Manufacturers of recreational vehicles, a made-in-America symbol of money and luxury, expect to ship 7.5% more RVs to dealers this year.
But, according to a report in the Billings Gazette, those growth estimates are too low for Montana. Dean Benjamin, sales manager at Pierce Homes & RV of Billings – one of Montana’s largest RV retailers – said sales are booming.
“We just finished our best March ever by a long shot,” he said, while declining to give specifics, saying, “I don’t share our numbers.”
Pent-up demand for RVs, a stabilizing economy, low interest rates and stock market indices setting record highs are reasons for the jump, he said.
RVs now fill 80% of Kampgrounds of America (KOA) camp sites, so company officials in Billings closely track RV sales numbers.
Last year, retail sales increased 13% over 2011, said Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). And January sales, the most current available, have jumped about 20%.
RVs and the campgrounds that welcome them are a protected segment of the travel industry, said KOA spokesman Mike Gast.
“Once you make that investment, you’re locked in. They may travel regionally, but they are going to go,” he said.
KOA reservations rose 5% in 2012 and are up almost 3% so far this year, he said. The state of Montana registered 33,942 motorhomes last year, up slightly from 2011.
After U.S. gas prices hit a record average price in February, they’ve been dropping, according to GasBuddy.com.
Montana gas prices averaged $3.34 last week, compared to $3.68 one year ago. High or rising fuel prices logically should drag down sales of motor homes, some drinking a gallon of fuel to go just a few miles, but Benjamin denied the impact.
“The people who buy a $300,000 diesel pusher aren’t that concerned about gas prices,” he said. “They buy luxury.”
However, elections, like last fall, depress sales until the campaigns end, Benjamin said.
“It doesn’t matter which party gets elected, it’s the instability in the markets,” he said.
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