RV shipments are expected to total 273,600 units in 2012, a gain of 8.4% over 2011’s total of 252,300 units and the highest level since 2007, according to the fall quarterly forecast of wholesale RV deliveries to dealers prepared for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) by Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan Consumer Survey Research Center.

Curtin expects RV shipments to edge up in 2013 to 275,000 units, with conventional travel trailers again posting most of the gains.

Indeed, the story of the industry’s gradual resurgence from the global recession is pretty consistent in terms of categorical strengths, with travel trailers posting particularly good numbers in a second quarter that grew 5.7% overall – the best performance, again, in nearly five years and the fifth best quarter ever.

Despite the challenging economy, notes Curtin, the strong appeal of these towable RV’s has powered the revival.

“The dominance of conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers has transformed the industry by acquiring shares from motorhomes and folding campers,” writes Curtin. “For every motorhome shipped, 9.4 travel trailers are expected to be shipped in 2012, nearly double the 4.8 recorded in the last decade, and well above the 2.2 to 1 ratio in the 1990s and the 1.3 to 1 in the 1980s. Folding camping trailers now account for 1 of every 25 RV shipments, down from 1-in-5 in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Curtin, meanwhile, points out in RVIA’s quarterly Roadsigns newsletter what it will take in his view for the weaker product categories to regain more relative strength.

“While the RV segments that are now the weakest will always retain devoted buyers, to regain the old segment shares requires new innovative products that provide consumers with more value for the dollar,” maintains Curtin, reiterating a theme he focused on back at RVIA Committee Week in June. “Winning back customers is never easy. In the absence of robust growth in consumer’s ability to buy, new products must energize their willingness to buy.”