Curtin: RV Shipments to Rise 6.9% in 2012

May 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Curtin

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.

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Curtin, Health Care on Committee Week Agenda

May 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Bruce Merlin Fried

Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Committee Week attendees will hear about the outlook for the RV market and the impact of the pending Supreme Court decisions on health care reform in two presentations taking place during the Joint Committee Luncheons on June 11-12.

According to a news release, Richard Curtin, director of the Consumer Research Center at the University of Michigan, will provide his outlook for RV wholesale shipments in his Monday remarks, taking place from noon–1:30 p.m.

This will include projections for the year-end 2012 total as well as his first estimate for shipment numbers in 2013. He will also take questions about the RV market and 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.

The Supreme Court decisions on the health care reform case, which will be announced by the end of June, will have a significant impact on the small and medium-sized companies doing business in the RV industry.

Mark Weller

At the Joint Committee Luncheon noon–1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, health care law and policy expert Bruce Merlin Fried will brief attendees on the business ramifications of a decision that upholds the law as well as one that overturns it fully or partially. Fried is a partner in SNR Denton’s Health Care practice in Washington, D.C., where he counsels and represents health plans, physician organizations, hospital groups, consumer organizations, health care information technology companies, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He has been recognized by Chambers USA and ExpertGuides as one of the nation’s leading health care attorneys.

In addition to Fried’s remarks, Mark Weller will lead a secondary discussion on the provision of the law that exempts people opposed to buying health coverage for religious reasons, including the Amish. Weller, who serves as RVIA’s federal lobbyist, has more than 25 years of public affairs and advocacy experience, much of it focusing on health care issues. He is a partner in SNR Denton’s Public Policy and Regulation practice and he heads the firm’s Strategic Communications team.

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Feb. Shipments Up Sharply, Show 24% YOY Gain

March 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

RV shipments to retailers rose sharply in February, climbing 31.8% above last month and up 24.2% ahead of this same month last year.

The 24,600 units reported in the latest survey of manufacturers marked the best February total in four years for all RV products and raised the first two month’s total this year 15.2% above the same period one year ago.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, February shipments were at an annual rate of more than 286,000 units, a gain of 12.9% over the January rate.

For the first two months of 2012, shipments were ahead of last year by 15.2% on shipments of 43,300 units. Shipments of towable RVs have improved 17% to 39,200 units while motorhome products have held their own and produced 4,100 units so far this year.

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Baird: January Shipments Reveal Mixed Results

March 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter to investors following the January shipments report. The following offers a summary of the results.

Shipments were mixed in January as total RV wholesale improved 5% on strength in towables despite declines in motorhome shipments. Towable results continue to outpace motorhomes as dealers appear more willing to stock up on the lower priced, faster moving models ahead of the spring selling season.

Towable shipments up 7%: Travel trailer shipments improved 10% in January, while fifth-wheel shipments were flat. Wholesale growth has slowed in December and January, following a previous two months where wholesale improved 25% — probably driven by orders from fall open houses. Dealers in general seem comfortable increasing inventory ahead of the upcoming selling season.

Thor gaining share: For Thor’s quarter ended January, industry towable shipments improved 11% and industry motorhome shipments fell 17%. Thor reported preliminary RV revenue up 15% for the quarter, implying market share gains in the offseason stocking period — probably supported by promotions offered at the manufacturer open houses in the fall.

Motorhome shipments down 11%: Class A shipments fell 9% in January, while Class C shipments dropped 13%. Motorhome weakness in the second half of 2011 (shipments down 16%), seems to have continued into 2012, as dealers are more reluctant to stock slower turning motorhome units. Through two months of Winnebago’s February quarter, industry motorhome shipments are down 16%. We model Winnebago wholesale units up 3% in the quarter. We expect Winnebago to report results March 22.

• SAAR: We calculate a seasonally adjusted annual rate of shipments. The SAAR of motorhome shipments increased to 22.1K units in January, from 18.6K units in December (24.8K units were shipped in 2011). The SAAR of towable shipments fell to 209K units in January, from 230K units in December (213K units were shipped in 2011).

This summary of a Baird research report is not intended as investment advice. To participate in Baird surveys and receive research reports, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, at

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Curtin Revises ’12 Forecast, Expects 5% Growth

February 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Curtin

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.”



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RV Shipments Start Year on High Note, Grow 5%

February 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

RV wholesale shipments to retailers were reported at 18,700 units in the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) January 2012 survey of manufacturers, 5.1% greater than the total shipped during this same month last year. The gain was largely in conventional travel trailer shipments with truck campers and Class B motorhomes ahead on smaller volumes. This was the best January total recorded since 2008.

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RV Shipments Show 22% YOY Gain in November

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Shipments to retailers in November this year were 16,300 units, up 21.6% from this same month last year. On a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis, November’s total represented shipments of more than 290,000 units, an increase of 13.8% over the previous month and ahead of November last year by 22.5%. Towable RVs were up 27.1% over this month one year ago while all motorhome totals slipped 18.8% in the November survey of manufacturers. Year to date, all RV shipments to retailers tracked by RVIA have now reached 235,400 units for the year, up 5.1% over this same period last year.




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Curtin: Consumers, OEMs Will Endure Economy

December 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Economist Richard Curtin

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.”


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Baird: Demand Weakens in Latter Half of 2011

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following the August shipments report from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Excerpts from the Baird newsletter follow.

Shipments down again in August. Total RV shipments fell 3% in August on weak motorhome results (-23%) and relatively flat towables (-1%). Facing an uncertain economy and sharp drop in consumer confidence in August, consumers seem less likely to buy and dealers are less likely to stock – leading to slower RV orders in the back half of 2011.

Total August RV shipments down 3%. Overall trends improved slightly following a weak July (-9%), but have deteriorated significantly from the 8% growth seen in the first half of 2011. Following seasonal restocking in the first half, retail failed to recover and dealers have slowed orders. Recall that dealers reduced inventory during the last cycle, limiting the destocking pressure if retail lags. In our recent dealer survey, dealers indicated plans for modest growth in orders for the back half of 2011.

Towable shipments down 1%. Travel trailer shipments improved 1% in August, while fifth-wheel shipments fell 4%.

Motorhome shipments fell 23%. Class A shipments fell 15% in August, while Class C shipments dropped 33%. For perspective, we model Winnebago shipments to drop 18% in the August quarter, which compares to industry shipments which fell 14% in the same period. Winnebago reports results October 13.

SAAR. We calculate a seasonally adjusted annual rate of shipments. The SAAR of motorhome shipments decreased to 20.4K units in August, from 21.9K units in July (23.6K units were shipped in 2010). The SAAR of towable shipments increased to 205K units in August, from 183K units in July (199K units were shipped in 2010).

This summary of a Baird research report is not intended as investment advice. To participate in Baird surveys and receive research reports, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, at


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August YOY Shipments Dip 2.3%, Up From July

September 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

RV wholesale shipments of all RVs were measured at 21,000 units in RVIA’s August survey of member manufacturers, an increase of 16.7% over last month but off 2.3% from this same month one year ago.

The month-over-month improvement was largely centered in conventional travel trailers with smaller gains recorded in fifth-wheel trailers and Class A motorhomes. On a seasonally adjusted basis, shipments this August were at an annualized rate of 246,000 units, an 8% gain over the previous month.

Year-to-date, RV shipments have now climbed to 183,000 units this year, ahead by 3.2% over this same period last year. While all RV product categories except folding camping trailers have grown this year, all towable RVs continue to gain more units while all motorhome totals have enjoyed a slightly greater percentage improvement.



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