Thor Industries Acquires Major RV Supplier

Thor Industries logo

Thor Industries bought Airxcel’s RV Group for $750 million, with the transaction closing effective Sept. 1. The manufacturer said the move will strengthen its supply chain, which has faced challenges over the past two years.

Both companies sought to clarify the nature of their relationship moving forward, saying Airxcel will continue to sell to RV manufacturers across the industry and not simply Thor subsidiaries.

“Airxcel will operate independently in Thor’s decentralized business structure, and we will govern this business much like we have managed our Postle Aluminum supply company post-acquisition,” Thor President and CEO Bob Martin said. “Airxcel will operate at arm’s length from Thor’s RV OEM companies and will sell to the various Thor brands as they would any other OEM in the RV industry.”

Robert MartinMartin added the current Airxcel senior management team would replace in place. Airxcel has more than 1,400 employees joining Thor’s team. Airxcel owns plants in Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Tennessee, as well as Can production in Italy. Thor now employs about 32,000 workers worldwide.

Airxcel generated $680 million in annual revenue in the past year, Thor said. OEM sales account for 80% of Airxcel’s business. About 30% of Airxcel sales were generated from sales to Thor subsidiaries.

“We have had a long history as a key supplier to the RV industry and to Thor and its many brands specifically, and we are excited to become part of the Thor family of companies,” Airxcel CEO Jeff Rutherford said. “Under Thor’s ownership, Airxcel will continue its long-standing relationship with manufacturers and aftermarket providers throughout the RV industry without interruption, while continuing to develop, manufacture and sell high-quality innovative RV product solutions.”

A picture of Jeff Rutherford

A presentation slide Thor produced showed Airxcel product category sales shared nearly equally in three groups: air conditioners/ventilation, furnaces/water heaters/cooking appliances and window coverings/roof membranes/FRP/composite panels.

L Catterton, the private-equity which bought Airxcel in 2018, said the sale was a “great outcome” for all parties.

“Over the last three years, our partnership with Jeff has driven significant growth across Airxcel’s business, expanding to new products and services, completing multiple strategic acquisitions, and driving increased market share across all of Airxcel’s product lines,” said Marc Magliacano, a managing partner in L Catterton’s Flagship Fund. “We know the Thor team well, having previously sold Heartland RV to Thor in 2010, and we are confident that Airxcel’s RV business will thrive under their ownership. We would like to thank all the Airxcel associates for their tremendous contribution.”

The purchase price is subject to standard post-closing adjustments. Thor said it was funded through a combination cash-on-hand and $625 million from Thor’s expanded Asset-Based Credit Facility (ABL). In conjunction with the acquisition, Thor expanded its ABL from $750 million to $1 billion.

“Consistent with our stated capital allocation priorities, we expect to remain focused on paying down our outstanding debt balances from future net cash generated from operations,” Thor Chief Financial Officer Colleen Zuhl said.

Beyond strengthening Thor’s supply chain, the OEM offered numerous long-term, strategic benefits to the acquisition. The first is a plan to invest in Airxcel’s operations.

“With increased investment, Airxcel will be an even more reliable supply partner to the RV industry expanding its offering of functionally critical components,” Thor stated.

Thor said the deal would diversify its business with Airxcel’s OEM and aftermarket sales. The acquisition also would enable “even closer collaboration” between Airxcel’s OEM customers on new and innovative products and features. Airxcel launched more than 100 new products in the past five years.

Finally, Thor cited the potential to expand Airxcel’s supply chain in North America and Europe “over time.”

“There were a number of factors that made this acquisition a compelling and timely fit for Thor,” Martin said, “including (i) the strength of their management team and dedicated workforce, (ii) the quality of their products and reputation for innovation, (iii) the long-standing relationships with both OEM and aftermarket customers and, (iv) in the face of so many supply chain challenges over the past year, the ability to invest in the growth of a key supplier for Thor and the RV industry both in North America and Europe. We believe the long-term growth potential for the RV industry remains very positive, and this acquisition reflects our confidence that the RV industry will continue to grow.”

Airxcel launched in 1991 as a divesture of the Coleman RV Air Conditioner division. The company has grown, often through acquisitions, to encompass brands including Aqua-Hot, Can, Coleman-Mach, Dicor Products, United Shade, Vixen Composites, Maxxair, MCD and Suburban.

Among the products Airxcel manufactures and sells are:

  • Coleman-Mach rooftop air conditioners, heat pumps, thermostats and accessories
  • Suburban furnaces, water heaters and cooking appliances
  • Maxxair ventilation solutions
  • Aqua-Hot hydronic heating systems
  • Dicor roofing products, sealants, coatings, wheels and more
  • Vixen Composites fiberglass reinforced plastic and custom composite panels
  • Can Italian cooking appliances, sinks and accessories
  • Cleer Vision windows and tempered glass
  • MCD roller shades
  • United Shade window shades

“Airxcel has been a long-time business partner to Thor and the RV industry,” Martin said, “supplying some of the highest-quality products over decades to the RV industry.”

An exterior view of the Airxcel mobile showcase, debuted at the Winnebago Grand National Rally

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