturer, and 80% of its revenue comes from OEM sales. It produces important items like rooftop air conditioners, thermostats, roller shades, and so much more. Thor’s purchase helps minimize the odds of massive lots of RVs waiting for routine and straightforward parts shipments. 

Which RV Brands Does Thor Industries Own?

Thor Industries is a major player in the RV game. It produces major brands like Airstream, Jayco, CrossRoads, Cruiser RV, Dutchmen, Starcraft, and Thor Motor Coach. When Thor Industries acquired Jayco, it also took over Highland Ridge and Entegra Coach.

The company started in 1980 and continues to help families and individuals get outdoors in a range of RVs. You can find travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheels from Thor and its related brands. Just about any kind of RV you could want has a place in the company’s lineup. You’ve probably seen many Thor RVs on the road without even realizing it.

An Airstream Travel Trailer, manufactured by a company called Thor Industries, sits on a dirt campsite at sunset.
The Airstream may be familiar, but you might not have known they’re manufactured by Thor Industries.

Are Dealers Expected to Be Restocked Anytime Soon?

According to Bob Martin, “The dealer restocking process will still take a number of quarters to complete and could possibly extend into calendar 2023.” So don’t expect that you’re going to be walking through a packed dealership lot anytime soon. You will need a lot of patience if you’re trying to get a new RV anytime soon.

What Does This Mean for RV Customers?

This isn’t good news for those looking to buy an RV in the near future. Because many dealers have little to no inventory, their shortages will impact the entire buying process.

Potential buyers will struggle to find dealers with inventory, which can make it nearly impossible to walk through an RV before purchasing it. Buyers may even need to pay deposits without seeing or walking through an RV.

This also means that dealers will be less likely to negotiate or haggle when it comes to the price of an RV. It’s the simple laws of supply and demand for the foreseeable future. They know that if you walk away, there’s likely a line of customers behind you that will gladly pay whatever premium price they’re asking.

A lineup of travel trailers at an RV warehouse.
Supply and demand for RVs does not favor the consumer right now.

Bad News for Customers

While a massive backlog of orders is good for investors and the bottom line of Thor Industries and other manufacturers, it’s not good for consumers. The process of buying an RV is exciting and terrifying all at the same time, so drawing the process out for months can be challenging for consumers.

If you’re in the market for a new RV, make sure you do plenty of research on the manufacturer and the layout of the specific rig you’re looking to purchase. You don’t want to wait months to take delivery and discover it’s not the RV of your dreams.

What’s the longest you’ve had to wait to take delivery on an RV?

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