RV manufacturers have made up more ground since being sideswiped by the Great Recession, and production of the rolling homes is expected to return next year to levels seen before the economic downturn hit.

The Associated Press reported that overall recreational vehicle shipments from manufacturers to dealers a key measure of consumer demand are expected to increase by nearly 4% to 361,400 units in 2015, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association said Tuesday. Shipments totaled 353,400 units in 2007, the last year before sales tanked along with the economy.

Shipments to dealers’ lots in 2014 are forecast at 348,000 units, up 8.4% from the prior year, the group said. The momentum carried into the last half of this year with the strongest third-quarter shipments since 2007, it said. October sales reached a nearly 40-year high mark for the month.

“We are absolutely rolling,” RVIA President Richard Coon said at the start of an industry trade show in Louisville.

Industry leaders point to pent-up consumer demand, low interest rates, available credit and an improved economy for putting RV makers and dealers who survived the hard times back on the road to sustained growth. Falling fuel prices are another boost, they said.

This year’s projected growth would be the fifth straight yearly gain in RV shipments, following the low point in 2009 when sales totaled 165,700 units.

Next year’s forecast would be the industry’s best performance since wholesale shipments totaled 384,400 RVs in 2005 and 390,500 in 2006. Those figures were inflated by government purchases of travel trailers to help house victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s hard not to call it boom times,” said Airstream Inc. President Bob Wheeler. “There seems to be a lot of dealer confidence and consumer confidence and a lot of forward momentum. … When you look at the numbers, we’re really having a great run.”

The Ohio-based subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc.  is now producing more of its silver Airstream travel trailers than it did before the recession, Wheeler said. Airstream’s workforce of about 470 has grown by about 200 employees in the past two years to keep up with demand, he said.

John D. McCluskey said sales are up 50% since 2009 at his RV dealership in Florida. Sales surged by more than 20 percent in the past year, he said. He has hired more sales and service staff to keep up with growing customer demand.

“It’s a lot more fun to be in the RV business these days,” he said.

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