Back in January, and again in March, we described the state of the trailer industry as the world emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as we approach the halfway point of 2021, an update is in order.
The CliffsNotes version is that stocks are low, lead times are long, and prices are high. Customers are finding this out as they call around to different dealers looking for a trailer.
In January, we quoted an article from RVTravel.com about fields of RVs waiting for just a few parts before they could be completed and shipped to dealers. Well, that’s now the trailer industry too. Chances are, if you ordered a trailer and it's late, that's where it is.
Our leadership team took a trip to ATC a couple weeks ago and saw first-hand lots full of trailers that appeared to be finished. In reality, they were 99% complete, but missing certain parts in order to be finished.
It’s a problem that goes way beyond the manufacturer to the global supply chain.
We got an email this week from another manufacturer informing us that they are “turning off” certain options from our ordering portal. This means that these options – such as ATP flooring, electric/hydraulic brakes, ATP fenders, and wheel chocks – are not even available as options right now. Other items, such as windows, power awnings, and generators have incredibly long lead times – which is why there are lots and fields full of mostly finished trailers.
Yet another one of our manufacturers told us last week that they are no longer taking orders at all until further notice.
Billion Dollar Backlogs
RV giant Thor Industries, which owns Airstream, Dutchmen, Starcraft, and many other top RV brands, announced earlier this month that they are sold out of RVs for 2021 and they have a $14 billion (yes, billion with a 'b') backlog of orders.
Likewise, Winnebago Industries has a backlog of over 40,000 towable RVs as of their second-quarter report.
So what does the RV boom have to do with trailers? Well, they’re competing for parts and labor. With so much buying power, the RV industry can snatch up more allocated parts than the smaller trailer manufacturers can. They can also offer higher pay for labor and offer huge signing bonuses to entice workers to leave their current job and build RVs instead of trailers. Both of these contribute to the problem.
All of the trailer manufacturers also have a hefty backlog of orders, so when you call for a custom trailer quote and we tell you it’s going to be a year or more, we’re not blowing smoke. You can look elsewhere, but unless another dealer has exactly what you need on their lot at that exact time – or unless they are not being truthful – you’ll get the same answer.
In addition to long lead times from the start of the order, even trailers that are already on order are seeing significant delays due to the aforementioned supply shortages. We may be told by the manufacturer that a trailer is due to be completed in July, for example, but then during that time they run out of certain parts and either can’t tell us when it will be completed or give us a new tentative completion date of September.
It’s also why trailer prices are soaring. Every manufacturer we work with has been forced to raise prices by 20-30%. If you ask us for a quote and feel it’s too high, rest assured that we’re not quoting high prices so we can make more profit. We’re doing it to tread water. If you can find that same trailer cheaper elsewhere, that dealer likely isn’t going to be in business much longer.
Now, we know that none of these issues are optimal for our customers, so we are being proactive in an effort to continue providing the top-notch service we are known for.
How Advantage Trailer is combating product shortages
1. Nurturing relationships with our manufacturers
With limited production capabilities, manufacturers are being forced to “lay off” dealers to keep up with their top-selling dealers. We are proud to be one of the top seven dealers that ATC is still currently building trailers for. This is due to our long-standing relationship with them, and why our leadership team went down to Nappanee to meet with them a couple of weeks ago.
While lead times may be long and prices may be higher, the silver lining is that we can still place orders for custom trailers through ATC for customers that want the high-quality aluminum trailers they are known for.
In addition to ATC, we’re in regular communication with our other manufacturers – Cross Trailers, Discovery Trailers, Sure-Trac, Stealth, Formula, MTI, and Bear Track – to find ways to get trailers.
2. Seeking out new opportunities
Over the past few months, we have reached out to dozens of other manufacturers across the country trying to find new brands to sell. Unfortunately, with limited products, they don’t have room for new dealers.
While all of that searching hasn’t yielded anything, we were given a new opportunity right in our backyard. We were able to secure two of ATC’s GameChanger PRO Toy Haulers. These are products we have never sold before, but we’re excited to get our hands on in a few months. We’ve added both to our online inventory as “coming soon” products, so if you are interested in a high-quality toy hauler, contact us for a quote.
3. Bulking up our stock orders
Among the big backlogs of orders that the manufacturers have are hundreds of trailers that we have ordered over the past few months. Some of them have tentative delivery dates and some don’t as of yet, but we do have trailers trickling in.
We’re trying to showcase those as “coming soon” trailers on our online inventory so customers can reserve them even before they hit our lot. Because of the uncertainty of delivery dates, we can’t promise when they will get here, but if you find a trailer that fits what you are looking for, our best advice is to act fast.
For example, we just received a 24-foot Cross car hauler on Tuesday and it was sold within 36 hours. Many of the trailers that hit our lot don't even last that long.
We also have a pop-up on our inventory page that allows you to sign up to be notified when the trailer you are looking for arrives. This "first-to-know" feature was recently added and is the best way to get your hands on a trailer.
4. Amping up our parts and service
We have a full-service trailer repair shop and we stock a large selection of trailer parts, including hitches, tires, brakes, and more. If you have an older trailer that you were thinking of replacing, one option is to get it fixed up so it can perform for another season or two until the market stabilizes. Or place your order for a new trailer and get your old one fixed up while you’re waiting.
Either way, we’re here to help. We also haven't changed our service rates, so while everything else is increasing, you can get your trailer serviced at the same rate as before.
So when will the market return to normal? We don't have that answer, but we will do our best to help you out with all of your trailer needs. We ask for your patience and understanding as the volatility of the industry prevents us from getting trailers quickly, keeping prices low, and stocking a large selection.
Use the Contact Us form on the website or give us a call at 630-524-2029.