The chief spokesperson for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association says dealing with supply chain challenges is like playing the arcade game “whack a mole.” Monika Geraci says when RV makers and suppliers respond to one challenge, another pops up. But the latest data, showing record production levels of travel trailers and motorhomes, seems to indicate RV makers are winning the game.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Geraci said the industry is hopeful it is past the worst of the supply chain nightmare.
“There wasn’t a single item that was the big, big issue,” said Geraci. “But it’s really impressive what the manufacturers and suppliers were able to do and build that record 600,000 units [last year] during these times of supply chain constraints.”
Click here to listen to a part of the conversation Geraci had with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills.
To begin 2022, nearly 172,000 units were shipped to dealer’s lots during the first quarter, a nearly 16% increase over the same period last year. For the month of March, manufacturers shipped more than 64,000 units, an increase of nearly 19% over the approximate 54,000 units in March 2021.
The RVIA, which is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, says both time periods set new highs for shipments. Estimates for the full year reveal continuing strength in an industry key to Indiana’s economy.
“Our latest forecast shows that we’re going to be just under 600,000 RVs for 2022, which is a tick below where we were in 2021,” said Geraci.
While the industry witnessed double-digit growth for the early part of the year, as dealers re-stocked their lots, the sector expects it to level-off the remainder of this year.
“But to put that in context, our previous high in 2017 was just over 500,000. So more running it at 600,000. The RV industry is in great shape. We’re just not expecting double digit growth like we’ve seen over the past year,” Geraci explained.
Geraci says a vast majority of units are travel trailers, commanding 90% of the wholesale orders. The balance is motorhomes.
She says a significant part of the appeal is the variety of shapes, sizes and costs that are available for every lifestyle and age group.
If you think RVs are just for retirees, think again.
“For first time RV buyers in 2021, the median age was 33. You’re looking at a lot younger buyers,” said Geraci. “What we’ve really seen is a change in people’s attitudes and priorities over the past two years. People have rediscovered the great outdoors. Both mental and physical health benefits of getting outdoors.”
The RVIA says Indiana factories account for 86% of U.S. RV units. Several thousand people work at dozens of RV manufacturing and supply factories in and around Elkhart County.