Following a sluggish start for RV wholesale shipments through the first third of the year, a slow recovery for retail deliveries is expected for the remainder of 2019 and persist until 2020.
RV shipments are projected to total 416,300 units in 2019, down 13.9 percent from the 2018 year-end total of 483,700 units, before gaining 2.4 percent to 426,700 units in 2020, according a RV RoadSigns Special 2020 Industry Forecast from Dr. Richard Curtin, director of the survey of consumers at the University of Michigan. Those annual totals would rank as the fourth and fifth highest in the last 40 years, trailing only the totals from the previous three-year period that saw the RV industry reach an all-time high.
Shipments of conventional travel trailers are expected to account for the largest share of the anticipated gains, while shipments of all types of motorhomes are expected to be largely unchanged in 2020 from 2018. Towable RVs are projected to reach 365,200 units in 2019 and 375,700 units in 2020. Motorhomes are forecasted at 51,100 units in 2019 and 51,000 in 2020.
RV shipments will benefit from renewed growth in wages and employment, low inflation and interest rates, and gains in household wealth through the remainder of 2019. “Heightened concerns about the state of the economy early in the first quarter have been replaced by renewed optimism as wages and employment posted significant increases, unemployment fell to a half-century low and stocks rebounded to new record peaks,” said Dr. Curtin.
The longtime RV industry researcher believes that the right quality and mix of RV products is crucial for attracting and keeping millennials as well as repeat baby-boomer buyers. If that mix is found, according to Dr. Curtin, RV sales will continue to benefit from demographic trends. The number of consumers between the ages of 55 and 74 – always a sweet spot for the RV industry with their love of traditional and large units – will total 79 million by 2025, 15 percent higher than in 2015, and the number between age 30 and 45 – who favor smaller, high-tech trailers as part of their embrace of the RV lifestyle – will total 72 million by 2025, 13 percent higher than in 2015.