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RV Shipments to Grow in 2011 and 2012

According to a new forecast by RV industry analyst Dr. Richard Curtin released at RVIA’s Committee Week on June 6, shipments will rise to 260,200 units in 2011, a gain of 7.4% percent above the 2010 total of 242,300. The RV industry’s shipments are expected to rise to 270,900 units in 2012, a gain of 3.9% from the projected total for 2011.

“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 must 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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