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RV Industry Looking for Continued Growth in 2018

Take a drive through Elkhart County and the signs of a robust recreational vehicle industry are apparent. Units in various stages of assembly are seen being transported from plant to plant. Large lots sit filled with completed units awaiting pick-up or delivery. Finished units frequently dot area roadways headed to new homes across the country.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune, after a record-setting 2016, with more than 430,000 units shipped, the industry is once again poised to break records for 2017. It’s a trend industry experts and executives expect to continue into the new year.

“The industry is healthy and it’s doing very well,” said Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the national trade association representing RV manufacturers and their component parts suppliers. “Obviously the economy is much improved from the recession. It took us several years, however, to get back to pre-recession levels.”

After posting modest growth of 1.6% in 2006, the industry went into free fall starting in 2007 posting three consecutive years of declines in RV shipments, including back-to-back years of declines greater than 30%. In 2009, the industry shipped just over 165,000 units. Industry shipments hadn’t been that low since 1991, according to data from the RVIA.

With eight straight years of growth beginning in 2010, Broom said he expects total shipments in 2017 to be close to 500,000, growth of 17 percent over 2016. Data from the RVIA shows that more than 9 million households now own an RV, the highest level recorded. Broom said the RVIA projects additional growth in the industry in 2018 to mark an unprecedented nine consecutive years of growth.

Part of the growth is tied to the industry communicating the appeal of the RV lifestyle to a younger market, especially as millennials come of age, according to Bob Martin, president and CEO of Elkhart-based Thor Industries Inc.

“It’s about exploration, being outdoors, being together with family and friends,” Martin said. “People don’t take the big two-week trip as often any more. Maybe they only go 50 miles but it gets them out and away and gives them a chance to feel refreshed.”

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