The comeback in the RV business is being led by something you could probably tow from behind your car. Lightweight trailers.
Reflecting people’s simultaneous desire to get away from it all – and their diminished ability to pay a lot for the trip – sales of recreational trailers are improving nicely and giving a boost to a still-fragile recreational vehicle market, the Tampa Tribune reported.
“As opposed to a motorhome, people are looking for something they can pull with vehicles they already own,” said Dave Kelly, marketing director of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA). “In the past, people had no problem going out and buying whatever vehicle they needed or wanted.”
Starting today (Jan. 12), the industry will put everything from tiny trailers to $2 million motor homes on display at its RV trade show at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Among them:
- Perhaps the least expensive trailer, an 8-foot Starcraft pop-up that retails for $8,600.
- A $45,000 Earthbound trailer, built with all eco-friendly materials, plus several HDTVs.
- A $60,000 Airstream trailer, customized by Swiss Army watch maker Victorinox.
- A $2.2 million Prevost motorcoach customized by Liberty with six Samsung HDTVs, king size bed, three parts that slide out to expand space, a Bosch washer and dryer set, a Sub Zero refrigerator, security cameras and satellite television service. One of the jumbo HDTVs slides out of the vehicle’s side for outdoor viewing, right alongside an accessible wine cooler refrigerator.
To be sure, there are still $2 million motorhomes for sale, like the Prevost.
But sensing a shift in the market, more manufacturers are marketing low-profile, low-weight trailers as an energy-efficient option. More trailer manufacturers are ditching wood and instead using composites in structural parts, and using high-strength glues instead of heavy bolts to save weight.
Marion, Indiana-based Earthbound took a high-profile spot in the show, selling models that have no wood ingredients, recycled materials in the seating – and light enough to tow with a Jeep Cherokee. Some have enough solar panels on the roof to power the trailer for nine days or more in the wilderness.
Winnebago Industries Inc. is getting into the mix, buying trailer maker SunnyBrook RV to re-enter the trailer business after leaving it in 1983.
Any glimmer of hope is a huge improvement, RV officials say.
RV officials have long argued their industry works as a leading indicator of the economy’s direction, falling before the rest of the economy falls, and rising before a recovery.
RV sales are showing healthy signals. Overall RV shipments to dealers could rise 43% in 2010 to 236,700 in 2010, up from last year’s nearly 20-year low of 165,700. Motorhome shipments could more than double to 11,600 units in 2010, up from a near-standstill the year before.
Higher factory shipments mean dealers are more optimistic they can sell the inventory when it arrives. That’s good for employees in the industry.