RV industry officials point to modest gains atop last year's turnaround performance as another sign that the sector is on a slow road to recovery.
RV makers, dealers and suppliers who recently attended an annual industry trade show were told that 2011 shipments from manufacturers to dealers are expected to be up 2 percent from last year's 242,300 shipped units. The 2010 total amounted to a 46 percent gain from 2009 as the economy improved.
"You guys sitting in this room today are all survivors in this industry, and I think that bodes very well," said Richard A. Coon, president of the Virginia-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Bill Ansley of Ansley RV sits inside a 2012 Newmar Bay Star 33-foot long motor home on Tuesday.
In 2007, shipments of RV units totaled 353,400 - the fourth-highest figure in a quarter century. By 2009, shipments slumped to less than half that figure, or 165,700 units, as older RVs parked on dealers' lots drew scant interest from cash-conscious consumers.
However, the industry is bracing for a projected 2.6 percent decline in RV shipments in 2012 to 240,600 units, based on a forecast by University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin.
Local RV dealers said they are doing fairly well.
"The past year has been pretty good. We never really saw the decline because of our area. We were not as affected as some other areas of the nation," said Justin Wise, manager of Wise Trailer Sales and Service, Ebensburg. "We've been pretty steady and have increased sales over the past five years consecutively."
Bill Ansley, shareholder at Ansley RV, Duncansville, said sales have been about the same as the year before.
"We trended ahead of the whole RV industry last year. We are up probably between 25 to 35 units from last year. We will be up 50 next year, I just feel it," Ansley said. "People are buying the towable travel trailers. Motor home sales are different. Sales of the $250,000-and-up motor homes are not coming back yet."
Carl Weimer, owner of Weimer's RV Sales and Rentals, Duncansville, said his sales have remained about the same.
"Sales are very scattered, it is not like it was in the past," Weimer said. "The most we sell are travel trailers in the $15,000 to $20,000 range."
Ansley said he has been focusing on selling towable trailers.
"About five years ago I would have about 175 travel trailers on my lot; now I have about 250 units. Five years ago I would have about 45 motor homes on my lot; today I have five," Ansley said. "Instead of stocking motor homes, I am stocking travel trailers that are $20,000 or less. The less expensive travel trailers are selling."
Local dealers said providing quality customer service has been important to their success.
"We just try to treat our customers the best we can and do what is right and fair. We rely on word of mouth and try to keep a good reputation," Wise said.
"We never lost focus on our core customers. The people who like to go camping, hunting and fishing and want to spend time with their families are the ones with the core values. Those people got ignored but we did not ignore them and they stayed with us," Ansley said. "A typical RVer is a conservative person with good values. We never lost sight of that customer and didn't concentrate on the big dollar coaches."
Local dealers are optimistic about the future of their business.
"I think it will remain strong. More people are getting into camping. It is more economical than a beach trip, and you can use them year-round," Wise said.
"I believe my sales will be up, I expect about a 10 percent increase," Ansley said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467. The Associated Press contributed to this story.