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RVIA: RV Growth is Expected to Moderate

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September 8, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

RVIA logoEditor’s Note: The following release, contained in the fall issue of Roadsigns, comes courtesy of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) based on research by Richard Curtin from the University of Michigan.

Richard Curtin

Richard Curtin

RV Shipments totaled 76,000 units in the second quarter of 2010, the largest year-to-year gain the past quarter century. The outsized increase followed record-setting declines due to the recession and credit freeze. The second quarter gains were shared by travel trailers and motorhomes, while folding camping trailers and truck campers posted more modest increases.

The rapid pace of increase will moderate during the year ahead. Total shipments are expected to reach 239,000 in 2010 and 259,600 in 2011. On a seasonally adjusted basis, RV shipments will slow in the second half of 2010 and then rebound by the end of 2011. It will take one year for the seasonally adjusted total to again equal the level recorded in the second quarter of 2010.

(As the towable RV market has improved, Curtin has repeatedly upgraded his 2010 year-end forecast each quarter from 169,500 units in mid-2009 up to 185,800, 203,500, 215,900 and 230,300 earlier this summer — a 39% gain over 2009’s total shipments of 165,700. The industry shipped 237,000 units in ‘08.)

RV sales face continued challenges from the slowdown in prospects for economic growth. Uncertainty about future taxes, depressed home values and tight credit conditions will restict motorhome sales, and lackluster income growth and high unemployment will limit gains in folding camping trailers and truck camper sales.

Conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers are expected to maintain their 83% share of the RV market, while motorhomes will account for 10% of the total. The trailer share us up by 20 percentage points from a decade ago, half coming from folding camping trailers, a close substitute, and half from motorhome sales.

Downsizing Versus Rightsizing

The Great Recession has been followed by a recovery only an economist could recognize. Lackluster economic growth, falling wages and high unemployment do not signify a recovery to most people. Importantly, consumers have come to expect that dismal economic prospects will persist for years to come. These new constraints have caused consumers to reconsider their spending and saving habits. Postponement works well to bridge a brief recession, but a more thorough rightsizing of consumption is required when the slowdown is expected for an extended period. Given the strong underlying demand for the RV lifestyle, consumers will gravitate toward products that offer an equivalent experience at a price that meets their new budget constraints. Downsizing will not be as successful as rightsizing RVs. Rightsizing means delivering the optimal mix of size, convenience and features to meet the new constraints facing consumers. While the challenges in developing new products will be as great as the economic hurdles now facing the industry, rightsized RVs will reap the long-term payoff from consumers.

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