Bill Goodwin is about to deliver another travel trailer to another RV dealership on the West Coast. Lately, he’s busy.
“Right now U.S.R.V. Transport has more than 1,000 loads booked,” the Wakarusa, Ind., transport business owner told WSBT-TV, South Bend, Ind.
His schedule is welcome relief after six extremely slow months. RV shipments industrywide were down 60% from last year.
“Then it started turning,” said Goodwin.
Analysts predict it will continue to turn as the economy improves. According to a new RV industry forecast, Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, said shipments are projected to total 169,500 units in 2010 – a 24% increase from the 136,500 predicted for 2009.
“The persistent appeal of the RV lifestyle as well as the good economic value provided by this form of recreation will energize future growth in the RV market, once again driving the RV market to higher levels,” said Curtin during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week in Washington, D.C.
Goodwin’s transport business is already recalling some laid-off workers to handle increasing summer demand.
At Jayco Inc. in Middlebury, business isn’t booming, but spokesman Sid Johnson said it’s certainly better.
“The headline should read, ‘The recovery has begun’ but the sub-headline should probably be ‘Don’t strike up the band,'” said Johnson.
Last month, Jayco employees returned to five-day work weeks. But most of the people laid off from the company in the last year haven’t been called back. Johnson said if the market remains steady the rest of the year, Jayco would feel comfortable calling some back to work.
“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty about credit conditions and other aspects of the economy. While there is absolutely no doubt that things are looking a little bit better … we’re still not out of the woods,” said Johnson.
Curtin agreed with that uncertainty, cautioning that RV shipments next year could be as much as 15% more or less than his forecast.
Goodwin said the road to recovery may take a while, but at least the journey back may have begun.
“I think you can walk out of your house and smile because this has to roll your direction if you are associated with, been a part of, or are involved in the manufacturing of RVs,” said Goodwin.