Winnebago Product Manager Russ Garfin
Class B motorhome sales remained one of the shining RV growth product categories throughout 2018. According to reports from Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), Grand Rapids, Mich., the segment ended the year with retail sales increasing 28.3% compared to the prior year. Truck campers were the only category to beat out B motorhome sales with a 20.8% gain.
SSI stated that Winnebago Industries Inc. led the sector with a commanding 40% market share, followed by Erwin Hymer Group North America holding a 28.8% share and Thor Industries Inc. capturing a 10.8% share.
According to Russ Garfin, product manager of Sprinter Class C and Class B motorhomes for Winnebago, the sustained growth in the sector is partially due to the advent of the larger, more workable chassis now available.
“The Class B European chassis has made nicer motorhomes possible instead of those that were historically built on the traditional Ford or Chevy van chassis,” he said. “Those were tighter inside, narrower in width, and you couldn’t stand up in them. These new chassis like, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and then followed up with the Ram ProMaster and the Ford Transit, provide a much better base to build an RV on. That allows us to build products that people are looking for in larger motorhomes.”
He added that the growing popularity of the Class B coach is in the appeal of simplicity combined with utility.
“I also think this new popularity is due to a simpler, easier to use, smaller coach that has a lot of appeal to Baby Boomers and to people who are just retiring or pre-retiring,” said Garfin. “They see that generally it’s not as scary to drive as a big motorhome. They like that they can park them anywhere, go anywhere, and many of these are new buyers that have never had an RV before. This is a segment where we are seeing the most first-time buyers coming into our business.”
Garfin shared that the retiring Baby Boomer is trending the highest among the Class B demographic, but other niches are expanding as well.
“The fastest growing group is in that pre-retirement or just retired age group of 58 to 64,” he said. “Historically, just five years ago, it was the oldest segment — late '60s and '70s buying these coaches. Now we mostly see that group of older buyers who are downsizing from a bigger motorhomes and now feel more comfortable with a smaller coach.”
He said that he is also seeing a subset of a younger buyer emerging.
“We are seeing a lot of single women and women buyers in general coming into the lifestyle for the first time,” stated Garfin. “There are lots of single women who are saying, ‘I’d like to see the country in an RV, what can I do it in?’ Towable products all bring hitching and backing and specialized driving skills into play for these first-timers. We are finding women like the confidence and safety of a Class B. They can go wherever they want and leave whenever. Whereas with a towable RV the camper has to be well organized as to where they are going to camp, and set up — mostly in a campground.”
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