Canada’s RV industry — with retail sales of 41,745 units, up 25.1% in 2010 vs. 2009 — appears to be rapidly emerging from the economic decline. By segment, motorhome sales were up 58.6% while towables climbed 23.2%.
Canadian wholesale shipments for the first three quarters of the year increased by 66.2% to 51,650 units, according to the Canadian government agency Statistics Canada.
”We aren’t where we were in ’07 and ’08, but we definitely are on the right track,” said Eleonore Hamm, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). ”The Canadian economy is getting better all around.”
Retail sales in the U.S. in 2010, meanwhile, were up 7.8%, a smaller percentage than in Canada but that increase represented a much larger volume — 156,537 total units.
Behind Canada’s good fortune: To put it simply, the global recession has taken less of a bit of America’s northern neighbor.
”The Canadian market is growing at a much more rapid pace than the U.S. market,” said Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys, Inc., the Grand Rapids, Mich., company that monitors North American retail sales. ”And on the motorized side, the Canadian market is much smaller internally. The trailer market is four times larger than the motorized market but motorized sales are growing faster. Things are going pretty well up there.”
Hamm noted that the recession didn’t hit Canada until fully six months after its effect was being been in the U.S. ”Our dealers had time to see what was happening in the U.S. and adjust what they were doing,” she said.
Canadian retail RV sales also have benefited from the Canadian and U.S. dollars being closer to par than they were earlier in the decade, which makes units sold in Canada less expensive for the consumer.
”RV prices have come down just because of the dollar,” Hamm said. ”Most of the RVs sold in Canada are imported from the U.S., and the product you would have bought a year or two ago is actually cheaper right now.”
Hamm said lower pricing due to the dollars’ parity has a double edge. ”It helps dealers bringing in product,” she said. ”But people still shop the Internet for cheaper products in the U.S.”
That, she maintained, can be a fool’s choice.
”Often, they don’t factor in freight costs and taxes at the border. Is it cheaper? The initial price might be, but when they factor in everything else, ultimately the answer is ‘no.”’
Cross-border competition from Internet-savvy RV dealers also has driven down prices for the Canadian buyer.
”Our guys know they are competing with the Internet, so their pricing and margins have been a lot smaller than they have been in the past,” said Dan Merkowsky, executive vice president of the RV Dealers Association of Alberta (RVDA Alberta).
The trend toward smaller towables seen in the U.S. also is obvious in Canada. ”Dealers sold a lot more pull trailers vs. fifth-wheels,” Merkowsky said.
In fact, more than three times the travel trailers were sold in Canada than fifth-wheels — through November, 26,201 versus 8,322, respectively.
Larry Boyd, executive vice president of the Canadian Recreation Vehicle Association (CRVA) who produces six RV shows in Canada, said there is an influx of younger buyers as the economy recovers.
”We saw way more younger families at our shows,” Boyd said. ”There’s no statistical data. It’s just that I see what I see. Young families are really starting to get into the lifestyle.”
”It’s not a surprise,” said Angele Lapointe, a spokesman for Go RVing Canada. ”People are trying to find ways to keep on traveling, but on a budget. RVing is a great way for families to spend time together without having to spend money on hotels and restaurants and the like. With RVs, families have more control over their travel.”