Things are looking up at El Monte RV – not that they ever really looked down.
Mike Dwan, the company’s national sales director, says he’s seen a big uptick in business over the past year, the Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News reported.
“Our rentals have always been good,” he said. “We might be up about 15% on rentals for this year over last year. But in terms of sales we’re probably up 40% over last year.”
Those numbers speak to a national trend.
The recreational vehicle sector measures its strength in shipments of travel trailers and motorcoaches from manufacturers to dealers. It’s been on the upswing since 2009, according to Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Through the end of May, RV shipments increased 8.6% to 127,454, compared with 117,352 in the first five months of 2011, he said.
For all of this year the association is forecasting a 6.9% increase in shipments to 269,700. That’s an increase of 62.8 percent from the recession low of 165,700 in 2009.
“It’s definitely on the rebound,” Ingrassia said. “RVs are a discretionary purchase. One of the things we look at is consumer sentiment. When consumer sentiment takes a dive, usually RV shipments drop as well.”
Camping trailers dominate the market, but coach sales have been on the rise, too.
Dwan said there’s been a lot of pent-up demand among consumers to buy RVs.
“People are tired of sitting on the fence and waiting for the government to stop playing their games,” he said. “They are out, and they’re spending some money.”
And when people are spending, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some of the lowest prices around. El Monte RV is primarily an RV rental business, but the company does sell used vehicles at a big discount.
“We sell nothing but used units,” Dwan said. “We have roughly 1,600 units in inventory nationwide, so our national business is off the charts. Our units are anywhere from a third to half off of what a new vehicle would cost.”
The increasing health of the industry is also reflected by the fact that Airstream Inc. opened a new Airstream Los Angeles dealership in San Gabriel just two months ago.
The dealership, at 1212 E. Las Tunas Drive, offers a variety of the stylish, aluminum-skinned vehicles.
Ken Baker, the facility’s general manager, said Airstreams have a special place in the RV world.
“There is not another RV built like an Airstream,” he said recently. “They have easy towability, they’re stable on the road and they are aerodynamic.”
They’re also well made. Before leaving the production floor, every Airstream spends 40 minutes under 100 pounds per square inch of water pressure in a special booth to ensure that it’s water-tight.
The RVDA does a dealer census every five years and there were 3,000 nationwide in 2007. He expects the figure to be significantly lower when the 2012 figure is released, though business is starting to recover.
“Now we’re seeing some expansion and consolidation. We’re not seeing dealers close like they did in 2008 and 2009,” Ingrassia said.