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From the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association:

RV Shipments Surging in 2017 to Highest Level Ever Continued Growth Expected for 2018, a Record 9th Straight Year

The recreation vehicle (RV) industry’s shipments will reach 472,200 units in 2017, the highest annual total since the data has been collected, and a 9.6% increase from the number shipped last calendar year, announced Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

According to a new forecast presented today by Hugelmeyer at RVIA’s Committee Week luncheon, RV shipments are expected to reach even greater heights in 2018, with wholesale production projected at 487,200 units.

Shipments totaled 120,866 in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 11.7% from 2016. This represented the highest shipment rate of any quarter since 1981, with the monthly totals rising throughout the quarter for all types of RVs. The quarterly gains were widespread, with type B and C motorhomes up by more than 30% from the previous year, and conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers up by 10%. Shipments of folding camping trailers and truck campers fell 10% from 2016.

“Our industry is in an era of unprecedented growth,” said Hugelmeyer. “We are poised to record an eighth consecutive year of shipment gains, mainly due to product innovations that appeal to retiring baby-boomers as well as younger buyers. The recession is in the rearview mirror. This is a new era for the RV industry.”

Obviously I am encouraged to see so much growth in the RV industry.

But is it a good thing?

RV Daily Report has started an OpEd series by Greg Gerber titled the RV Industry Death Spiral:

I have come to realize the RV industry is in a death spiral.

The current business model is simply unsustainable and the professionals working in the industry either:

  • Know what’s going on, are in denial, and remain hopeful the problems will simply fix themselves.
  • Don’t want to know what’s going on and keep their heads firmly planted in the sand ignoring many very obvious signs.
  • Are aware of the problem, know it won’t end well, but are simply choosing to ride the wave as long as they can.

Greg Gerber, having covered the industry since 2000, makes the following point about the death spiral:

Consumers are frustrated beyond words over product quality and customer service. Every single day I hear about another issue involving a new or experienced RVer. RV owners are seething over the finger-pointing response they receive when attempting to get problems addressed.

Well, our experience with Newmar has been great. Excellent customer service from the company and excellent customer service from our dealer. We are not frustrated beyond words over product quality and customer service. That said, there is obviously a gap in terms of the level of quality of a high-end BMW at $100,000 against a Newmar Dutch Star at nearly $500,000 (Canadian) against say a Prevost coach at nearly $3 million (Canadian). Overall, we are fine with the level of quality against the cost. We love our coach and we expect to get many years of enjoyment from operating our coach.

Perhaps a better context is the expectation a consumer brings into the discussion. The inevitable tradeoff between cost and quality. A cheaper RV is going to trade cost against quality. There really isn’t much choice.

Greg does make an excellent observation about the industry:

… two firms control about 72 percent of the entire RV market. With Thor’s acquisition of Jayco last Friday, that number is now up to 83 percent.

Concentration of the manufacturing to a limited number of firms is rarely good for consumers. Inevitably, an oligopoly or a de facto monopoly will seek to maximize profits usually at the expense of the consumer. Innovation, product quality, customer service all become secondary considerations when there is such a lack of competition.

I hope Newmar continues to remain a viable, independent company.