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It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to most RV industry insiders that – despite the unprecedented disruptions of an ongoing global pandemic – roughly 90% of the 172 respondents to December’s “2022 RVBusiness/Wells Fargo All-Industry Survey” gained ground in terms of revenues in 2021.

In fact, 47.6% of those surveyed by RVBusiness, a sister publication to WOODALLSCM.com, posted growth in 2021 of more than 20%, while 27% were up 10% to 20% and 15.9% reported gains of 0% to 10% during a year that ultimately broke all-time shipment records.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Sherm Goldenberg, publisher of RVBusiness magazine, which again partnered with floorplan lender Wells Fargo Distribution Finance in an effort to take the pulse of the North American RV arena on the brink of the 2022 model year. “The unbelievable circumstances with which the whole industry has been dealing – from an encouraging wave of new buyers to frustrating supply chain and labor issues – continued throughout the year.

“And RV manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and dealers seem to have adapted extraordinarily well to these unpredictable times,” he added, “although you can bet that none of us are going to quickly forget this whole episode after things presumably return to something more like ‘normal” in the next few months or beyond.”

Looking ahead, a majority of the survey respondents tend to see 2022 generating more moderate returns than 2021, with 25.3% predicting growth of 10% to 20%, 35.3% anticipating gains of 0% to 10% and 17.1% anticipating a flat year over year.

Looking at inventory levels, Wells Fargo Commercial Leader Chad Lyon apparently sees a soft landing in the works. “The industry continues to find itself with unprecedented inventory levels as strong consumer demand, combined with supply chain challenges, impacts product allocation,” said Lyon. “The good news is, as our survey results indicate, there is a return of seasonality to the sales cycle with a small build-in towable inventory. Though chip shortages remain an obstacle for motorized production, it’s expected to improve in the second half of the year. “

The following are additional results of the survey, along with select comments that were submitted by survey participants (The complete survey results will be published in the January/February issue of RVBusiness).

• “In addition to the question asking to pick three factors, the fed’s hinting of moving Interest rates up next year will also impact the industry as a whole. The supply chain & inflation is the worst thing arguably driven by reckless legislative policies at the federal level and some States’ willingness of going along. RVs are not a necessity so when the value of someone’s income/wealth is reduced greatly by inflation the affordability of discretionary goods like an RV is further out of the reach for a lot more consumers than in normal times. ”

• “Get off the EV kick, bring back fossil, do more research and get the other stuff right. … first. And why are we going to give people $4,500, if they bought an EV from a union!”

• “The RV Industry needs to improve quality by not accepting ‘make it fast any way you can’ and improve mentor training. EV’s are coming. Let’s begin with smaller and efficient RVs. This is what the newest consumers want. There are companies that have got their act together on quality and many are truly engineering a well-thought-out smaller RV that is efficient. The old standby thinking will need to change if the market is really going to advance forward to Carbon neutral thinking. Lighter better quality materials, eliminate fuel-powered generators in favor of other options. Change is inevitable, let’s see some truly innovative thinking, designs and products. ”

• “If dealers don’t stop selling at MSRP, we’ll be stuck with a lot of one-time customers and lose them and the repeat purchases they bring to the long-term strategy of our industry.”

• “Long-term financing combined with low-interest rates have pushed our entire industry to amazing growth. That being said, with the price hikes on all RV inventory, the spike in general living expenses, and the coming rise in interest rates, at some point purchasing an RV will become unaffordable to many families. ”

• “So many variables right now, it’s tough to forecast. Impact of inflation, “amateur hour” in D.C., emerging variants, upcoming mid-terms, national energy policies, potential interest rate hikes, etc… Our industry will do fine regardless, but how well we do will have everything to do with the above factors. We’ll also need to be disciplined as an industry in building to demand, not to supply. Short-term demand will be impacted by-product pricing, fuel costs, misc. “unknowns”… and we need to learn from past lessons as to overbuilding. Inventory will probably be at a “new normal” by April or May at the latest. Supply will come down to meet demand over the next few months, as opposed to supply rising to meet demand. Material in the supply chain will be overpriced, and lag commodity reductions due to the long lead times, prevalent shipping/ transportation issues, etc… and won’t become more competitive until early summer. Dealer margin reductions will be the first sign of the easing of demand.”

• “If the industry doesn’t make product quality a top priority, there’ll be a drastic reduction in the number of RV manufacturers. Consumers have had it up to the neck with poor experiences, and many are seriously considering abandoning the lifestyle because of it.”

• “This industry has no ability to feather the throttle, it’s either hammer down on the go-fast pedal or drill the brakes till they glow red from the OEMs.”

• “In regards to the EV question. I don’t feel the EV are overrated. I just don’t think the RV industry will react to the movement. They can barely build quality units with old technology.”

• “As a retired RV association executive it’s been fun to watch the industry explode. The consolidation of all segments in the industry will have to be watched. I fully understand the process of why and who, but worry about the greed factor. “