Jayco, Inc

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Jayco Inc.
Industry recreation vehicles
Founded 1968
Headquarters Middlebury, Indiana, USA
Owner Thor Industries
Number of employees
Website www.jayco.com
collapsible trailer patented by
Lloyd Jay Bontrager 1967
Jayco collapsible trailer 2004 model

Jayco, Inc. is an American manufacturer of recreation vehicles and a subsidiary of Thor Industries. They make fold-down (also called "pop-up") camping trailers, conventional travel trailers, "fifth-wheel" travel trailers, and motorhomes. About three-quarters of its workforce is from the Amish and Mennonite communities of Indiana.


Jayco is based in Middlebury, Indiana. The company was founded in 1968 by Lloyd Jay Bontrager. The company name is derived from his middle name at the suggestion of his wife, Bertha. In 2011 Bontrager was inducted into the "RV Industry's Hall Of Fame for being one of the most influential men in the 100 year history of RVing". He played a role in the development and innovation of several types of unique lifter systems for their travel trailers.[1][2]

Bontrager developed a trailer fold-down system in 1967 and started the business of making travel trailers in two chicken houses and a barn. In the first year of operations the company sold 132 trailers, and by the end of 1968 it had 15 employees. Because of the increased demand for their travel trailers, in 1969 they moved out of Bontrager's farm buildings to a new factory site nearby that provided more manufacturing space. The company continued to grow and in 1970 built another plant in Harper, Kansas.[1][2]

In 1970 the company built approximately 2,000 fold-down travel trailers and sold them throughout the United States and Canada. In 1971 they produced about 3,500 camper trailers. In 1976 Jayco produced the first "fifth-wheel" trailer with a full-height stand-up front bedroom.[1] The Jayco company logo is a blue jay in flight. The company mascot is also a blue jay named "J. Jay". The company's workforce of approximately 1500 employees is about 70 percent Amish and Mennonite. Jayco is the largest privately held manufacturer of recreational vehicles in North America, and is currently the third-largest RV manufacturer in the world. Jayco continues to be owned and managed by members of the original Bontrager family.[1][2][3][4]

Jayco sells about 32,000 vehicles per year going into the twenty-first century. In the 49 years that Jayco has been in business, they have made over 800,000 vehicles. Jayco sells the Jay Flight, which was recently listed as a Gold Medal Green Certified RV, the first of its kind. Among other things, Jayco was cited for its use of sustainable materials, waste reduction and recycling programs, reduction of harmful volatile compounds found in RV components, installation of efficient appliances and fixtures, use of energy-efficient design and construction, and utilization of renewable, clean energy. Jayco products are sold through some 300 dealers in the United States and international dealers. In Australia, Jayco is manufactured by Jayco Australia which is another privately founded and owned independent manufacturer, which is not affiliated with the USA Jayco Inc.[5]

Al Yoder, Jr., served as president of the company after Bontrager's death. Yoder immediately started a drive to improve quality of the products they produced.[1]

Building materials and techniques[edit]

Jayco RVs are made from a variety of materials and techniques. Wafer board, engineered wood are not used, instead using plywood, wood wall, ceiling and floor stringers insulated with fiberglass...or laminated construction with foam core insulation and aluminum frames. Jayco assembly line employees include Amish and Mennonites from the community. They are commonly paid by the ability to produce a certain quota of RVs per day (called "piece rate" pay). When that quota is reached, they go home. Small bonuses are also paid out if a batch of RVs meet the quality goals.[1]


Jayco campers are sold in Canada.[6] Jayco, Inc., partnered with a UK-based company in the late 1970s and produced a tent camper for the European market.[1] In 1975 Jayco Australia Ltd was founded by Gerry Ryan, OAM, (who remains the managing director). In 1976 Jayco Australia developed its first camper trailers and production commenced in January 1976. Jayco of Australia quickly established a reputation for producing high-quality, competitively priced caravan and camping products, and within a few years it had become the #1 player in the Australian camper/caravan industry. Now in its fourth decade, the company – with some 850 employees – is a manufacturing success story of Australia.[1]

Energy crisis[edit]

The company was hard hit in the energy crunch of the 1970s, and several of their plants were closed temporarily, including their Kansas and Canadian plants.[1] In the late 1980s and early 1990s they also suffered another slowdown due to the high price of gasoline, though not as serious as that of the 1970s.[1] In spite of this slowdown the company increased its plants and production output. They went from the fourth largest manufacturer of towable products to the second largest by 1995[1] with a workforce of 1,300, which has increased since then to about 1,500 employees.[2]

Unsuccessful campers[edit]

Jayco has at various times built products that turned out to be unsuccessful, including a fold-down style camper that opened onto a pontoon boat, a four-wheel camper trailer that resembled a motorhome without a cab, and a fold-down trailer camper version, with a living area that flipped out directly onto the ground.[1]

Jayco Travel Club[edit]

Jayco developed a special travel club called "Jayco Travel Club" that has yearly vacation plans.[7][8] It has over 100 chapters in the United States and Canada for their customers. The chapters are called "Flights" and often contain references to the blue jay, which is Jayco's logo and mascot.[9]

Video of RV assembly at Jayco factory

Factory tour[edit]

Year-round, Jayco conducts free factory tours. The tour starts at the "Griner House," an old restored farmhouse originally built in 1880 that serves as the visitor center, with a 15-minute video on the company's history and production methods. The factory tour takes about one and a half hours.[2][10]

Purchase by Thor Industries[edit]

Jayco was acquired by Thor Industries in July 2016 for $576 million.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Jayco, Inc. company history". Fundinguniverse. International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 13. St. James Press, 1996. 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Jayco Factory Tour in Middlebury, IN". Watch it Made in the USA. Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg. 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  3. ^ Jayco Plans 40th Anniversary
  4. ^ Brown, Alex (May 17, 2016). "Jayco Hits Milestone". Inside Indiana Business. Frankly Media and Grow Indiana Media Ventures. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  5. ^ Plunkett 2010, p. 337.
  6. ^ "Happy Trails". Happy Trails RV. 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  7. ^ Jayco Travel Club Tour Schedule
  8. ^ About Jayco Travel Club
  9. ^ Jayco Travel Club Chapters
  10. ^ Jayco's Middlebury Factory Tour Ranked Among America's Best by Leading Travel Guide
  11. ^ Tribune, South Bend. "Thor acquires Jayco in $576 million deal". Retrieved July 1, 2016. 


External links[edit]