RV manufacturers are recognizing the impact younger buyers are having on RV sales, especially small towables, illustrating that bigger isn’t always better. This has led to record-breaking sales growth this year as RV shipments are expected to hit their highest level ever, according to the RVIA, marking the industry’s eighth consecutive year of gains, reports CNBC.
Those shipments are accelerating, and should grow even more next year, the group said. Sales in the first quarter rose 11.7 percent from 2016.
Much of the growth can be attributed to strong sales of trailers, smaller units that can be towed behind an SUV or minivan, which dominate the RV market. The industry also is drawing in new customers.
Two of the major players in the industry, Thor Industries and Winnebago Industries, both manufacturers of RVs, reported huge growth in their most recent earnings report. Thor saw sales skyrocket 56.9 percent to $2.02 billion from last year. Winnebago’s surged 75.1 percent last quarter to $476.4 million.
Millennials are a major target market for RV companies. According to the 2017 North American Camping Survey from KOA, millennials make up 38% of campers, but 31% of the general population.
Also, since many RV customers make multiple purchases over time, catching them when they’re young is key. To capture the coveted age range, companies have had to make major design changes to their product.
While the mention of an RV might conjure up an image of a big motorized home without many amenities, that has changed. In fact, just two years ago, the KOA survey found younger campers valued having WiFi almost as much as access to toilet paper. The industry needed to keep up.
Now, most people in RVs will have full access to TV, WiFi and whatever else makes modern life modern.
That last one may sound simple, but it’s something public campgrounds don’t allow and a major deterrent for RVers, according to Kevin Broom, director of media relations for RVIA. He said national parks are by far the most popular destination for campers.
“The typical RVer is staying outside the national park,” he said. “The preference is most would much rather drive in and stay in the park, but the campgrounds haven’t been modernized.”
That’s one area where RVIA hopes to work with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is interested in expanding public-private partnerships in an effort to upgrade the campgrounds on federal lands.