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Professor Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan raised some eyebrows in the RV manufacturing sector last week when he projected the RV industry would dip slightly next year, according to a report in the Elkhart Truth.
Curtin, economic consultant to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), forecast a 9 percent decline in shipments in 2005. He is forecasting that 2004 shipments will total 361,200, up 12.6 percent over the 320,800 units delivered to dealers in 2003, then retreat to 332,700 units in ’05.
“I think we would look at both of those as being somewhat conservative, especially as it pertains to Jayco, but also the industry as a whole,” said Sid Johnson, director of marketing at Jayco Inc. in Middlebury, Ind. “I think Dr. Curtin is basing those forecasts on an anticipated run-up of interest rates, as the Fed deals with emerging inflation.”
Jayco does not expect a decline in ’05. “It’s shaping up to be a record year this year and again next year,” Johnson predicted.
He bases his conclusion on strong dealer acceptance to Jayco’s ’05 models introduced this summer and a strong retail response at the Harrisburg, Pa., show earlier this month. Jayco dealers reported having the best Harrisburg show ever, Johnson said.
Elvie Frey Sr. of Sunnybrook RV Inc. in Middlebury agrees with Johnson’s assessment.
“I know it’s hard to predict percentagewise, but for us here, we’re gearing for the other way, to have a 10 to 15 percent increase next year,” he said, noting that’s on top of a 20 percent increase this year over 2003. “We’re having the best year we’ve ever had.”
Curtin’s ’05 forecast still would represent the second-best year for the industry since 1978.
Mac Bryan, vice president of administration at RVIA, noted: “Given the current state of the industry, that (being conservative) is probably the better position to take. Two years ago, if we said 330,000 units would be shipped in 2005, people would be doing back flips.”
B.J. Thompson, a marketing consultant to the RVIA and a member of the GO RVing Coalition, said, “Second-best year in our history is still pretty doggone good, and it might be better than that.”
Thompson points to new data from focus-group interviews conducted in recent months among the RV industry’s core group: families with two adults in the 30 to 49 age group with at least one child under the age of 18 living at home. In that group, 23 percent said they were likely to buy an RV, compared with 20 percent in 2003.
Another finding from the focus group research is “the shifting definition of the word ‘vacation’ in society,” Thompson said.
“We seem to have less and less free time. It isn’t about a long, annual trip as much as it was. Now, it includes more minibreaks, weekend getaways, as many as people can fit into their schedule,” he said, citing the results of studies in Dallas, San Diego and Columbus, Ohio.
“This is one reason why RVing is fitting into more people’s lifestyles. It’s packed, ready to go and fits into the desire of families: They want their freedom. We have been trying to communicate the benefits of RVing for a long time: flexibility and freedom and bonding with family. RVing is a world apart from your every day.”