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RV shipments set to soar, hit all-time record. Good or bad news?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The President of the RV Industry Association (RVIA), Craig Kirby, addressed members of the association on Friday with the message below. It’s great news for members of the association, who are in the business of manufacturing and selling RVs. But for current RVers, this is far from good news. With so many new RVers hitting the road, you wonder where they all will stay. As you will read below, that subject is not even mentioned.

I urge you to read RV Travel’s latest installment of our weekly column on campground crowding.

Now, the message from Craig Kirby

It is hard to believe it is already March, and that for many of us, Spring is fast approaching as is the beginning of what would traditionally be the kick-off to the RV selling season. But something strange happened for the RV industry during the pandemic — the emergence of the constant selling season. Despite the struggles the pandemic created, RVs provided an escape to so many people, and allowed them to recreate responsibly and enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle.

Looking ahead, I feel strongly this resurgence of interest in being outdoors will outlast the pandemic and provide a long-term, positive impact on our collective health and well-being. The outlook for the RV industry remains incredibly bright.

Craig Kirby

Earlier this week, the RV Industry Association issued the Spring RV RoadSigns, a quarterly market forecast prepared by ITR Economics. Our projection shows total 2021 RV shipments ranging between 523,139 and 543,572 units with the most likely year-end total being 533,356 units. That total would represent a 23.9% increase over the 2020 year-end total of 430,412 units. It would also be a 5.7% gain over the current comparable record high of 504,600 units in 2017. These numbers are astonishing when you think that not even a year ago RV production was halted for nearly two months.

Also, this week, we convened a meeting of the RV Industry Task Force, a group of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), suppliers, aftermarket members, finance companies, dealers, campgrounds, finance companies and related trade associations that was formed at the outset of the pandemic. The optimism across that group was universal, with everyone expecting 2021 to be another banner year for the industry.

The group was also in agreement around the importance of continuing our collaborative work on improving repair event cycle time (RECT), and we are going to redouble our efforts this year around this important initiative. You will be hearing more from the RV Industry Association on this in the coming weeks.

Next week, Go RVing will be rolling out the findings from a comprehensive demographic profile of current RV owners, former RV owners and RV intenders. The study was led by research giant Ipsos and is the largest consumer segmentation study we have ever conducted. A quick spoiler, the data shows that RV purchase intent is strongest among millennials, followed closely by Gen X and Gen Z. The findings bode very well for the future of the RV industry, as well as the wider outdoor recreation industry.

While many consumers discovered RVs for the first time this past year, the truth is the RV industry has been experiencing more than 40 years of long-term growth. For our growth to continue, we must ensure that consumers have the enjoyable experience they expect and deserve. As I stated several times before – we have an incredible opportunity in front of us. And that opportunity is the millions of new people looking to get outdoors, and how we can all work together to make RVs the preferred form of outdoor enjoyment for millions of consumers for decades to come.

##RVT990b

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BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago

It defies financial logic. Good for the industry, but there is a hard lesson on the horizon, when the true laws of supply and demand align. For those contemplating buying an RV, if you can wait out this camping season, there will be a fire sale coming. Most people were afraid to go out, either by their own decision, or gov’t ordering closures. That in turn, to much surprise, caused a boom in recreational products, RV’s, Four wheelers, snowmobiles, etc. All financed, because the economy contracted, real wages fell, so people just bought it on credit.

Travis
6 months ago

I for one am thinking of opening a new campground.

Rod
6 months ago

With every boom there is a bust. This economy is not going to last with out of control over the top government spending.

Travis
6 months ago
Reply to  Rod

Hit the nail on the head!

Mary Warner
6 months ago

A quote from the article: “A quick spoiler, the data shows that RV purchase intent is strongest among millennials, followed closely by Gen X and Gen Z. The findings bode very well for the future of the RV industry” Many in this class are the same folks who expect participation trophies, to have their college loan debt cancelled, to be able to move back in with their parents at any point, and expect internet connectivity no matter where they may be. I doubt they are like most of the 55+ RV group who thoroughly enjoy traveling in their RVs and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to keep enjoying it. I think there will be a glut of RVs on the market at some point when these “new” RVers can go back to vacationing the way they were used to (i.e., flying to a resort, staying in hotels), and decide to sell their shiny new toys. I also suspect many of them who financed their RVs (20-year loans or not) will just let them get repossessed, which will ultimately add to the used RV glut.

fred ford
6 months ago
Reply to  Mary Warner

i totally agree

BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago
Reply to  Mary Warner

One can only hope.

Ron
6 months ago
Reply to  Mary Warner

I also agree, I have been RVing for more than 50 years and this is the first time that I am really concerned. This new administration is going to impact our way of life. If gas gets to approach $4 a gal. I myself will have second thoughts on RV travel. On a fixed income, you can’t help but be concerned. I might have to downsize to a small unit with better fuel milage in order to live my lifestyle.

Paul S Goldberg
6 months ago

The last time we were on the road was November through mid December driving cross country from Rochester NY to Temecula CA. In a month on the road we encountered one campground (23 sites) that was full. Most other parks had plenty of spaces when we called ahead from the road at 2 PM. Admittedly we were not trying to get into major destinations like National or State parks, but we were in destination areas. We seldom stay in those destination parks because they have always required planning a year ahead. We are lucky to plan more than a day ahead. For Yellowstone we stayed at a NF park a mile from the entrance, first come first served etc. We are contemplating our 20th cross country trip in a couple of months. I haven’t even booked my service stop to begin the trip with. I fully expect to be able to find places to stay regardless of the badmouthing of the industry here. they may not be prime campgrounds, but Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome and Passport America offer plenty of options

Scott R. Ellis
6 months ago

ALL RV’s have ALWAYS seen a lot of use for a year or two and then mostly become yard decorations, or drivers of the outskirts-of-town storage-facility economy. That will happen even sooner with many of these newly-sold units, because the people buying them will—unlike most of “us”–have no memory of being able to camp nearly anywhere on a whim, rather than reserving a {bleeped} year in advance. The experience they get today is not going to be of the sort that keeps them on the road. I expect things to get worse (for those of you who use campgrounds) for a year or two, and then to recede at least partly back to “normal.”

Richard Chabrajez
6 months ago

As we full time travel, we have met a lot of people who recently bought “in the moment” with little to no research about the RV they purchased. Many are clueless about the quality issues. While the industry is large, it is still a niche market and the only outcry is from those of us who are in it. With political and racial strife monopolizing the headlines, Joe Public doesn’t care if someone’s’ p.o.s. camper is in the shop for 3 months. And that is the unstated cherry in Mr. Kirby’s statement.

Bob M
6 months ago

Maybe the best way to try and hold RV manufactures and dealers responsible. Would be to post honest reviews on the quality of their RV and the dealers ability to service your RV and correct problems. One person alone can’t do it, but we as a team can.

John K
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

Good luck with that. More and more companies filter comments on their sites because of what you suggest. Yelp and Amazon have been caught faking 5 star ratings so what is one to trust. If you speak out loudly enough about a company they will come after you. Just ask the MyPillow guy.

Gregory Giese
6 months ago

I love these doom and gloom articles. The icing on the cake is the drepressing comments. More young families out here, the better. Do you think the campgrounds will get improved or more built if there are less campers? We full-time. It’s nice to see young families out here. We even talk to them! Do a little more planning and get over it! Good grief.

Bill Coady
6 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Giese

Good comments!

Mel S
6 months ago

I am in total agreement with Gary’s comments. Greed is fueling these RV sales. Units are being pushed out of the factories in record time with no quality control. And as Bob says, the question to new and especially first time RV purchasers should be “how long are they prepared to have something fixed when it breaks”. I too see a glut of RV’s on the market in 2 or 3 years once the “novelty of RV’ing” wears off for the newbies. RV’ing certainly isn’t as much fun as it was when we bought our first RV in 1980.

Marty chambers
6 months ago

Typical greedy short sighted RV industry thinking. Build them fast and as cheap as possible as long as they are pretty and shiny. The rubes will buy them!

What we can do with these RV is not of any concern to them, they are busy counting their money. But this boom will soon go bust.

I predict that by the end of this year the RV demand will start falling. People are going to be upset with the lack of availability spots at RV parks. Prices at RV parks will rise with the demand.

Few of these RVer will want to boondock and will tire over searching for somewhere to stay. And many are going to be mad over constant problems with poorly built RVs and slow dealer response.

So I think that in a year or two there will be a glut of cheap barely used RVs for sale. And in five to ten years the availability of park spots will be back to no reservations necessary, just like it used to be at most places.

Time will tell.

John K
6 months ago
Reply to  Marty chambers

Your prediction will come sooner than later. With oil futures trading at the $70 a barrel level fuel prices will continue to increase past the $3.00 a gallon level new RV owners will have sticker shock at the pumps. Very cyclical, the RV manufacturers are no longer quality companies out to make a better RV. They are all run by holding companies that demand profit at any cost.

Rosy
6 months ago

…continued……On the other side of doom and gloom one finds jobs, a comfortable way to enjoy something, an opportunity. We are retired. We are full time RVers. We like more and better but enjoy living less and smaller. We like to think we have control. We don’t! We don’t like to plan. But we do it anyway! We try to see the rainbow and not focus on the cloud. Is the RV industry at fault? Certainly, for some things. But it’s a changing world! No end to that in sight either! Find a way to be the solution without adding to the problem. Just stay home!

Rosy
6 months ago

More RVs. Bigger RVs that are “just like home.” More vehicles to pull more RVs. More junkyards. More debt. Poor quality rigs. Higher storage costs for inconvenient storage. Crowded campgrounds and quite frankly, reservation systems that are archaic, difficult to use, or nonexistent. Campgrounds that require high reservation fees and have no mercy or understanding of what an emergency cancellation means. Where does it end? When does it end? Will it end? No end in sight! continued……

Bob
6 months ago

Seems the industry has put the cart before the horse by selling units then fixing the huge quality control problem the industry has. As the volume of flawed units soars but the number of bays at all the dealers stays the same, the wait time to repair the many problems new RV owners has and will continue to get longer. Perhaps, a good survey question to new RV owners would be “How long are you willing to wait to get the _____ (fill in any system on the RV here) so you can actually use the rig?” The answer to this question will determine what the used RV market will look like in the future which will impact on future shipments.

Gray
6 months ago

What an incredible opportunity! Whether it is the parking pad in your own driveway, or the pad in the storage yard, the family can gather in the RV and enjoy the total experience of flat-screen faux-scenery projections on the RV windows, while external speakers play the soothing sounds of nature projected against the outside RV walls. No dangerous driving; no costly refueling; and no more the frustration of pursuing impossible-to-find campground reservations. As a bonus, shuttle-service holding tank appointments will be available as a desirable option.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Gray

Even better, you buy your new RV and the dealer gives you a spot in the back of the dealership where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Never even have to tow it home. For a monthly fee they keep you in water, electricity, and clean holding tanks. They could just leave your RV in the same spot it was when you bought it. That way there’s no inconvenience of moving it at all.

Or, just get out and enjoy your RV as if there is nothing going on, like many of us have done all along.

Kts
6 months ago
Reply to  Gray

☺ truth!

Tom
6 months ago

Where are they going to go? RVIA needs to at some point consider “no campgrounds, no RV sales.” They need to add political effort into expansion of RV parks.

Jimbo
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom

governments don’t solve problems. free markets do.

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