Economist Richard Curtin, director of the Consumer Research Center at the University of Michigan, will provide his first projections for 2015 RV wholesale shipments in remarks at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week during the Joint Committee Luncheon, taking place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on June 2.
His presentation will also include the latest projections for year-end 2014 totals as well as an examination of the current economic environment and how it is impacting the RV industry.
Curtin authors RVIA’s RV Roadsigns, the association’s quarterly forecasting newsletter and has directed RVIA’s RV consumer demographic research since 1980.
RVIA’s Committee Week 2014 will take place from June 1-5 at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington in Washington, D.C. Over the course of the five-day event, the association’s standing committees, the Executive Committee and the board will meet to set the association’s plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The Go RVing Coalition will also meet on June 2. The event concludes with the board meeting on June 5 where committee recommendations are reviewed.
For more information about Committee Week, contact Doreen Cashion in the meetings and shows department at (703) 620-6003 (ext. 324) or email@example.com.
Timed with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) upbeat Annual Meeting last week (Mar. 4-8) in Southern California was the release of an equally optimistic spring forecast from veteran RVIA prognosticator Richard Curtin, who predicts that RV shipments will total 339,600 units in 2014, a “healthy gain” of 5.7% over the 321,100 units shipped last year.
While total 2013 shipments were 12.4% ahead of 2012 in an industry finding its way back to pre-recessionary production levels, Curtin expects conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers to post 4.7% gains in 2014 with motorized RVs experiencing an accelerated hike of as much as 14.3% in the year ahead.
As a result, the share of total shipments represented by all types of motorhomes is expected to rise another percentage point to 12.9% this year, according to Curtin, an economist with the University of Michigan Consumer Survey Research Center.
“The exceptional 2013 gains in motorhome sales have been due to large gains in home and stock values, which are expected to slow but still be positive in 2014,” reports Curtin. “Importantly, the dollar volume of RV sales will grow much more rapidly than units due to a growing share of motorhomes. Strong GDP gains will strengthen job and income growth in 2014. While the availability of credit is expected to improve, there will be growing concerns about when and how fast interest rates will rise.
At the same time, Curtin, in his spring Roadsigns forecast, recognized the obstacles presented by the winter of 2013/2014, one of the toughest in modern memory.
“Winter weather has rarely had such a large impact on the economy,” Curtin observed. “Work hours were curtailed, shipments delayed and shoppers stayed home. Huddled indoors, RVers experienced cabin fever that they knew would be soon relieved by exploring the great outdoors. Far from crimping RV growth prospects, the cure they sought only reinforced their strong preferences for the RV lifestyle.
“The pace of sales has been temporarily slowed by the frigid weather, and larger bills for home heating will initially slow the pace of the rebound for some models,” he added. “Cabin fever also affected RV manufacturers. Many voiced concerns that other industries would like to have: How and when would they make up the lost production to satisfy growing RV demand. Rather than fret about the weather, forward-looking manufacturers focused on communicating with their customers about how the new features of their RVs could promote comfort and enjoyment — no matter the weather. Pacing production to evolving consumer preferences remains critical. Otherwise, today’s cabin fever will morph into discount fever in the fall.”
Wholesale RV shipments are expected to reach 319,300 units by the end of 2013, a gain of 11.7% above the 2012 total of 285,800, according to a new projection by RV industry analyst Richard Curtin in the Fall 2013 issue of RV Roadsigns.
According to an article in the latest issue of RVIA Today, shipments will continue to edge higher in 2014 to 334,300 units, a 4.7% rise over the projected 2013 year-end total.
The promising outlook for the next two years comes on the heels of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) July 2013 RV Market Reports that shows the industry has been on a torrid pace through the first seven months of this year. Year-to-date shipments have reached 201,130 units, a 13.1% gain over the 177,845 units shipped through the same time period in 2012.
Motorhome shipments have shown the largest percentage gain, rising 35% to 22,322 units through July 2013 compared to 16,531 units though July 2012. Class C motorhomes have increased 42.5% to 10,399 units; Class A motorhomes grew by 33.3% to 10,647 units; and Class B motorhomes have edged up by 2.6% to 1,276 units.
Towable RV shipments are up 13.1% to 201,130 units through July. Conventional travel trailers are up 13% to 124,799 units; fifth-wheel travel trailers have risen by 8% to 3,964 units; and truck campers jumped 5.1% to 2,196 units. Folding camping trailers are off slightly, down 2.8%, to 7,849 units.
“The strong performance of the RV market is due to restored consumer confidence, rising home and stock values, the improved availability of credit, and continued, although slow, gains in job and income prospects,” said Curtin. “Consumers anticipate steady but moderate economic growth in the year ahead accompanied by rising interest rates. Borrowing in advance of those expected increases in rates may accelerate the pace of demand for RVs.”
For more information on RV market statistics and research, visit the “Market Data and Trends” section of www.rvia.org.
Economist Richard Curtin, director of the Consumer Research Center at the University of Michigan, will provide the initial outlook for RV wholesale shipments in 2014 during remarks at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week 2013 at the Joint Committee Luncheon, taking place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on June 3.
According to a press release, his presentation will also include the latest projections for year-end 2013 totals and an examination of the general economic climate.
Curtin authors RVIA’s RV Roadsigns, the association’s quarterly forecasting newsletter and has directed RVIA’s RV consumer demographic research since 1980.
RVIA’s Committee Week 2013 will take place June 2–6 at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington in Washington, D.C. Over the course of the five-day event, standing committees, the Executive Committee and the RVIA board will meet to set the association’s plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The Go RVing Coalition will also meet on June 3. The event concludes with the board meeting on June 6 where committee recommendations are reviewed.
For more information about Committee Week, contact Doreen Cashion in the Meetings and Shows Department at (703) 620-6003 (ext. 324) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RV shipments are expected to total 273,600 units in 2012, a gain of 8.4% over 2011’s total of 252,300 units and the highest level since 2007, according to the fall quarterly forecast of wholesale RV deliveries to dealers prepared for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) by Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan Consumer Survey Research Center.
Curtin expects RV shipments to edge up in 2013 to 275,000 units, with conventional travel trailers again posting most of the gains.
Indeed, the story of the industry’s gradual resurgence from the global recession is pretty consistent in terms of categorical strengths, with travel trailers posting particularly good numbers in a second quarter that grew 5.7% overall – the best performance, again, in nearly five years and the fifth best quarter ever.
Despite the challenging economy, notes Curtin, the strong appeal of these towable RVs has powered the revival.
“The dominance of conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers has transformed the industry by acquiring shares from motorhomes and folding campers,” writes Curtin. “For every motorhome shipped, 9.4 travel trailers are expected to be shipped in 2012, nearly double the 4.8 recorded in the last decade, and well above the 2.2 to 1 ratio in the 1990s and the 1.3 to 1 in the 1980s. Folding camping trailers now account for 1 of every 25 RV shipments, down from 1-in-5 in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Curtin, meanwhile, points out in RVIA’s quarterly Roadsigns newsletter what it will take in his view for the weaker product categories to regain more relative strength.
“While the RV segments that are now the weakest will always retain devoted buyers, to regain the old segment shares requires new innovative products that provide consumers with more value for the dollar,” maintains Curtin, reiterating a theme he focused on back at RVIA Committee Week in June. “Winning back customers is never easy. In the absence of robust growth in consumer’s ability to buy, new products must energize their willingness to buy.”
The recreational vehicle industry’s shipments are expected to reach 269,700 units in 2012, 6.9% above the 2011 total of 252,300.
According to a new forecast by RV industry analyst Richard Curtin, released at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Joint Committee Luncheon today (June 11), shipments will rise to 280,000 units in 2013, a gain of 3.8% from the projected total for 2012.
“RVs are a bellwether industry,” said Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan who produces the monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment, during his presentation to RVIA members at the association’s annual Committee Week in Washington, D.C. “I expect the RV market to consistently grow at a moderate pace over the next two years.”
The industry’s growth is a sign of the RV’s position in American culture, Curtin told RVIA members at the luncheon. According to Curtin, RVs have always been purchased as a means of achieving some valued outcome. Evidence from recent studies continue to support the traditional industry label of RVs being a family-oriented product.
The positive RV outlook comes at a time when fundamental changes have taken root in the economy, in consumer demand, and in the RV market.
“Future RV buyers will be both younger and older than before,” said Curtin. “They will likely have more limited budgets, own smaller tow vehicles, and will live and play in different locations.”
“The RV’s iconic status is based on consumers’ strong desire to own an RV,” said Curtin. “This reflects deeply held family values, the enduring appeal of the natural environment, and people’s desire to instill in the next generation their cherished traditions.”
While Curtin anticipates that core demand for RVs will remain strong in the decades ahead, he said the RV units themselves will continue to evolve at an escalating pace.
“Just as today’s vehicles are similar, but completely different than yesterday’s, tomorrow’s RVs need to be transformed to meet the needs of an ever-changing consumer,” Curtin said.
“Consumers have only begun express their changing RV preferences to match their changing economic circumstances and lifestyles,” Curtin said. “Consumers want an equivalent RV experience at a price that meets their new budget constraints. These limitations are likely to persist for some years to come. Importantly, lasting gains will come from innovative features and quality improvements based on a consumer-centric approach to each segment.”
Editor’s Note: The following story appears in the Summer issue of “Roadsigns,” a publication of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), based on data collected by Richard Curtin, director of the Surveys of Consumers at the University of Michigan. He has conducted research on the RV market since 1979 for the RVIA.
RV shipments were 71,400 units in the 1st quarter of 2012, posting a 9.7% year-to-year gain and the most units shipped since the 1st quarter of 2008. Nearly the entire year-to-year gain was in conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers. Shipments of Class A and C motorhomes were largely unchanged from a year ago as were folding camping trailers. Despite the uneven gains in the past year, overall shipments will continue to slowly rise in a challenging economy.
RV shipments are expected to total 269,700 in 2012, a gain of 6.9% above 2011 and the highest level since 2007. Seasonally adjusted RV shipments are expected to remain unchanged through most of 2012. All segments are expected to improve in 2012, with the exception of folding camping trailers. Conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers are expected to account for 85% of all RV shipments in 2012, a new record level.
The outlook for continued growth in RV sales is based on slow but consistent gains in jobs and incomes during the balance of 2012. Improved credit conditions and low interest rates will also support the expansion of RV sales. Stabilization of home prices as well as initial gains in home construction will begin to turn the past negative drag of the factors to a small positive. On the negative side, uncertainty about future taxes and federal spending is likely to moderate sales toward the end of the year and in early 2013.
Uncertain Policy Outlook
Although the economy is expected to slowly expand in the year ahead, no forecast can be made which ignores the potential that some event could derail the recovery. How can firms plot a profitable course in such an uncertain sea? There is no foolproof method. Judgments need to be made about the potential for each major possible event, and if that event took place, how it would affect sales. Perhaps the largest uncertainties involve the extension of the tax cuts to bridge the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013 as well as potential contagion from the European crisis. Although this forecast assumes that all the tax cuts will be temporarily extended following the election, the delay will temper sales gains at the turn of the year. Growth in shipments will remain subdued until mid 2013 when a more permanent solution is likely to be adopted. Unfortunately, tax and spending policies are just one of the uncertainties we now face. Firms need to anticipate how these potential events may result in either sales increases or sales declines, and how they could profitably and quickly adjust their operations in response. In this age of uncertainty, contingency planning will help determine a firm’s ultimate success.
Wholesale RV shipments are expected to total 265,200 units in 2012, according to University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin’s latest projection in the Spring 2012 issue of RV Roadsigns, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) quarterly forecast of deliveries to RV retailers.
The gain to 265,200 units would be a 5.1% increase over the 2011 year-end total of 252,300 units. Curtin says growth will be driven by gains in conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers with motorhomes also posting a small increase due to improving economic conditions.
Previously, Curtin had forecasted a 2.6% decline in RV shipments in 2012.
“RV sales will benefit from stronger economic growth, increased job opportunities, and easing consumer credit,” Curtin said. “Importantly, the private sector will be responsible for the moderate rebound as the growth rate in spending by federal, state and local governments will decline.”
A resilient and adaptive consumer base will help RV industry shipments continue on a flat but stable track in the coming year, according to University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin in the Winter edition of Road Signs.
“RV sales face stiff headwinds in the year ahead. Uncertainty about job and income prospects, stagnating wages, depressed home values and the likelihood of rising taxes will affect RV sales,” Curtin noted. “While these factors will prevent an increase in RV sales, neither will they prompt significant declines. Although consumers will be apprehensive, they will continue to buy RVs.”
As reported during the recently completed National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., shipments are expected to total 247,100 in 2011 – representing a 2% gain from 242,300 in the previous year – while third-quarter shipments fell 4% to 55,900 units. Curtin said that flat trend would continue in 2012, forecasting a 2.6% dip in shipments to 240,600.
“Notably, shipments increase on a seasonally adjusted basis in the second half of 2012, with most of the renewed strength in conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers,” Curtin said.
Towables have understandably been propping up the industry for the past few years as discretionary dollars have tightened in line with a weakened economy, impacting sales of higher-priced motorhomes.
“The 2008-2009 downturn had the largest impact on motorhomes, which represent approximately 10% of the total RV market,” Curtin noted. “Motorhomes are more dependent on accumulated home equity, which continues to decline. Motorhomes are likely to improve at a relatively greater pace in the decade ahead as stricter fuel economy standards reduce the towing capacity of the household vehicle fleet.”
Curtin added that in order to cater to a more economy-conscious consumer and cope with continued volatility, manufacturers would, in turn, need to adopt a more conservative approach to business.
“In the current economic environment, both consumers and manufacturers understand that they must find new ways to maximize value. Economic uncertainty has taken its toll, and it is likely to increase month-to-month variations in sales that largely disappear when summed across the year,” he said. “And with sales expected to be relatively stable at moderate levels, such temporary variations may prompt false market signals and inappropriate reactions. Such an economic environment places a premium on cost controls and inventory management as the best means to handle the expected variations in sales.”
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) latest RV Consumer Demographic Profile, scheduled to be released to the industry this fall, shows RV ownership has reached a new peak while also offering promising news on future RV purchase intentions.
The research, conducted by Richard Curtin, RV industry analyst and director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, reveals the number of RV-owning households has grown to a new peak of 8.9 million households, up from 7.9 million in 2005. Nearly one-in-nine (8.5%) U.S. households now own RVs, up from 8.0% in 2005, according to an RVIA news release.
“Today’s record RV ownership levels reflect the enduring appeal of the RV lifestyle despite recent economic challenges,” said RVIA President Richard Coon.
In addition to showing that RV ownership rates have climbed steadily, the new RV Consumer Demographic Profile also offers promising news on future RV purchase intentions.
When RV purchase intentions are combined across current owners, former owners and new market entrants, a total of 21% of all U.S. households stated intentions to purchase an RV in the 2011 survey. This is on par with the 23% rate in 2005 and ahead of the 16% rate in 2001.
“These purchase intentions expressed in the new RV Consumer Demographic Profile are very encouraging for the industry,” added Coon. “The survey results gathered this year in a challenging financial environment track closely with the 2005 data when the economy and consumer outlook was much brighter. Overall, the results clearly indicate continued strong demand for RVs in the years ahead.”
Seventy percent of current RV owners plan to purchase another RV to replace their current unit. When compared to the purchase intentions of current owners in prior surveys, the 2011 data indicates a strong increase in new vehicle purchase intentions.
Among new market entrants, defined as households that have never owned an RV in the past, 14% planned on purchasing an RV in the future with more than a third of them intending to purchase a new RV.
Of all former owners, 27% plan to purchase another RV in the future. Here age was a determining factor with younger former owners (age 18-34) more likely than older former owners to purchase another RV. This underscores the need for the RV industry to stay in touch with recent former owners and to continue to present them ownership options.
Recreational vehicle industry analyst and economist Richard Curtin presented new demographic data showing that the number of RV-owning households has grown to a new peak of 8.9 million households, up from 7.9 million in 2005.
Speaking during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) annual Committee Week in Washington, D.C., Curtin told RVIA members that new research reveals 8.5% of U.S. households now own RVs, up from 8.0% in 2005, 7.6% in 2001, 7.3% in 1997, and 6.8% in 1993.
“Today’s record RV ownership levels reflect the enduring appeal of the RV lifestyle despite economic challenges,” Curtin told RVIA members.
Curtin, who is director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, is a leading economist who also publishes a closely watched monthly consumer confidence report.
RV ownership rates have surged among adults aged 35-54 and 55 and over, according to Curtin. In the 35-54 demographic, RV ownership went from 9.0% in 2005 to 11.2% today. Among those 55 and older, ownership rates grew from 8.6% to 9.4%. Ownership rates among young people 34 and under fell slightly from 5.0% to 4.7%.
“Growth among the 35- to 54-year old age group is impressive,” said Curtin. “I believe the industry’s Go RVing outreach campaign had a lot to do with this growth. This is a strong finding for the industry’s future.”
Travel trailer ownership rates grew fastest, going from 4.1% in 2005 to 4.8% in 2011. Motorhomes experienced growth as well, from 1.9% to 2.1%. Rates among truck campers and folding camping trailers were nearly identical. Truck camper ownership rates are 1.7% today vs. 1.8% in 2005. Folding camping trailers are owned by 0.5% of households today compared to 0.4% in 2005.
Curtin’s remarks were based on a preliminary analysis of RV consumer surveys. A complete report on his findings is anticipated later this year.
According to a new forecast by RV industry analyst economist Richard Curtin, released today (June 6) at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Membership Luncheon, shipments will rise to 270,900 units in 2012, a gain of 3.9% from the projected total for 2011.
In an earlier posting, RVBUSINESS.com reported that Curtin prognosticated 2011 shipments will total 260,200 units, representing a 7.4% gain from the previous year.
“The RV market is expected to continue to grow at a reasonably robust pace, especially in view of the overall economic environment,” said Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, who produces the monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment, during his presentation to RVIA members at RVIA’s annual Committee Week. “The ability to record consecutive annual gains in consumer sales against formidable headwinds underscores the appeal of the RV lifestyle.”
The positive RV outlook is based on favorable economic factors that outweigh the negative, according to Curtin. Credit is now more available, jobs and incomes are increasing, and household wealth has improved. While negative economic factors such as stricter credit terms, higher levels of unemployment, and concerns about home prices will dampen future growth, the enduring strength of the RV lifestyle means that the industry will succeed in this difficult economic environment, said Curtin.
“The RV market is the envy of all competitors for recreational spending,” said Curtin. “The strong appeal of the RV lifestyle surmounted the extraordinary toll that the Great Recession exacted on American families.”
Full revitalization of RV sales requires recognition of three key considerations, according to Curtin. First, consumers are reconsidering their spending and saving habits and will naturally gravitate toward products that provide an equivalent experience at a price that meets their new budget constraints. Second, RV makers will need to take a “consumer-centric” approach to deliver the optimal mix of size, convenience and features to each market segment. And third, companies will have to be focused on delivering the right selection of RVs at the right locations at the right time.
“Keeping inventories in line with sales is more important and more difficult when the recovery is slower and the pace more variable,” Curtin said.
While the strong desire to own an RV indicates a positive future, the RV industry most be prepared for some volatility in the near future, according to Curtin.
“The next decade will see more rapid changes in RVs than in the past decade if the market is to fully regain and surpass prior peaks,” Curtin said. “Although conventional and fifth-wheel trailers came to dominate the RV market in the past decade, motorhomes will regain some advantages as tow vehicles are downsized due to higher fuel costs and new energy regulations. All manufacturers will need to provide innovative solutions to maintain essential features while providing choices that fit more limited budgets.”
For a year that started out with some ominous economic signals — and still faces some substantial challenges — the summer forecast for RV shipments issued this week by Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey Research Center on behalf of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association presents a relatively comforting view of the year at hand.
Looking at the first quarter’s wholesale shipment results — totaling 65,100 units, an 8.7% year-to-year gain — Curtin concludes that the industry has shown “remarkable strength” during the past year and will continue to do so by posting a 7.4% gain in 2011 shipments.
“Following 2010, which recorded the largest annual percentage gain since the mid-1960’s, total RV shipments are expected to post a solid annual gain of 7.4% in 2011, rising to 260,200 units,” wrote Curtin in RVIA’s quarterly RV Roadsigns forecast. “Seasonally adjusted RV shipments are expected to remain unchanged through most of 2011, showing some renewed strength at year-end and into the start of 2012.
“The positive RV outlook is based on favorable economic factors that outweigh the negative,” added Curtin. “There is no doubt that consumers suffer under the weight of rising food and fuel prices, minuscule wage increases, high unemployment and the threat of higher taxes at all levels of government. The primary impact of increased fuel prices, along with higher food prices, is to diminish consumers’ discretionary incomes. On the positive side, RV demand will benefit from improving credit conditions, employment gains, stabilization of the housing market and a strong preference to continue in the RV lifestyle.”
All in all, Curtin posits, RV manufacturers should continue to thrive throughout 2011 and into 2012 based on “their ability to deliver the right selection of RVs at the right location at the right time, providing the same treasured experiences to families who now have more restricted budgets.”
Even somewhat higher fuel prices won’t likely be enough to slow growth in the RV industry, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported.
In fact, RV shipments could increase 9% to 263,100 units from 242,300 units in 2010, according to the latest prognostication by Richard Curtin, an economist at the University of Michigan.
The expected gains in 2011 will follow the recovery that took hold last year when shipments increased 46% to 242,300 units and northern Indiana RV plants began bringing back workers.
Curtin said sales growth, which will be across all segments of the industry, will be aided by an improving economy, the extension of income tax cuts and the reduction in payroll taxes. He cautioned that there will be a few factors that will moderate the growth pace of RV sales, including slow job and income growth and continued weakness in the housing market.
Bill Baker, director of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), said the rebound won’t be hampered by moderate increases in fuel prices. “Fuel isn’t that big of a factor as long as it’s available,” he said, adding that most owners take RVs to a destination and then park them.
However, if fuel breaks price points never reached before — say $5 — all bets are off since the economy will likely also suffer, Baker said.
The continuing rebound in the industry is good news in Elkhart County and surrounding areas, where thousands of workers are employed in the industry. Officials have had their fingers crossed that the rebound is sustainable.
Baker said annual sales in the neighborhood of 300,000 are very good. The industry hit its modern-day peaks of 353,500 in 2007 and 390,500 in 2006.
Richard Curtin, the University of Michigan economist who issues wholesale shipment forecasts quarterly under contract with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), does better than most weather forecasters when it comes to accurately predicting what’s going to happen in his chosen field.
He’s usually right on or very close with his predictions.
That was the case this week when the RVIA released its year-end shipment totals for towable and motorized RVs. The actual shipment total was 242,300 units.
Curtin’s final forecast, issued in December, was 236,700.
That’s a difference of 5,600 units, or about a 2.3% deviation from Curtin’s forecast.
As for 2011, Curtin projected in December a total of 246,000 shipments this year, which would be a 4% increase over his 2010 forecast. But with the final tally coming in higher than expected, his 2011 forecast is now just about 1.5% over 2010 actual.
Increases are expected for every type of RV in 2011, with seasonally adjusted shipments slowly rising from the start to the end of 2011. Importantly, the gains in the year ahead will be mainly due to improvements in retail sales rather than the restocking needs of the dealer networks.
Curtin’s next forecast is due in the spring.