Bill and Jill Phipps shuttle between homes around the country to keep in touch with grandchildren. But, according to a report by USA Today, they got tired of crating up Rockne, their Irish Wolfhound mutt, for seven-hour plane rides.
So, with some trepidation, the Tucson couple recently became first-time RVers.
They took delivery of a new 24-foot motorhome a couple of months ago, contributing to a wave of sales that are lifting an industry rebounding from the depths of recession.
Deliveries of motorhomes from manufacturers to dealers rose 13.6% last year and are expected to climb by almost the same amount this year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports. Last year marked the third year of increases from a recessionary bottom that that saw sales fall to the lowest levels since at least the 1970s.
With the spring RV-buying season approaching, there’s a growing optimism in the business that affluent families and retirees such as the Phipps are ready to take the plunge. After a round of consolidation, including bankruptcy filings by a couple of the industry’s big names, motorhome makers are starting to hit the road again.
That’s good not only for the RV industry but for the economy in general. Purpose-built motorhomes typically retail for more than $100,000 and because they’re used for vacations, they’re the ultimate discretionary purchase. The pickup in sales is an early indicator that people might be willing to start spending again — and not just on big-ticket items they can’t do without.
But it’s also an American comeback story: Almost all RV rigs are U.S.-made, many in Indiana. Unlike the auto industry, motorhome makers have few foreign competitors, although some are starting to knock at the door.
“People are tired of waiting for things to turn around,” says Sheila Davis, spokeswoman for Winnebago Industries Inc. Some customers “who could have bought a motorhome during the downturn … chose to wait. Now, they are feeling more confident.”
That confidence is bolstered by waves of retiring Baby Boomers, their 401(k)s fattened by the stock market’s recent rally, who always dreamed of roaming the hinterlands. Working against motorhome makers, however, is the painfully slow pace of the recovery and persistently high and unpredictable fuel prices.
To read the entire article in USA Today click here.