Teri and I had never been to a factory where RV's are made, but we discovered that Nash and Artic Fox RV's are made right in La Grande, Oregon. Since we were volunteering in La Grande, we thought it was the perfect opportunity for a factory tour. As luck would have it, we were the only two on this particular tour, so we got "VIP" treatment!!
The parent company is Northwood, and one of their claims to fame is that they make their own trailer chassis (frame). Most companies buy their chassis from a third party, but Northwood feels that starting from scratch allows them to control quality.
Our guide noted that they weld the steps and leveling jacks onto the frame, rather than bolting them on like most other companies. I didn't care for this particular "improvement" as I've had to replace both stairs and jacks in the past because of collision damage, and was glad to be able to simply unbolt them. Having to take them off with a cutting torch would have been really inconvenient!
One of the few assemblies that Northwood gets from outside is the wiring harness. Rather than having their own employees pulling hundreds of feet of wire from dozens of spools, they get the complete package delivered, which speeds up production and cuts down on errors. This bundle weighed at least 40 pounds!
They run three assembly lines. One is for truck campers, a second is for the smaller, wood-framed Nash line of travel trailers, and the largest is for the Artic Fox and Silver Fox trailers and fifth wheels. There are several large buildings on a site that covers about 25 acres.
Have you ever wondered what the holding tanks on a trailer look like? They are long and wide, but not very tall. The black tanks are for gray water and black water. The white tank to the left is the fresh water tank. Eventually these will all be covered by the floor.
With the tanks, wiring harness, heater vents, etc. in place, the plywood floor is installed. This is a travel trailer so doesn't have the stepped up section that a fifth wheel does.
The cabinet shop was a big operation, making all of their cabinetry in-house. Computer controlled saws precut hundreds of pieces of wood daily, and dozens of workers assemble them into cabinets.
Northwood employs about 300 folks. We saw a sign in the waiting room stating that applications are kept on file for 90 days, so please don't re-submit any more often than that. It sounds like a lot of people may want a job here!
The most fascinating thing was the fact that the entire interior of the RV is built before the walls go on! On this fifth wheel you can see cabinets, the shower surround, and carpet are all in place.
Kitchen appliances, counter tops, carpeted stairs are all in place, but still no walls!
Here you can see one of the things that makes repairing an RV challenging. This wiring will be "sealed in" once the wall is on. The cabinet must be broken in order to access the wire.
The trailer side walls are laminated together in a different section of the plant. Here is a stack of walls, ready to be lifted in to place. Northwood runs individual trailer models in batches of 8 to 40 (depending on demand), because they order appliances, windows, etc. in multiples of eight.
And, we have a wall!! Note the cutouts for storage area doors, the slide-out, and windows.
Next the roof is pre-assembled in a jig, with all of the A/C ducting, insulation, etc. It is then lifted onto the walls and secured.
Finally, important items like slide-out rooms (shown here) are lifted in to place and installed.
Doors, windows, awnings, and outside lights were the final pieces of the RV puzzle.
Finally, a lot full of finished trailers, waiting for transport to RV dealers and buyers.