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Curtin: Uncertain Economy to Slow RV Shipments

With consumer confidence sliding and a clouded economic outlook, growth in recreational vehicle shipments is expected to slow, according to a new forecast by RV industry analyst Richard Curtin.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported that RV shipments are expected to total 247,500 units in 2011, a gain of 2.1% percent above the 2010 total of 242,300. Shipments are expected to decline 2.0% in 2012 to 242,400 units.

“RV sales face challenges from the slowdown in economic growth,” said Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, who produces the monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment. “Just as the last downturn was more severe than typical, the slowdown in the year ahead can be expected to be milder than average, but, unfortunately, more long lasting.”

The flatter projection for RV shipments is based on recent steep declines in consumer confidence that coincided with the debt limit showdown in the U.S. Congress. In addition, Curtin noted a “pervasive uncertainty” about job and income prospects, stagnating wages, depressed home values, and the likelihood of rising taxes. Each of these factors will adversely affect RV sales, according to Curtin.

“As a result, consumers have become more defensive minded, favoring spending cutbacks in response to financial setbacks rather than drawing down their savings or increasing their debt,” said Curtin.

In Curtin’s analysis, these economic conditions will persist and put an added premium on the ability of manufacturers to allow consumers to have the same cherished RV experiences within new budget realities.

“Rightsizing RVs for the decade ahead will require fresh thinking about design and layout as well as features and amenities,” Curtin said. “Those that adapt and evolve their products to meet the new economic realities will reap the benefits of market leadership.”



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