A year ago, Chaz McAfee was happy to stock lots of large motorhomes at his company’s lot in Jackson, Ga., according to a report in the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal.
But last week at the 44th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville he was looking at lightweight trailers.
“Towables are a growing market. They’re getting so affordable that a lot of people who never used to consider RVs are getting into them,” McAfee said.
And sales increases in the less-expensive lightweight market are making up for declining demand for the big motor coaches at the Sagon RV Supercenter where he works.
Since 2004, industrywide sales of motor coaches have endured a double-digit decline while overall RV sales have increased. McAfee and other dealers said lightweight towables represent the industry’s fastest-growing segment.
Tim Garner, marketing director for Airstream Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, credited the rise of lightweight trailers to changes in the consumer vehicle marketplace.
Over the past several years, sales of trucks and SUVs have fallen dramatically in favor of cars and crossovers – SUV-like vehicles built on car frames instead of truck chassis.
“The crossover vehicles don’t have as much tow capacity as big pickups,” Garner said, so drivers are looking for trailers that their vehicles can pull.
To serve that market, Airstream created the Base Camp, a two-person trailer designed for people with active lifestyles. The RV is designed to carry mountain bikes, off-road vehicles, kayaks and other outdoor toys. Equipped with a tent extension, it can sleep five adults. The list price is about $20,000.
Garner said the target age range for the trailer is 25-40, “but with the Baby Boomers, who knows? The 50-year-olds are acting like the 30-year-olds.”
Justin Jinsky, a dealer at Rapids RV in Grand Rapids, Mich., said RV builders have been quick to offer more choices in the lightweight trailer market.
“There are a lot more options and features in the lightweight market these days, a lot more floorplan choices,” he said.