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RV Shipments Surged in 2004

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Factory-to-dealer deliveries of recreation vehicles (RVs) surged by double digits in 2004,
reaching their highest level since 1978. Strong RV sales are expected to continue during
the decade ahead. Consumers purchased RVs at a record pace last year, despite record-high
gasoline prices. University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin, who produces quarterly
forecasts for the RV industry, announced that 2004 will set a new quarter-century record of
364,900 RV shipments, shattering 1999’s peak of 321,200. This represents an almost 14
percent gain over the 320,800 units shipped in 2003. Reflecting the hot RV demand, online
auction Web site eBay reported that “RV” was the most popular search term in 2004 among its
125 million users. As a barometer of societal trends, eBay’s search rankings show the
growing preference for comfortable leisure travel among families and retirees, observers
said. “There are many factors behind the surge in RV sales. Among them are the rising
popularity of driving vacations, a favorable economic climate, product innovation and
demographics,” explained Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President David
Humphreys. “Younger consumers and empty-nesters are both driving up sales — realizing the
advantages of RVing over other forms of travel.” “RV shipments during the decade ahead are
expected to be very strong given the growing preference among consumers for the RV
lifestyle, as well as record increases in the number of consumers now entering the prime
age range that purchases new RVs,” explained Curtin, director, surveys of consumers,
University of Michigan Survey Research Center. Economic factors in the RV industry’s favor
are increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), personal disposable income and personal
consumption, according to Curtin, who also authors the closely watched monthly Index of
Consumer Sentiment. “Consumers are finding that RVs offer an attractive mix of freedom,
comfort and control,” said Humphreys. “Today’s RVs come equipped with all the comforts of
home,” he added, such as state-of-the-art entertainment systems, designer interiors,
gourmet kitchens, satellite and plasma TVs, and living rooms and bedrooms that slide out at
the push of a button to create extra space. RV shipments in the third quarter of 2004
totaled 93,300 units, the highest third-quarter shipments total in 26 years. Third-quarter
2004 shipments were 12.8 percent higher than a year prior. Long-term trends point to
substantial RV market growth because of favorable demographics and lifestyle trends. As
baby boomers approach retirement age, the number of RV-owning households is projected to
rise 15 percent between 2001-2010, outpacing overall U.S. household growth of 10 percent,
according to a University of Michigan study. The University of Michigan study also found
the number of RVs owned by those 35 to 54 grew faster than all other age groups.

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