Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

RV shipments down in 2023, but industry prepared for long-term growth

(Mount Comfort RV)

As Governor Eric Holcomb gets set to speak at the RV Hall of Fame on Thursday, shipments numbers for Elkhart County’s largest industry are down more than 50% over the first part of 2023.

Industry insiders, however, say the dip is a return to normalcy after historic highs in the past two years and that mobile home manufacturers are well-positioned for the years ahead.

According to a report from the RV Industry Association, total RV shipments for March were down nearly 51% from the same time last year. For the first financial quarter of 2023, shipments are down 54%.

But Phil Ingrassia who’s the president of the RV Dealers Association, said those numbers are expected due to rising fuel costs, inflation and high interest rates.

“Certainly RVs are a discretionary purchase and we’re looking at economic headwinds as well," said Ingrassia. "Overall the industry’s in good shape and it was expected we were going to see some moderation off demand in 2023."

The expected downturn means manufacturers and dealers are better able to manage inventories and avoid significant layoffs, though there are some exceptions as the market tightens its belt. Last summer, Keystone RV closed two plants in Goshen, terminating more than 330 employees.

However, the past two years also represent a giant opportunity for the industry as a much more diverse and younger generation of customers bought RVs for the first time, according to Monika Gerasi, a spokeswoman for the RV Industry Associatio. The RVIA's research says the average age of a first-time RV buyer in 2021 was 32, meaning many of those customers will continue to buy larger homes throughout their lives.

Ingrassia agreed and sees the next few years as an opportunity for the industry to secure its long term growth.

“The pandemic, while it brought more people in, we’ve got to do a good job of taking care of those folks so they buy again in the future and keep the industry growing into the rest of this decade,” he said.

Gerasi added that the RVIA’s research shows first-time buyers are gravitating towards RV to have a place to work while taking road trips. With work-from-home requirements continuing to loosen, Gerasi sees that as good news for RV dealers.

For the rest of 2023, the forecast is more uncertain. Projections show the industry won’t get close to the 600,000 units it shipped in 2021 or the 493,000 in 2022. Gerasi said RVIA estimates would put 2023’s output in the ballpark of 334,000 units which is in line with the number produced in 2014.

Ingrassia said he can see shipments near 400,000, though it’s hard to tell with three quarters of the year still to go.

“That speaks to the health and bright future of our industry,” Gerasi said. “Getting people in those RVs at that younger stage in their life … people trade up.”

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.