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It occurred with hardly anyone noticing, but the U.S. retail market for RVs in 2003 was the best it had been in 25 years, according to Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent market research firm.
In fact, retail sales during the first 11 months of 2003 for both the motorhome and towable RV categories tracked by Statistical Surveys exceeded 2002, the best year in the last 25, Walworth said.
During the first 11 months of 2003, a total of 278,035 Class A and Class C motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, folding campers and park models were sold by dealers in the 48 states from which Statistical Surveys was able to gather data.
In comparison, 274,485 units of the same types of motorhomes and towables were sold by dealers in the same 48 states for all of 2002.
The Statistical Surveys data includes all states except New Hampshire and Hawaii.
In terms of Class A and Class C motorhomes, 53,672 units were sold during the first 11 months of 2003 compared with 53,569 for all of 2002.
A total of 224,363 of travel trailers, fifth-wheels, folding campers and park models were sold during the first 11 months of 2003 versus 220,916 for all of 2002.
An explanation for why the strong market went virtually unnoticed is its stability, Walworth said.
“There’s been no sharp spikes (up or down), which is very healthy for the industry,” he said.
Although 310,000 to 315,000 units were sold in certain years during the early 1970s, it would be misleading to compare that era with the present day because the industry was young during the early 1970s, so the used-unit market was very small, Walworth said.
Now, used unit sales account for two-thirds to three-quarters of all RVs that are sold, with most used RVs being sold among individuals.
After the U.S. retail market shrunk to less than 200,000 units a year in the 1980s, it finally surpassed that mark in 1994 “and never looked back,” Walworth said.