Richard Curtin

RV shipments will be down slightly in 2019, according to a new forecast prepared by longtime RV industry analyst Richard Curtin, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center.

In his latest quarterly RV RoadSigns newsletter, Curtin projects total RV shipments in 2019 to range between 439,800 and 466,000 units with the most likely total to be 453,200 units, representing an annual decline of 5.4%. RV shipments are expected to total 479,000 in 2018, which is a decline of 5.1% from the peak of 504,600 set in 2017 — one that capped eight successive years of growth.

While initial forecasts for 2018 were projected higher, actual RV shipments fell in the third quarter of 2018 to 107,130, down 11.9% from last year’s third quarter following a much smaller annual decline of 0.8% in the second quarter. Despite this decline, the shipment total was still higher than any other third quarter on record since 1972. The recent decline was concentrated among conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers as well as Class A and C motorhomes. The smallest RV segments, Class B motorhomes and slide-in truck campers, recorded small year-to-year gains.

“Income, employment, and household wealth will continue to exert a positive force on RV sales, though these factors are expected to be slightly less favorable in the year ahead,” said Curtin.

Consumer confidence soared to an 18-year high in October according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index and according to data from Statistical Surveys Inc. retail sales remain strong.

“The mild downturn in shipments reflects the impact of higher manufacturing costs for RV producers, and RV dealers adjusting their inventories due to changes in inventory carrying costs,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association. “All relevant economic factors have been favorable for so long that slippage at some point was inevitable. The good news is that RV manufacturers are already responding in ways that will set them up for future success, meeting a new generation of RVers’ demand for distinctive features and options.”

Hugelmeyer explained that RV manufacturers are also innovating to increase worker productivity and added that favorable population trends, and a growing desire across demographics to be outdoors, will continue to manifest themselves over the next several years.

In addition, industry research shows that newer and younger RV owners and shoppers demonstrate higher and more robust shopping intentions than older RVers. Most current owners say they will probably purchase another RV sometime in the future.