RVIA’s Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan is well aware of the various demographic patterns and customer demands that have driven the RV industry in the 27 years he has been with the association.
He is responsible for overseeing production of several industry research programs, gathering and reporting shipments information and keeping track of fluctuating industry trends.
The following is a Q&A with Bryan conducted by RVIA and regarding some of his thoughts on how demographic patterns are changing and what they will mean to the future of the industry.
Q. What are the reasons for the sharp gains in RV wholesale shipments recently?
A. “I believe we have benefited from three major influences – consumer demographics, economic prosperity and product innovation. “There is no doubt that the Baby Boom generation has embraced the RV lifestyle and their impact on our markets has been the driving force behind much of our success over the past dozen years.
“Boomers will continue to dominate their cohorts for another 10 to 15 years at least. They come with a desire to travel with friends and family and demand the flexibility and security our products offer them.
“But all of this would have been lost were it not for a very favorable economic climate that has allowed for the purchase and use of our vehicles. Low interest rates, low inflation and ample fuel supplies have afforded consumers the ability to ‘go where they want, when they want in an RV of their choice.”
Q. What about product innovation? How has that changed the face of vehicle demand?
A. “One of the most alluring features of our industry is its ability to design, build and deliver the product features consumers want most at a price they are willing to spend. New accessories are incorporated into new floor plans with amazing speed and frequency. “Whether a diesel chassis or a slideout room, a flat screen TV or GPS travel map, increasingly consumers have demanded more from our manufacturers and they are getting it.”
Q. Shipments are expected to exceed 350,000 units this year. Will they continue to go up?
A. “Naturally, no one can predict continuously improving sales. Our industry, just like other consumer discretionary sales items, will fluctuate along with the general economy, but we should outperform most consumer discretionary purchases simply because of our unique position in the marketplace.
“The trend is definitely positive and long-term sales will continue to improve as other causal factors remain positive. RVs fill an important niche in consumer travel options. The flexibility, economy, and personal security our vehicles offer consumers is unmatched and this is what makes our vehicles a prime choice for many consumers today.
“Because of its importance, RVIA has continually strived to develop new and enhanced marketing tools that are sensitive to these changes in consumer demand and to report those changes to its members.”
Q. It’s widely held that most RV owners enter the lifestyle through the purchase of a previously owned RV. Is this still true?
A. “Most current owners do, and that placed a tremendous pressure on the secondary market to provide an ample stock of previously owned vehicles. However, that too has been changing over time. Many new entrants are purchasing a new vehicle first. How many and how much will that change? This is another reason to conduct regular market research in order to better understand these shifts in consumer demand. RVIA is currently working to develop better data on the vehicle inventory and to understand the average age of our current vehicle stock.”
Q. Who will be tomorrow’s RV owners?
A. “Just as today, we’ll continue to attract a wide array of consumers, from a wide cross section of America. That’s why it’s important for us to continue to study and survey our general consumer population.
“In the next year and a half, RVIA and the Go RVing Coalition will be funding studies that will illuminate these changing demand patterns. From earlier research we know changes in consumer purchase patterns need to be identified if we are to race ahead of consumer demand and achieve the greatest potential the next decade has in store.”