A 75% drop in RV shipments in December contributed to a year in 2008 that most in the RV industry would like to forget.
“The last quarter of ’08 was the worst quarter we’ve had in history,” said Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, vice president of administration for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
RV manufacturers ended 2008 with a sharp 32.9% decline in annual shipments compared to 2007, augmented by December’s precipitous 75% drop, according to RVIA’s annual year-end report.
Overall for the year, wholesale deliveries fell to 237,000 in 2008 compared to 353,400 the year previous. For December, shipments totaled 5,600 units measured against 22,400 in 2008.
“We really got through the first quarter in pretty good shape, although we were anticipating declines for the year,” Bryan said. “I don’t think that anyone could have anticipated what happened. And it really has little to do with the RV industry. It’s the entire economy. The financial uncertainly is causing people to not buy anything. People are reluctant even to buy a loaf of bread.”
With specific regard to the RV industry, the primary problem appears to be the gridlocked credit system. Several major lenders, including Key Bank, GE Financial and Textron, either stopped or severely curtailed wholesale and retail financing in 2008.
“As dismal as shipments were in the last quarter, retail sales continued at a faster pace,” Bryan said. “The primary demand is still out there.”
Bryan said that most industry executives who attended RVIA’s January strategic planning session in Tampa, Fla., believed that the RV industry will begin to recover within the next few months.
“There was a general consensus that the market will improve in the last half of 2009 and that 2010 will be a growth year,” Bryan said. “But we are looking at the future through cloudy glasses. It’s frustrating because it’s difficult to see down the road.”