If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning to hit the road for a summer trip, be prepared: RVs are ruling the road.
The Atlantic City Lab reported that Airstream Inc. — manufacturer of those signature egg-shaped aluminum trailers since 1931 — celebrated a record year in 2014, with sales up 26% over 2013 numbers. It’s an improbable-sounding accomplishment, given that the doors of at least one dealership are posted with a sign that reads, “Yes, we’re still making them.”
The retro-glam RVs, which run from $42,000 to $151,000, have found new life among an expanded clientele, mainly baby boomers. And smaller, cheaper, mini-trailers, like 1930s-style “teardrop” designs, have also resurfaced as appealing options for road-trippers of a certain sensibility.
“Small is the new big,” writes Bob Wheeler, president and CEO of Airstream, Inc. in an e-mail. “The small-house movement, asset-light lifestyles, and a move away from conspicuous consumption are all in this same basket. Airstream falls in line with much of this thinking: a small, self-contained dwelling that is mobile and fully functional.”
But it’s not just the sleek and liberatory RV models that are doing well. The whole industry has recently found a new stride. Behemoth motorhomes and travel trailers — 12, 28, 35 feet long — are hitting highways in the strongest numbers in years. Some 32,045 RVs were shipped from manufacturers to dealerships in February of this year. Compare that to 29,700 in February 2007 and 10,300 in February 2009 when the industry hit rock bottom. The industry projects it will hit its top sales in nearly a decade this year.
“There was a lot of pent-up demand during the recession years, a lot of desire to buy an RV,” said Richard Coon, president of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. “Now that people are feeling like they’re not going to lose their jobs, and they’re coming back to buy.”
Plummeting gas prices don’t hurt, either, and it’s worth considering that Baby Boomers — folks between 51 and 69— are retiring in droves. At the same time, however, RV buyers are actually getting a little younger; According to the most recent consumer demographic study, in 2011, the average age of an RV buyer was 48 years old. The fastest-growing age bracket was 35-54. (Although the report does not touch on race or gender, participation in outdoor activities in general is overwhelmingly white and leans more male than female.)
For the full story click here.