The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Mon Jun 12, 2017
On the surface, one would say everything is going great within the RV industry. In fact, to many, that would seem like a laughable understatement.
The industry appears to be doing more than great – every month’s shipment records surpass the previous record-setting month; the economy throughout the majority of the country is strong and stable enough to allow customers to get into RVing and use their discretionary income on fifth wheels, toy haulers and travel trailers.
In Iowa, for example, the towable segment of the state’s RVs are flying off the lots. Randy Bowling at Bowling Motors & RV Sales in Ottumwa, Iowa, says he has seen a marked increase in the sales of toy haulers, in particular.
“That segment (toy haulers) has really risen,” Bowling says. “I think we sold eight all of last year. So far, we’ve already sold 10 of them. I think we just have more people getting into them that have motorcycles, ATVs and quads.”
Additionally, fifth wheels and travel trailers have been on the rise as well. Bowling says the used segment has ballooned as well, especially with the bunkhouse fifth wheel models, which have been particularly strong.
From a national standpoint, towable RVs have risen 9.7 percent so far in 2017 from last year’s numbers at this time. Fifth wheels and travel trailers make up an 8.2 percent and 11.4 percent increase respectively. Those increases are above and beyond what last year’s record setting increases were in towables, as well.
From a demand and sales standpoint, the industry couldn’t be better. But, when one examines the nuts and bolts of the supply operation, the problems begin to emerge.
The biggest challenge facing Bowling and many of the dealers throughout The Hawkeye State and throughout the country is a shortage of technicians who can fix, repair and install anything and everything within a unit.
Bowling Motors & RV Sales has had to expand several times over in its history to keep up with the demand. In just the last couple of years, the dealership added 10 service bays. It is in the process of again expanding, adding additional service bays, some management offices and other areas of the business. But it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to fill the spaces that are being added.
“I think the problem is there just aren’t that many qualified people out there,” Bowling says. “We have to get people with a certain skill set in plumbing, refrigeration, HVAC, heating, woodworking.”
The company has completed a nationwide search for technicians in the past. From that search, Bowling Motors & RV Sales hired two qualified technicians from Florida to make the trip up to Iowa and begin working at the dealership. However, neither technician lasted longer than a few months, Bowling says, and went back to Florida.
Bowling says he thinks the solution lies in a more focused effort on getting technicians trained with a hands-on approach.
“We need technician training throughout the nation. We need more hands-on training facilities and tech schools and 2-year programs to implement them,” Bowling says. “Get these people’s competencies up where they don’t have to come in and shadow someone for a month.”
Then, the problem becomes: Can the RV dealers, repair businesses and others in the industry hold the fort down for two years while hundreds of technicians go through training and complete their degrees in two years? Or is the demand too great that any more waiting time will cause the industry to begin to suffer?
Bowling admits he doesn’t know, but he knows that there won’t be an unemployment line for those technicians once they get out of school.
“After those two years when there’s a gluttony of people, they will have guaranteed job placement,” Bowling says. “They won’t be searching for a job. Every dealer I talk to is screaming for technicians – and I talk to a lot of dealers.”