Polaris Inc. and Winnebago Industries both will temporarily close manufacturing lines as the coronavirus pandemic causes slowdowns in the recreational vehicle industry.
Medina-based Polaris said Monday that for one week it will close its plants in Roseau and Monticello, plus those in Huntsville, Ala.; Spirit Lake, Iowa; Osceola, Wis.; Battle Ground, Wash.; Mexico, and Poland.
Winnebago said Monday it is suspending production through April 12, and its main competitor, Thor Industries, also said it would shut down North American production. Winnebago, which is based in Forest City, Iowa, but managed from Eden Prairie, will continue to provide essential services to dealers and customers.
Polaris during the shutdown will still ship finished vehicles to dealers and produce military vehicles that are considered essential by the government, it said in a statement.
"We have been aggressive with employee safety and supply chain mitigation actions, so our plants have operated effectively to meet the strong retail momentum we saw at the start of the year, through the second week of March," said Polaris CEO Scott Wine in a statement. "As anticipated, pandemic concerns ultimately began to impact demand, which dropped suddenly in the middle of last week, and we are adjusting our operations accordingly."
Boat manufacturing will continue to meet customer orders, and distribution centers will be operating, the company said.
Wine said the downturn will have a "significant impact" on 2020 results.
"Consistent with 2008, we are prepared for a period of vehicle retail demand being down significantly," he said. "Today, however, we have a much larger installed base and broader aftermarket portfolio, which will help to mitigate the impact of this unwelcome downturn."
Polaris will offer employees up to 10 days of pay, either for income replacement because of plant closures or for COVID-related quarantine or illness.
Winnebago too is closing its plant after seeing demand for its products "shift dramatically," CEO Michael Happe said in a Monday news release.
"As this global situation continues to rapidly evolve, our top priority is the health and well-being of our employees, business partners, customers and communities," Happe said.
Happe said Winnebago's finances are in good shape, and the company will continue to provide its production employees with base pay and benefits for the first two weeks of the shutdown.
Winnebago has approximately 5,500 employees. The majority of them are manufacturing-related jobs. The company's main production facilities are in Iowa, Indiana and Florida. Factory service centers and customer call centers remain open. The company's nonmanufacturing employees are being asked to work from home if possible.
Winnebago makes motor homes, travel trailers, fifth-wheel products and boats. In June 2018 Winnebago acquired 100% interest in Sarasota, Fla.-based Chris-Craft boats, and in November it completed the $343 million acquisition of Nappanee, Indiana-based Newmar Corp., a manufacturer of luxury motor homes.
Thor, the largest maker of recreational vehicles, is based in Elkhart, Ind., with significant production in Ohio and Indiana where state governments have issued statewide emergencies and limited citizen movement. Thor has about 15,000 employees in the U.S. and 6,80 in Europe.
Winnebago shares finished at $21.97 per share, down 3.6%, slightly worse than the overall market, while shares of Thor were off 2.6%. Polaris shares finished further down at $41.77 per share, off 13.9%.
Staff writer Catherine Roberts contributed to this report.
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926