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Industry Gaining Ground, Trailers Spark Rally

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November 30, 2012 by   Leave a Comment

The RV industry’s recovery from the Great Recession has picked up speed.

As reported by The Associated Press, recreational vehicle makers are churning out higher numbers of travel trailers bound for dealers’ lots and, ultimately, campgrounds.

Overall shipments from manufacturers to dealers — a key measure of consumer demand — are expected to rise 10% in 2012 and could gain another 4.5% next year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)said Tuesday (Nov. 27) during the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

“We made up a lot of ground this year,” said Jeffrey Pastore, owner of Hartville RV Center in northeastern Ohio. “We’re seeing a lot more buyers walking in the door, and we’re seeing those buyers with more money in hand.”

Sales at his dealership are up about 18% so far this year, and he’s predicting another 15% gain in 2013. It’s a big turnaround from 2009, when sales plunged 40% amid the country’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

“It was dreadful,” said Tom Stinnett, an RV dealer in southern Indiana. “There were a lot of us wondering if we were going to make it.”

Jobs are coming back, too. The industry’s workforce has risen to 375,000 from less than 250,000 in 2008, according to RVIA. It’s still below the 530,000 from 2007.

Driving the industry’s gradual comeback have been less-expensive towable RVs attached to pickups or hitched to other vehicles.

Towables, which now account for about 90% of the new RV market, cost between $8,000 and $100,000, with an average price of $32,000, according to RVIA. Before the recession hit, towables represented eight out of every 10 new RVs shipped.

By contrast, stand-alone motorhomes range in price from $55,000 to $1.5 million for top-of-the-line, bus-like vehicles. The average price is $100,000 for the amenity-filled moving homes.

“It’s a given that consumers love to do this, or there would be no market at all because they don’t have to have it,” Stinnett said. “But they’re simply not willing to commit as much money.”

KZRV LP, based in Shipshewana, Ind., has regained about three-fourths of its pre-recessionary business, but the manufacturer has seen the shift in consumer demand toward towables. Its most popular products cost between $10,000 and $35,000 — well off its top-of-the-line RVs, which run about $90,000, said Andy Baer, the company’s vice president of sales.

“Seven years ago they didn’t give a thought to buying a top-of-the-line product, kind of similar to the housing industry,” Baer said. “People are more in tuned with what the reality is that they can comfortably afford today.”

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