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Grand Design Purges Its Workforce, Lays Off 170 Employees

Grand Design is the latest RV manufacturer to implement a massive employee layoff. No matter how big or small the company, this is never an easy announcement.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first and likely won’t be the last time we hear this coming out of northern Indiana. It’s another sign of a significant shift occurring in the industry.

Today, we’re looking into Grand Design’s difficult decision.

Let’s dive in!

Shot of an unhappy businesswoman holding her box of belongings after getting fired from her job, representing the layoffs at Grand Design
Grand Design isn’t the only RV manufacturer laying people off

Grand Design RV Employees Face Layoffs

RV manufacturer Grand Design recently announced they were laying off 170 workers. The press release points out that they’re not the only brand to make this decision. Regardless, this doesn’t cause it to sting any less for those now facing the unemployment line.

They still have approximately 2,200 workers remaining after the cuts. The layoffs reduce the total number of Grand Design employees by roughly 7%.

So while it may not be a large chunk of their staff, the decision still has a considerable impact. Those workers have families to feed and bills to pay. Sadly, this layoff will likely make things more difficult for them.

About Grand Design RV

Grand Design is a recreational vehicle manufacturer that produces towable RVs. A trio of industry experts, Don Clark, Bell Fenech, and Ron Fenech, launched the company in 2012. They have multiple lines of luxury travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers.

Over the past decade, they’ve developed a positive reputation in the RV community. Their business model of “doing the right thing” helped them build customer trust. In their early years, their commitment to exceptional service and providing long-term value was unlike many other brands.

This commitment to excellence helped them produce 25,000 units within the first four years of operation. Grand Design attracted the attention of some of the biggest names in the market. As a result, Winnebago Industries acquired the brand in 2016.

Despite the change, the company continues to operate as a distinct business under the Winnebago umbrella. Co-founder Don Clark serves as the company’s CEO, and they have a well-established position in Middlebury, Indiana. Their luxury RVs are popular choices for full-time travelers and weekend warriors.

We still think Grand Design is one of the better RV manufacturers: 5 Well-Built (and American Made) RVs.

Is Grand Design a Good Place to Work, Despite Layoffs?

We’ve never worked for or with Grand Design. However, despite the layoffs, we found some indications that the RV manufacturer is a decent workplace. For example, the company recently won the Best Employer Award from The Goshen News. 

While announcing the winners, Doug McAvoy, Publisher of The Goshen News, said, “Each award winner in this list truly deserves the title, Best of the Best.” He said, “They have earned readers’ votes through hard work, excellent customer service, and great products.” Companies typically only receive this kind of recognition if they do many things right.

Additionally, Grand Design revealed its commitment to being a company with a “long-term, personal connection” to its staff. They launched an onsite Team Services Clinic through a partnership with Beacon Health to help support the health and well-being of employees.

Services are available for any team member. Employees can work with the physical therapist when they experience discomfort. The aim is to treat afflictions before they become more severe injuries. The occupational health nurse offers additional care to help ensure they get the necessary treatment.

According to Glassdoor, the company has a 4.3 rating. Some of the most common complaints are the early morning hours and the fast-paced work environment. Conversely, some employees report that the pay is excellent and feels Grand Design cares for and values them.

What Are the Reasons Behind the Layoffs?

If you read our post about the bloodbath occurring among RV dealerships, this round of layoffs is no surprise. Manufacturers are experiencing an incredible slowdown across the entire industry. Shipments are down more than 50% this year compared to last year.

Almost every manufacturer struggled to keep up with production from 2020 to 2022. The demand was through the roof as many people were looking for unique ways to travel. RVs were practically selling themselves before they even hit the assembly line. As the famous musician Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”

More than one thing is to blame for the industry slowdown. Currently, consumers are facing increased interest rates and high gas prices. If that wasn’t enough, the retail cost for campers rose due to a surge in demand. While experts hint at prices dropping, they don’t appear to be falling as quickly as they grew.

Another cause of the slowdown is the oversaturated market. Many people who bought RVs during the chaos of 2020 through 2022 are now selling. 

Gently-used campers are flooding Facebook Marketplace and RV Trader. With a healthy inventory of used trailers and fully-stocked dealership lots, shoppers can now take their time while shopping.

Read our article about the RV Dealership “Bloodbath” is Imminent, According to Industry Expert

A photo showing a packed RV dealer lot, representing the oversaturated market that may have cause the Grand Design layoffs
An oversaturated market is a primary cause of the RV industry layoffs

Did Grand Design Plan to Increase Its Workforce Prior to Layoffs?

In the spring of 2022, Grand Design moved into a new 300,000-square-foot facility. They held a fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony and were excited about the future. 

At the time, they employed 2,700 associates and projected to add 700 workers by the end of 2023. However, the layoff notices to 170 employees reveal that Grand Design’s plan changed over the last year.

CEO Don Clark told WNDU 16 News in May 2022 that the company wouldn’t “force our growth.” He said their expansion would “be dependent on the customer retail demand for our product.” 

At the time, the demand was trending upward. Mr. Clark and the other CEOs in the industry had overly positive outlooks for the future.

Unfortunately, what goes up, almost always comes down. The announced plan to hire additional staff likely won’t happen soon. Clark described the growth plan to WNDU. He said, “We let the customers kind of dictate to us, in the popularity of our products.” Sadly, that popularity is currently trending in the wrong direction.

On the more fun side of things, where will you go next? 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do.

A Glimmer of Hope

Grand Design’s huge employee layoff stinks. However, business executives must make tough decisions and do what’s best for the company. Luckily, officials mentioned they’ll make “every effort to bring back team members as appropriate.” How long it’ll take for that to happen, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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