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Graph recreational vehicle production trends over the past 35 years and a pattern quickly emerges.

The Elkhart Truth reported that every eight to 11 years, wholesale shipments to dealers have sunk to a low point. It happened in 1980, 1990, 2001 and 2009, coinciding with cyclical downturns in the national economy, according to shipment statistics compiled by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), a Reston, Va.-based trade group.

If the pattern holds, the next valley in that graph could come as early as 2017. Industry and business leaders say they can’t predict the future, but few argue happy days are here to stay.

“I would say the law of averages says there will be a downturn,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “People are going to stop buying. I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about it. No one needs an RV. It’s not like food or health insurance.”

Kyle Hannon, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“I think the RV companies are trying to stabilize a little more but the bottom line is yes, there’s a cyclical nature to this,” Hannon said. “We have a high-ticket, nonessential item, so we’re susceptible to what happens.”

But Coon noted he doesn’t think a slowdown will come anytime soon, barring some unforeseen global event, as he told RV industry members recently in a speech delivered at the RV National Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

The stock market is healthy. Home prices are rebounding. Oil prices are low. Unemployment is low. Baby Boomers continue to buy RVs in big numbers, while RVs also are appealing more to families with children.

This economic recovery seems to have taken longer than usual, which makes Coon think it also will last longer.

“I think we’re still on the cusp of good economic times,” he said. “I think there are more good times in front of us before we need another recovery.”

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