The name of the game in the world of recreational vehicle sales is consumer confidence.
As reported by the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, things appear to be heading consistently in the right direction there, based on the latest numbers from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
January numbers — 24,379 shipments — are up by 30.5% over January of 2012. And that comes on the heels of a 2012 that saw each and every month beat the corresponding month in 2011 when it comes to shipments.
In fact, 2012 RV shipments were up 13.2% over 2011, totaling 285,749. And 2011 was 4.1% higher than 2010.
Mark Bowersox, the executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC), was pleased with the January shipment news while also offering a unique perspective on the sequester and how it could affect consumer confidence and spending.
Bowersox thinks the sequester that’s poised to cut $85 billion in federal spending from March through September and with it thousands of government jobs might have very little effect.
“I think on March 2 the sun is still going to rise,” Bowersox said. “The interesting thing to me over the last couple years as the country has grown out of this recession is the fact that the American public seems to be getting more and more comfortable with the idea that they’re not going to be totally comfortable anymore.
“It used to be any little blip in the stock market, fuel prices or unemployment numbers … or whatever, it would have people stop and tighten the screws a little bit and wait until everything settled down.
“Those kinds of things that would have gotten an emotional reaction are more easily accepted these days.”
To read the entire story click here.
Bill and Jill Phipps shuttle between homes around the country to keep in touch with grandchildren. But, according to a report by USA Today, they got tired of crating up Rockne, their Irish Wolfhound mutt, for seven-hour plane rides.
So, with some trepidation, the Tucson couple recently became first-time RVers.
They took delivery of a new 24-foot motorhome a couple of months ago, contributing to a wave of sales that are lifting an industry rebounding from the depths of recession.
Deliveries of motorhomes from manufacturers to dealers rose 13.6% last year and are expected to climb by almost the same amount this year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports. Last year marked the third year of increases from a recessionary bottom that that saw sales fall to the lowest levels since at least the 1970s.
With the spring RV-buying season approaching, there’s a growing optimism in the business that affluent families and retirees such as the Phipps are ready to take the plunge. After a round of consolidation, including bankruptcy filings by a couple of the industry’s big names, motorhome makers are starting to hit the road again.
That’s good not only for the RV industry but for the economy in general. Purpose-built motorhomes typically retail for more than $100,000 and because they’re used for vacations, they’re the ultimate discretionary purchase. The pickup in sales is an early indicator that people might be willing to start spending again — and not just on big-ticket items they can’t do without.
But it’s also an American comeback story: Almost all RV rigs are U.S.-made, many in Indiana. Unlike the auto industry, motorhome makers have few foreign competitors, although some are starting to knock at the door.
“People are tired of waiting for things to turn around,” says Sheila Davis, spokeswoman for Winnebago Industries Inc. Some customers “who could have bought a motorhome during the downturn … chose to wait. Now, they are feeling more confident.”
That confidence is bolstered by waves of retiring Baby Boomers, their 401(k)s fattened by the stock market’s recent rally, who always dreamed of roaming the hinterlands. Working against motorhome makers, however, is the painfully slow pace of the recovery and persistently high and unpredictable fuel prices.
To read the entire article in USA Today click here.
While the RV industry is more than just Indiana’s Elkhart County area and Elkhart County is more than just RVs, the two are inextricably intertwined.
“If you mention to anybody throughout the United States or Canada, you mention you’re from Elkhart, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh, that’s the RV capital,’” said Darryl Searer, head of the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
As reported by The Elkhart Truth, while the recession hit this area hard because of the discretionary nature of RVs, even as it shrank the industry shored up its position in Elkhart. Today, 83% of RVs made in North America are made in this area, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Elkhart’s a very important area, as you know,” Coon said.
The share of production of RVs on the West Coast dropped off significantly in favor of production here, where the industry really grew over the decades.
“I wasn’t around when it started, but from what I understand it’s mainly centered around that area because of the Amish population which brings a strong amount of craftsmanship. It was a good place to be,” Coon said.
Jayco Inc., a home-grown RV success story, started in Middlebury and is still there.
“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be than right here in Middlebury, Ind., Elkhart County, Ind., for home,” said Derald Bontrager, CEO of the company his father started.
“I think one of the more important things for us and the reason we stay put here is the workforce is second to none, in my mind, anywhere in the country. Just loyal, hardworking, consistent, honest. I could go on and on. They’re just a great work force we’ve been blessed with,” he said.
To read the entire article click here.
There really were plenty of smiles Thursday (Feb. 7) at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in the crowded Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre.
And keynote speaker David C. Chavern, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agreed those smiles were there for good reason.
The South Bend Tribune reported that Chavern toured two Elkhart companies, RV maker Thor Industries Inc. and CTS Corp., before the luncheon. He cited Elkhart as a positive example of the nation’s slow recovery from the recession.
But he added, as has been seen in recent months with numerous job additions in the recreational vehicle sector, it has an advantage.
“They are ahead of the curve,” he said in an interview prior to his speech. “One of the big advantages Elkhart has is a really strong manufacturing base.
“And you are seeing a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S., and I think Elkhart is benefiting from it.”
To view the entire article click here.
The final numbers are in. And officially, as expected, it was a good year in the RV business in 2012.
The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported that a strong December fortified earlier monthly totals, all of which were higher than the corresponding month in 2011.
Shipments for December were up 11.6% over December of 2011. But more importantly, the strong finish resulted in the year’s total reaching 285,749, a 13.2% increase over 2011.
It is the third straight year annual numbers have been up over the previous year.
The strong showing is an indication that the American economy is stabilizing, said Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC).
“That’s a positive sign. The RV business is by and large a consumer confidence business,” Bowersox said. “When you see continual stabilization and even slight growth in the market, that’s a real good thing for our business.
“The other piece of it, is the continued stabilization is bringing back that pent-up demand.”
Bowersox believes the drastic drop in RV demand from 2006 to 2009 had nothing to do with whether people wanted RVs or not.
“It was because they were uncomfortable with their personal economic situation,” he said.
To read the entire article click here.
Total RV shipments to retailers for all of 2012 increased to 285,749 units, a gain of 13.2% over the 2011 total. Towable RV shipments alone rose to 257,551 units in 2012, a 13.2% increase over the 2011 total and more than all RV shipments last year. Motorhome totals in 2012 climbed to 28,198 units, a gain of 13.6% over the prior year and their best year since 2008.
Monthly RV shipments to retailers were reported at 18,960 units in the December 2012 survey of manufacturers, an increase of 11.6% over this same month one year ago. Shipments of both towable and motorhome categories were greater in December with towables ahead by the largest unit increases while motorhomes were ahead by the largest percentage gains. On a seasonally adjusted basis, December shipments were at an annualized rate of over 307,000 units, less than the November rate but the best December pace since 2007.
Through the winter months, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) work with reporters and producers has produced a steady stream of positive media coverage. According to a press release, coverage included stories about the industry’s continuing recovery from the economic downturn, positives about the RV lifestyle, and cable TV specials about what’s new in RVs.
A few of the highlights:
• A Nov. 27 Associated Press story from the Louisville show reported on the industry’s accelerating recovery from the recession. This story appeared in media markets nationwide, including Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Columbus, San Diego, Chicago, St. Louis, and New York. The story also was published on major online outlets, including Yahoo! Finance and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
• On Nov.30, BudgetTravel.com published a story offering tips for renting and traveling by RV. The story mentioned rising RV shipments, and presented RVs as an accessible and fun way to travel.
• A Dec. 10 story in The Wall Street Journal reported that RV sales are expected to rise in 2013. Growth was predicted to be strongest in lower-cost models, with travel trailers and fifth wheels expected to be in highest demand.
• On Dec. 20, Winnebago CEO Randy Potts appeared on FOX Business where he talked about the positive outlook for the RV industry. The segment also featured a Winnebago Tour outside FOX’s New York studio.
• On Dec. 21, AnimalFair.com suggested that readers should consider an RV for traveling with pets. The tip pointed out that no boarding, no cargo holds and built-in pet stations could make traveling with pets more convenient and more fun. More than half of RVers travel with pets, according to RVIA research.
• On Jan. 1, HGTV broadcasted RV2013, this year’s version of the annual RV special. The show featured three families touring the RV show in Hershey and presented the latest trends and newest models. RVIA works with producers throughout the production, and the show continues to be HGTV’s highest-rated special.
Indiana saw a record-breaking 27,600 new jobs announced over the last year, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., and Elkhart County was a big beneficiary with 2,700 of those jobs.
As reported by The Elkhart Truth, some of those jobs are already here and some will be phased in this year and next. A total of $120 million will be invested in real estate and equipment as part of those jobs announcements, said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
The average wage in Elkhart County – home to the RV industry’s manufacturing hub – is about $18.01 an hour, and the local economic development corporation worked on projects paying from $12 an hour to $40 an hour in 2012, Heiden-Guss said. The average on the new jobs is about $20.41, she said.
To view the entire article click here.
Editor’s Note: The following is a list of the Top 5 RVing trends in Canada during 2012 compiled by Go RVing Canada.
The past year saw growth on many levels for the RV industry. The year kicked off with outstanding RV show attendance figures and moved into the summer with a jump in RV sales. The RV industry has seen a change in ownership trends, overall growth of the industry, a national sales rebound, increased outdoor engagement and an evolution in the economic benefits for the RV traveler. The top 5 RV trends were:
• Majority of RV owners under the age of 55: The RV industry is seeing a significant increase in young families, busy career couples, outdoor enthusiasts as well as retirees embarking on their first RV adventure.
• Towable trailers most popular RVs sold in 2012: There are over one million RVs on Canada’s roads which translates to 14% of households owning an RV. Starting at just $6,000, consumers are taking advantage of the variety of units available. The most popular RVs sold this year were the towable RVs, which include the folding camping trailer and fifth wheel RV.
• While other travel sectors continue to struggle and see declines, RV sales surged 13% this year: By mid-summer, RV sales had increased on a national level by 13% compared to 2011 with Alberta seeing the largest sales increase of 42%. The biggest factor driving this is the affordability of the lifestyle as RV purchase prices are at historic lows. A number of other factors include intense competition in the industry, increased consumer awareness and a strong Canadian dollar.
• More Canadians are spending time outdoors: 90% of RV owners say RVing is the best way to see the country. Many campground operators have begun the process of upgrading their sites to accommodate the increase of RV travelers to their campgrounds. The Alberta government announced mid-summer that they were investing $24 million this year into modernizing several of its campgrounds, as they noted the increase in number of people using RVs versus tents.
• Raw cost savings: In February, Go RVing Canada released results of a cost comparison study conducted by PKF consulting that proved RV vacations can be up to 78% less expensive than all other forms of travel. This statistic has increased by 3% since the last study, conducted in 2009. The associated savings come from a variety of factors including the flexibility of cooking in your RV, as well as the low cost of accommodation.
“RVers share a great passion for the lifestyle and it’s easy to recognize the many benefits associated with it,” said Go RVing Executive Director, Chris Mahony. “What the 2012 RV trends show is that RVing clearly remains a popular vacation choice, especially for those who are looking for an affordable vacation that offers freedom, flexibility, and fun.”
Editor’s Note: The following is a story authored by Jeff Kurowski, director of industry relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), detailing a recent survey of dealers that appears in the December issue of RV Executive Today.
A high percentage of dealers believe 2012 turned out to be better than 2011, and nearly half of those surveyed by RVDA in November believe 2013 will be better than 2012.
The survey was conducted a few days after the presidential election and showed that a little more than 47% of the dealers who responded believe the RV retail market will be better in 2013 than it was in 2012, while 44% believe it will be about the same. Only 9% of respondents feel the 2013 market will be worse.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of the survey respondents said they believe the market was better in 2012 than it was in 2011, and 29% said it was about the same. Only 3% said the 2012 market was worse than the 2011 market.
Strength lies in towable segment
The towable segment has a much rosier outlook for 2013 than the motorhome segment, according to the survey respondents. Almost 61% believe the towable market will be better in 2013 than in 2012, while one-third say it will be about the same. Only 6% expect it to be worse.
Twenty-five percent say the motorhome market will be better in 2013, 62.5% believe it will be about the same, and 12.5% think it will be worse.
The upbeat forecast for towables in 2013 follows a strong 2012. Almost 73% of respondents said their towable sales were better in 2012 than in 2011, while 24% said they were about the same, and only 3% said they were worse.
With motorhomes, almost 26% said they believed their sales were better in 2012 than in 2011, while 52% said they were about the same, and 23% said they were worse.
Inventory levels a possible concern
A possible area of concern is dealer inventory levels, with 41% of respondents saying their inventories are too high given the market conditions as of November. Fifty-nine percent said they’re just right. No respondents said their inventory levels are too low.
The availability of financing became less of a concern among dealers as 2012 progressed, and that continued to be true in November. A little more than 88% of those responding believe the right amount of credit is available for inventory financing, while 76.5% believe the right amount of retail financing is available for their customers.