Recreational vehicles, the business of motorhomes and camping trailers, can be an interesting investing niche, investment-advice organization The Motley Fool reported. It’s an old-school industry that has managed to stay relevant. Lately, times have been very good.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), U.S. RV manufacturers shipped 356,735 vehicles in 2014.
That was an eight-year high, up 11.1% from 2013 levels. RV sales were up another 7.9% in the first quarter of 2015, and the RVIA thinks that the industry’s sales could hit a new record in 2016.
So, where are the investment opportunities? Many of the key players are privately owned, or part of bigger conglomerates. But there’s one company that stands out as well managed, with great brands — and its stock might even be a good buy right now.
After a big wave of consolidation, a big name left standing
Not all that long ago, the RV industry didn’t really have a dominant player. But as in many other industries, a wave of consolidation changed that — leaving just a few big names behind many of the industry’s most famous brands.
Indiana-based Thor Industries Inc. is the biggest of the big. When added together, Thor’s portfolio of brands and subsidiaries makes it the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.
Thor’s jewel is Airstream, the famous maker of luxury RVs that traces its roots back to the 1930s. Today, Airstream makes some motor homes, but it’s best known for its iconic shiny-aluminum “camping” trailers, which feature classic names like “International Serenity” and “Land Yacht.”
Thor’s portfolio includes its namesake Thor Motor Coach brand, a motorhome leader with offerings all the way up to the top end of the market. The company also owns a slew of RV trailer brands, including Keystone, Dutchmen, Crossroads, and Heartland, along with the Bison Coach brand of premium horse trailers.
But why invest? Because it’s a well-run company in a profitable niche, plain and simple.
“Disciplined, profitable growth” and a solid balance sheet
Thor CEO Bob Martin and other senior managers like to point out that the company hasn’t posted an annual loss since 1980 — a 34-year run that includes the severe 2008-2009 recession.
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