RV Business Names 'the Towable RV ' 2006 Newsmaker of the Year
"Plenty of forethought went into our choice of 'The Year of the Towable' as the biggest news story of the year and our designation of that theme as the 2006 Newsmaker of the Year," said Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of RV Business. "It was definitely No. 1."
"The U.S. recreational vehicle industry could be experiencing a sea of change as an upsurge in demand for towable recreational vehicles began in mid- 2005," said Goldenberg. "It grew to become a dominant industry trend in 2006 during a time when rising interest rates and fuel-price fluctuations chilled motorhome sales and Gulf Coast hurricane trade finally began to tail off."
As a result of these and related factors, from all appearances, there's a sense of austerity in the marketplace right now that has played into the shift from motorized to towable RV products.
So strong were trailer sales during 2006 that towables -- travel trailers, fifth-wheels, hybrids and folding camping trailers -- represented nearly nine out of every 10 units shipped through much of the year.
On the wholesale side of the coin, in fact, more RVs were shipped by manufacturers to dealers in the second quarter -- a total of 114,200 units -- than in any prior quarter during the past 25 years, exceeding the first quarter's record by 3%, thanks in large part to towable RV demand.
Based on the "unprecedented number" of travel trailers shipped in the first and second quarters, University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin, forecaster for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), was looking for a fairly strong finish to 2006, with total wholesale deliveries anticipated to be pretty close to 2005's 384,100 units.
Stat Survey Inc.'s Tom Walworth, in his recent presentation to the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) in Las Vegas, traced how towable sales during this period have soared at the same time that motorhome sales fell. During this almost two-year period, he pointed out, interest rates rose appreciably. This and lower consumer confidence were bigger factors than the rising price of fuel, Walworth posits, even though gasoline costs spiked over $3 a gallon in most of the country -- and even higher in Canada -- for a year or more.
Demographics also favor the towable. "When you talk about our industry," said Sid Johnson, director of marketing at Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc., "a common misconception is the belief that our customer base is populated by older people whose children are gone and they are either retiring or already retired. That really is not true. The huge influx of buyers we have seen coming into the marketplace the last five years are primarily people in their 30s and 40s who have children at home and want to spend time with their families. The towable product is perfect for that. The average age of our travel trailer owner is 41.8 years (at time of purchase) and almost all of them, more than 90%, have children at home."
Another factor fueling towable sales is the Go RVing Coalition's ongoing marketing campaign, which delivered a younger demographic, according to Doug Gaeddert, an RVIA board member and general manager for several Forest River Inc. towable brands. "The demographic generated a larger number of families that were more prone to buy a towable than a motorhome," he said.
An in-depth "2006 Newsmaker of the Year" article appears in the December issue of RV Business.