History of Jayco
In 2018, Jayco turned 50 years old. Let’s look back at the last 50 years as Jayco grew into the RV brand we know and love today.
Jayco in the 1960s
Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager started the Jayco brand in the 1960s from their home in northern Indiana. In 1968, Lloyd unveiled his first prototype camping trailer. In 1969, the company sold 132 of its fold-down campers and had 15 employees; in the same year, Al Yoder joined the team.
Jayco in the 1970s
In the 1970s, Jayco went international and entered several new markets, including the travel trailer market and the fifth wheel market. In fact, Jayco was the first brand to offer a stand-up area in the front bedroom of fifth wheels.
Jayco in the 1980s
Unfortunately, Lloyd Bontrager passed in the 1980s, but his legacy lived on in his company. In 1985, the company designed, built, and shipped its 100,000th trailer.
Jayco in the 1990s
Jayco evolved with the times (including establishing the Jayco.com website) and continued to grow as a company through new product innovations and acquisitions. Lloyd Bontrager was inducted into the RV Hall of Fame in 1994, and Al Yoder followed him two years later, being inducted in 1996. By 1997, Jayco had shipped total 300,000 units.
Jayco in the 2000s
Jayco continued to offer new products in the 2000s. In fact, in 2003, Jayco became the first company that offered surround sound system components in each of its products. In 2006, Jayco reached 500,000 unit sales worldwide.
Jayco in the 2010s
In the current decade, Jayco has embraced changes in connectivity and advanced technologies. In 2011, Jayco took the title of the world’s largest privately held RV manufacturer. Just five years later, in 2016, Jayco built and shipped its 1,000,000th unit.
History of Jayco
Founded in 1968, Jayco is one of the oldest established RV manufacturers that still operates today. Based in Middlebury, Indiana, Jayco is now known for its wide range of high-quality conventional travel trailers, toy haulers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. Take a look at the company’s history and most notable RV models through the years!
Jayco was established in 1968 by Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager. In the previous year, Lloyd had developed a unique lifter system for fold-down campers, which he used to make a prototype after founding Jayco. It was a humble start. At first, they operated out of a barn and two chicken houses. But Jayco was successful enough from the very beginning, allowing them to expand quickly.
In 1969, Jayco grew to 15 employees and sold 132 camping trailers. In 1970, it built a second plant in Harper, Kansas, and then one in Canada. The company began making conventional travel trailers and sold over 1,000 in 1971. The year after that, it got started on fifth-wheel travel trailers as well as motorhomes.
The 1970s, 80s, and 90s were difficult times for vehicle manufacturers, and Jayco was not immune. The energy crisis of the 70s forced the company to temporarily close a few of its plants as well as discontinue building motorhomes. However, Jayco continued to innovate. In 1976, it launched the first fifth-wheel RV to offer a stand-up area in the front bedroom.
The high price of gasoline in the 80s and 90s also put a damper on sales, but Jayco’s growth couldn’t be stopped. In 1985, it shipped its 100,000th unit. It doubled that amount by 1993, the same year that it launched the trendsetting Esprit tent camper. By 1995, Jayco had become the largest manufacturer of towable RVs in the United States.
In 1985, Jayco founder Lloyd Bontrager was tragically killed in a plane crash. His wife Bertha became chairman and their sons Derald and Wilbur took on leadership roles in the company. Derald is currently the president and CEO of the company. Even more than 50 years on, Jayco is still a family business, and there’s no doubt this has been a key contributor to the company’s success even through the most difficult years of the energy crisis and high gas prices.
The 2000s were a time of great growth. Jayco capitalized on the rising demand for RVs by incorporating many of the latest technologies in its new units. 2001 marked the launch of the Kiwi lightweight travel trailer, which would become the Jay Feather, still one of our most popular models today. A year later, it launched the Jay Flight line of travel trailers, which didn’t take very long to become a staple in the RV industry. The Jay Flight has been the bestselling travel trailer in America since 2005.
In 2003, Jayco became one of the first companies to offer surround sound systems in its trailers; and in 2006, it added iPod adapters to its products, establishing Jayco as the go-to brand for shoppers seeking RVs with connected technologies and modern entertainment.
Throughout the 2010s, Jayco has worked to maintain its strength in the RV market by entering new markets, opening new manufacturing plants, and equipping its RVs with the best technologies like Goodyear® endurance tires with Durawall® technology, the Magnum Truss™ Roof System, JAYCOMMAND® smartphone control, and Climate Shield®. Today, models like the Jay Flight, Jay Feather, Eagle, North Point, Talon, and Seismic continue to provide campers with a wide range of satisfying options that meet all of their needs, along with an industry-leading warranty, and a history of quality that customers can trust.
We are excited to see what the next 50 years hold for Jayco. You can participate in its legacy by purchasing a unit at RVs of West Texas.