This story originally appeared in RV Executive Today’s January 2020 issue.
A flurry of media coverage about the RV business closed out 2019 as analysts speculated about what 2020 has in store for the industry. New shipment forecasts grabbed headlines, and several public companies released their quarterly numbers last month.
RVIA projects RV shipments to total 402,100 units when the books are closed on 2019, down 16.9 percent from the 2018 total of 483,700. The manufacturers association has begun adding a “probability” figure to its shipment forecasts, which is a wise move, and the double-digit percentage declines seen throughout 2019 are expected to ease.
Total RV shipments are expected to dip 3.9 percent to 386,400 this year, in the most likely scenario (60 percent probability). A more aggressive outlook (15 percent probability) shows a slight rise in 2020 shipments to 404,600 units. The low end of the range, based on the most conservative forecast (25 percent probability), sets the annual total at 359,600.
Specific RV manufacturers are publicly optimistic about the coming year, which is consistent with the latest Baird dealer survey, conducted in partnership with RVDA. As RVDA’s Jeff Kurowski reported in RV Executive Today last month, the survey shows dealer sentiment on the upswing as dealers get their inventories in shape. Survey respondents are generally expecting a good 2020… and the investment in new and revamped sales and service facilities across the country shows dealers are confident in the industry’s long-term prospects.
Thor Industries announced in December that net sales for its first quarter increased 22.9 percent to $2.16 billion.
“Dealer optimism is strong in both the North American and European markets, with excellent feedback from our September open house in Elkhart,” Thor’s Bob Martin said. “We look forward to continuing that momentum as the spring RV show season starts in North America in January.”
Winnebago also reported first quarter revenues of $588.5 million, an increase of 19.2 percent compared to $493.6 million for the same period a year ago.
“We continue to monitor the health of the RV and marine channels and the confidence of consumers,” Winnebago’s Mike Happe said in the earnings release.
Citing another reason for optimism, a December Wall Street Journal story pointed to changes in the U.S. passenger car fleet. Pickups and sport-utility vehicles now dominate sales, and the market share for lighter, more compact RVs has increased.
“You have half the investment for a towable RV already sitting in your driveway,” Happe told the Journal.
As the retail show season kicks off this month, the recession talk of late summer 2019 has faded. Unless election jitters or something unforeseen rattles the economy, 2020 should be another strong year for dealers and the industry.
Thanks for your support, and all the best in 2020!