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RV Maker Thor Acquires PP Foam Composite Supplier

Image: Thor Industries RV
The acquisition of Elkhart Composites is emblematic of a switch away from wood-based laminates.

Recreational vehicle (RV) OEM Thor Industries has acquired Elkhart Composites through its Airxcel Inc. subsidiary. Based in Elkhart, IN, Elkhart Composites develops and sells proprietary, sustainable foamed polypropylene-based composite material marketed and sold under the Elkboard name. Airxcel products include cooking appliances, fans and ventilation devices, heating and cooling systems, window coverings, shades, tempered windows, sealants, cleaners, and exterior systems.

Lightweight, rigid, and durable, Elkboard is used in the RV industry for sidewalls, helping to alleviate the industry's dependence on traditional lauan-based sidewalls. The composite material is a sustainable solution and is not susceptible to rot or delamination.

"We are excited about this acquisition for so many different reasons," said Bob Martin, Thor President and CEO. "First, Elkboard is a far more sustainable solution than traditional lauan-based sidewalls. Lauan is a loose term that applies to a number of wood species originating from Southeast Asia."

Adds Martin: “For decades, the RV industry has sourced lauan wood from tropical hardwood forests, which continue to be over-harvested. As the recent supply-chain constraints have demonstrated, sourcing such materials from the other side of the world can no longer be taken for granted and our ability to quality-control lauan product is severely limited. Elkboard, on the other hand, is sustainable and is fabricated locally. Strict quality oversight allows a great deal of consistency we cannot find in lauan-based products,” said Martin.

Its current use in sidewalls is only the beginning for this product, according to Martin. “With additional R&D investment, we expect it can be utilized as a solution in several other RV applications.”

Martin also noted the growth potential of Elkboard, which he describes as “exponential.” While Thor has been purchasing 100% of Elkboard production, that “number has only supported a fraction of the RVs Thor produces. Thor and Airxcel have already committed to making capital investments into Elkboard to expand its production capacity to a multiple of its current production capacity,” said Martin.

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