July Shipments Fall 9%, Shaky Economy a Factor

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) most recent survey of manufacturers shows that RV wholesale shipments slowed in July with total shipments down 9.1% from July 2010 totals and off 32.6% from last month. While July is usually lower for shipments than June, due largely to the ending of the summer season and effects of model year change-over, shipments in July this year were also impacted by concerns for a slowing economy and uncertainty of future government policies, according to RVIA. Year-to-date, RV shipments are running 4% ahead of the same time last year (162,000 units through July 2011 as compared to 155,800 units through July 2010).


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Curtin: Uncertain Economy to Slow RV Shipments

August 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

With consumer confidence sliding and a clouded economic outlook, growth in recreational vehicle shipments is expected to slow, according to a new forecast by RV industry analyst Richard Curtin.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported that RV shipments are expected to total 247,500 units in 2011, a gain of 2.1% percent above the 2010 total of 242,300. Shipments are expected to decline 2.0% in 2012 to 242,400 units.

“RV sales face challenges from the slowdown in economic growth,” said Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, who produces the monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment. “Just as the last downturn was more severe than typical, the slowdown in the year ahead can be expected to be milder than average, but, unfortunately, more long lasting.”

The flatter projection for RV shipments is based on recent steep declines in consumer confidence that coincided with the debt limit showdown in the U.S. Congress. In addition, Curtin noted a “pervasive uncertainty” about job and income prospects, stagnating wages, depressed home values, and the likelihood of rising taxes. Each of these factors will adversely affect RV sales, according to Curtin.

“As a result, consumers have become more defensive minded, favoring spending cutbacks in response to financial setbacks rather than drawing down their savings or increasing their debt,” said Curtin.

In Curtin’s analysis, these economic conditions will persist and put an added premium on the ability of manufacturers to allow consumers to have the same cherished RV experiences within new budget realities.

“Rightsizing RVs for the decade ahead will require fresh thinking about design and layout as well as features and amenities,” Curtin said. “Those that adapt and evolve their products to meet the new economic realities will reap the benefits of market leadership.”



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Baird: Cautious Dealers Slow June Shipments

July 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following the June shipments report. Excerpts from the Baird newsletter follow.

Shipments flat in June. Total RV shipments were flat in June, following stronger growth in May. Modest towable shipment growth (+1%) offset weak motorhome results (-9%) in the period. Following several months of seasonal restocking at dealerships and a slower-than-expected retail recovery in early spring, dealers seem reluctant to accumulate inventory as the selling season progresses.

Total June RV shipments flat with last year. Overall shipments were flat following a stronger May (+14%). As seasonal restocking has slowed and retail growth remains modest, orders have moderated. 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.

Motorhome shipments fell 8%. Class A shipments fell 8%, while Class C shipments dropped 9%. We continue to expect shipments to moderate in the second half, as dealers seem reluctant to stock heading into winter, but note that comps become easier beginning in fall. Year-to-date motorhome shipments are up 9%.

Towable shipments up 1%. Travel trailer shipments dropped 2% while fifth-wheel shipments were up 9%. Year-to-date towable shipments are up 8%.

• SAAR. We calculate a seasonally adjusted annual rate of shipments. The SAAR of motorhome shipments decreased to 23.3K units in June, from 28.9K units in May (23.6K units were shipped in 2010). The SAAR of towable shipments fell to 243K units in June, from 253K units in May (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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June Shipments Flat, YOY Totals Increase 5.9%

July 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Wholesale shipments to retailers of all RVs were reported at 26,700 units in the June survey of manufacturers, off 3% from last month, and down 1.5% from the previous year. Seasonally adjusted, June’s annualized total was nearly 268,000 units, the second best all year.

Year to date, shipments of total RVs have risen 5.9%, from 136,000 in the first half of 2010 to 144,000 units in the first six months this year. Towables reported the greatest number of units shipped with motorhomes improving by the largest percentage gain.

See chart below for June totals in each category.



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Curtin Predicts 3.9% Gain in 2012 Shipments

June 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Curtin

Richard Curtin

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, 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.”

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RVIA: April Shipments Equal to 2010 Totals

May 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Wholesale shipments of 24,600 units to retailers were reported by manufacturers in the April 2011 Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) monthly survey, the same total for April the year prior.

RVIA reported that on a seasonally adjusted basis, shipments in April were at an annual rate of 242,100 units, 6.3% lower than the previous month. Towable RVs were slightly lower than April last year while motorhomes were slightly higher.

Year to date, shipments of all RVs through April were at 89,700 units, up 6.2% overall. Each product type reported shipment totals above this period last year except folding camping trailers.

See chart below for April totals in each category.


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Curtin: 263,100 Shipments in 2011; 9% Upturn

February 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Curtin

Richard Curtin

The latest projections from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) show RV wholesale shipments climbing higher in 2011 after finishing last year on a very strong note.

In the Spring 2011 issue of RV Roadsigns, RVIA’s quarterly forecasting newsletter, University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin forecasts RV shipments to reach 263,100 units this year, an increase of nearly 9% over the 242,300 units shipped in 2010.

Motorhome shipments are expected to grow by 7% (from 25,200 units in 2010 to 26,900 units in 2011) with towable RV shipments rising by 9% (from 217,100 units in 2010 to 236,200 units in 2011).

Curtin noted that this is a sustainable growth path that mainly reflects improved retail sales at RV dealerships and is aided by an improving economy, the extension of income tax cuts and the reduction in payroll taxes.

He also 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.

Next year’s increases will be seen across all vehicle types:

  • Class A motorhomes reaching 13,900 units.
  • Class B motorhomes at 1,700 units.
  • Class C motorhomes at 11,300 units.
  • Travel trailers at 157,900 units.
  • Fifth-wheels at 59,300 units.
  • Folding camping trailers at 15,800 units.
  • Truck campers at 3,200 units.

The expected gains in 2011 shipments would continue the strong recovery that took hold in 2010 when shipments rose to 242,300 units – a 46% rise over 2009 totals and the industry’s largest annual percentage gain recorded since the mid-1960s.

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RVIA Outlines ’10, ’11 Shipment Projections

June 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RVIA logoThe recreation vehicle industry is on the mend with a wholesale shipment forecast that indicates growth of 39% to 230,300 units in 2010. Shipments, according to a new estimate, are expected to grow to 249,700 units in 2011.

Robert M. ”Mac” Bryan, vice president of administration for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), delivered the new forecast to those attending RVIA’s Annual Membership Luncheon today (June (9) during RVIA Committee Week at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind.

University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin, who prepares shipment estimates for RVIA, had to cancel his keynote speach for personal reasons.

Richard Curtin, RVIA forecaster

Richard Curtin, RVIA forecaster

Bryan said the RV industry has recovered from the low 2009 shipment totals of 165,700 units as he presented Curtin’s methodology for measuring and forecasting within the RV market. Many factors are considered including major influences such as consumer confidence, buying conditions, wages and employment, credit availability and wealth effect.

Consumer confidence and buying conditions are improving, while wages and employment will be a slow to improve and credit standards continue to be more strict, Bryan explained.

On the positive side, he said, consumer demand remains strong. “Nothing can diminish this,” he said. “There is a very positive outlook demographically.”

Bryan contended Curtin’s forecasts, initally made 15 months into the future, are fairly accurate. Curtin also looks at RV shipments compared to new private housing starts, car and light-truck sales, and retail consumer sales — all of which have shown an increase in 2010.

“These are good indicators,” Bryan said.

Bryan pointed out that the initial surge in this year’s shipments indicates the need for dealers to ramp up low inventory levels to meet demand.

The forecast for a smaller increase in 2011 reflects the lingering effects of the recession, Bryan said.

“While the RV market has quickly recovered in past recessions, the current journey will be longer and the road will not be as smooth or as straight as in the past,” Bryan said.

According to Curtin’s forecast, three main areas are expected to affect the pace of recovery in RV sales — the financial health of consumers, changes in fiscal and monetary policies, and continued volatility in financial markets.

Here’s a breakdown of Curtin’s most recent estimate:

  • Total RV shipments — A 39% increase to 230,300 units and, in 2011,  an 8% increase totaling 249,700 units.
  • Travel trailers — 140,600 units in 2010 and 151,900 in 2011.
  • Fifth-wheels — A 36% increase in 2010 and a 9% increase in 2011.
  • Folding camping trailers — A 20% increase in 2010 and a 9% increase in 2011.
  • Truck campers — A 26% hike in 2010 and a 17% increase in 2011.
  • Class A motorhomes — A 90% spike in 2010 and an 11% increase in 2011.
  • Class B motorhomes — A 33% increase in 2010 and a 13% increase in 2011.
  • Class C motorhomes — A 61% hike in 2010 and a 6% increase in 2011.
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Wall Street Sees Positives in August Shipments

September 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The latest wholesale shipments report released last Friday by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) was just what the Wall Street investment community needed to reinforce its contention that the RV industry has hit bottom and is on the way back

Three leading RV industry watchers, Kathryn Thompson, founder and director of the Thompson Research Group, Craig Kennison of Robert W. Baird & Co. and John T.G. Rogers of Janney Montgomery Scott, each offered encouraging words following the August RV shipments release, which revealed that shipments rose 5.3% in August, to 17,800 units.

Thompson noted that  shipments’ upward movement marked “the first increase since July 2006 (excluding Oct-07 ‘false bottom’).”

She said the 9.9% increase in towable shipments “confirms findings from our Q3 2009 RV Dealer Survey published on 9/18/09. Travel trailers increased a strong 20.7% to 11,100 units vs. a decrease of 10.5% in July (8,500 units).

Meanwhile, while motorhome shipments fell 35.3%  year-over-year, they showed “directional improvement.” 

“Class A shipments fell 44.4% vs. last month’s 55.6% decrease. It is important to note that directionally Class A shipments have been trending up for the past four consecutive months. When Class A shipments reversed the downward direction in early 2001, Winnebago Industries Inc. traded up 200%+ over the next 12 months. We see this trend playing out with WGO today, and like the towable segment, we are starting to hear similar confirmations on real demand backing up volumes.”

Thompson concluded, “Going into our Q3 ’09 RV Dealer Survey, we placed acute focus on the status of dealer inventories and clarity regarding volume outlook. We received additional confirmation since our published Q3 ’09 survey that led us to believe the towable segment of the RV industry is seeing a real confirmation of a return in retail demand (vs. inventory replacement), prompting our upgrade of Thor Industries Inc. and Drew Industries Inc. We are starting to hear similar feedback in regards to the motorized segment, which would have positive implications for Winnebago.”

Kennison noted the year-over-year improvement in towables constituted “the first positive comp in 22 months.”

“The towable data are directionally consistent with our expectations for Thor — as we forecast Thor’s shipments to increase 30% in FQ1 ending October. We expect the trend to continue as comps ease and the destocking trend runs its course,” he stated.

“Shipments have remained below retail sales as dealers reduce inventory. We expect to see this trend run its course in towables as dealers begin to restock the lower-priced, faster-turning units. Additionally, Thor recently reported an increase in its backlog, suggesting dealers are beginning to reorder at a more normal rate. Dealers continue to destock in motorhomes, but this too is an unsustainable trend long term,” he stated.

Kennison calculated the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for Class A and Class C motorhomes at 13,400 units in August, up from 12,600 units in July, and the SAAR for towables at 174,500 units in August, up from 136,500 units in July.

Meanwhile, Rogers said the sector appears poised for steady growth, according to The Business Insider.

“We continue to believe consumer tastes, demographics and the economics of RV ownership will support continued growth over the long term,” he wrote in a client note.

Rogers said White Plains, N.Y.-based Drew Industries Inc., which makes parts for recreational vehicles, will be a major beneficiary of the sector’s return to growth.

“Management has done an excellent job of managing costs during the downturn, and with its strong balance sheet and adequate access to capital, Drew is well positioned to capitalize on competition weakness,” the analyst said, reiterating his “Neutral” rating on the stock.

However, the analyst cautioned that although he sees an eventual return to normalized sales of RVs, the timing of that is uncertain.

In late morning trading, Drew Industries rose $1.48, or 7.2%, to $21.98, Winnebago added 88 cents, or 6.8%, to $13.81 and Thor increased $1.54, or 5.6%, to $29.14. Earlier in the session, the stock hit a new 52-week high of $29.32.

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Curtin: Industry’s on a Gradual ‘Road to Recovery’

September 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite recent recessionary setbacks, relative gains posted thus far this year by travel trailers are pointing to a “road to recovery” for the RV industry, Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, reports in his fall “Roadsigns” prognostications for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

 “Total RV shipments were 42,300 in the second quarter of 2009,” he reports. “Although this was the lowest second quarter reading since 1982, year-to-year declines have begun to narrow, and signal that RV shipments are on the road to recovery. The greatest relative gains since the start of 2009 were made by travel trailers and the least by motorhomes.

 “While total RV shipments are expected to fall to 146,200 in 2009, the low point was in the first quarter,” he adds. “RV shipments can be expected to begin posting seasonally adjusted gains in the balance of 2009 and into 2010. The gains will focus on conventional travel trailers during the next year or so, although all types of RVs will begin to improve.”

 Looking ahead, Curtin predicts total shipments of 185,800 units in 2010, a 27% pickup from 2009 and a marginal upgrade from the 169,500 units he had forecast for 2010 back at RVIA Committee Week in June. While it’s definitely good news, those numbers still lag significantly behind the 237,000 shipments the industry posted in 2008 or, even more so, totals of 390,500 units in 2006.

 Curtin looks for renewed RV sales growth in the second half of ’09 due to improved economic conditions and the easing of the financial crisis. On the other hand, he warns, lagging consumer demand will remain a factor through most of next year due to continued job losses, shorter work hours, smaller income gains, tight credit and declines in household wealth as well as Americans’ need to restore savings and pension accounts.

 Most notably, he points out, motorhomes’ share of total shipments are expected to fall to 7.8%, about a third of the motorized share in 2000.

 “After the energy shocks of the 1970s,” adds Curtin, “motorhome sales bounced back to capture one-third of the total market from 1983 to 1990. Likewise, the current dominance of travel trailers is likely to yield market share over time due to the downsizing of household tow vehicles.”

 All in all, Curtin, however, continues to look for a slow – but certain – turnaround from the recent downturn.

 “The recent financial meltdown has affected every aspect of the RV industry, including manufacturers, dealers and consumers,” says Curtin. “The transformation of the industry has only begun and can be expected to be more comprehensive and require more restructuring than following any prior recession. Unlike past recoveries, the full restoration of RV sales will be slow and uneven.

 “Importantly, given the strong commitment of the consumers to the RV lifestyle, there is no question about the favorable prospects for the industry. It will simply take longer than usual for consumers to reestablish their economic footing following the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s. The same can be said about financial institutions as they have been slow to establish new regulations and restore more normal credit flows, a key to a healthy RV industy.”

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