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RV leaders in an industry panel last month agreed with the University of Michigan’s Director of Consumer Surveys Richard Curtin’s forecast of a recovery for the RV industry in mid-2009.
According to an article in RV Executive Today, election year politics, the turmoil in the financial markets and housing issues are conspiring to beat down consumer confidence. “After the elections, we should see a gradual return to stability,” said Bank of the West’s Mark Beecher.
In his fall 2008 forecast, Curtin said he expects the RV market to begin to improve in mid-2009.
Beecher joined the American Recreation Coalition’s Derrick Crandall, Thor’s Dicky Riegel, and Statistical Survey’s Tom Walworth in a wide-ranging discussion that focused on the challenges and opportunities ahead for the RV industry during a session at the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo on Sept. 25 in Las Vegas.
The panel consensus was that there will be substantial pent up demand for all types of RV products when consumer confidence rebounds. “We view consumer confidence as the real overall barometer,” Riegel said.
Much of the panel discussion centered on the availability of retail and wholesale financing. Riegel said that consumers, who just a few months ago had no problems getting financing, are now struggling to obtain RV loans, which is further depressing the market.
Beecher explained that a “hyper-competitive” RV lending market in the early and mid-2000s led to an environment where credit worthiness and down payments took a back seat to gaining market share.
“We are seeing a return to more normalized lending practices,” Beecher said. “The remaining lenders could be characterized as the more conservative lenders.
Top 10 Positive Trends for RVs
Looking toward the future, Crandall provided his “Top 10” reasons why the outlook is good for the RV industry. These are:
No. 10: Positive economic news in some regions of the country — where the energy industry and agricultural industries are doing very well.
No. 9: Economic challenges will dampen the lure of shopping malls — now a tough competitor for Americans’ leisure time, especially youth who like the assured weather, and the combo of food, friends and fun.
No. 8: New technology is making it easier to connect people with the recreation experiences they want.
No. 7: We are finding new lures for time in the outdoors, including scenic byways, already stretching 40,000 miles and very popular, and scenic waterways — a new initiative that will premier in early 2010 through a new National Geographic guide.
No. 6: A new and unified federal agency outreach to get kids outdoors, launched on October 14 with PSAs featuring the Jonas Brothers, and PSAs that will be shown in movie theaters.
No. 5: Support from both presidential candidates for an expansion of national service, especially for youth, in a way that could mean a new CCC-like effort.
No. 4: A continuing love of the outdoors by baby-boomers — they still want to go to parks and forests and fish and hike.
No. 3; Widespread public concerns about obesity, especially among youth, and the long term health implications, including shorter lives.
No. 2: A base of millions of current RV enthusiasts who are cheerleaders for the RV lifestyle and the best recruiters of new RVers.
No. 1: The Great Outdoors — covering one-third of the U.S., and including 391 national park units, attracting some 2 billion visits annually. And the 2016 centennial for the National Park Service will prompt substantial new investments, and has already added 3,000 new visitor services seasonal employees.