In contrast to the robust performance in 2022, the RV industry has hit a bumpy road in 2023, witnessing a consistent decline in wholesale RV shipments throughout the year.
With a downward trajectory in RV shipments from January to September, industry experts and stakeholders are left pondering the future, exploring innovative ways to enhance efficiency and customer engagement.
The RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) monthly surveys of manufacturers have painted a rather grim picture for the RV industry in 2023. From a sharp 61.8% decline in shipments in January to a 12.9% drop in September, compared to the respective months in 2022, the industry has been grappling with a persistent downturn.
The reasons behind this decline remain multifaceted. Economic fluctuations play a significant role, with interest rate changes and inflation affecting consumer purchasing power and lending conditions. But first, here’s a breakdown of the monthly reports:
- January: 20,405 units, down 61.8% from January 2022.
- February: 24,903 units, a 53.7% decrease from February 2022.
- March: 31,869 units, a 50.8% decrease compared to March 2022.
- April: 31,216 units, a 45.4% decrease compared to April 2022.
- May: 30,919 units, a decrease of 38.8% compared to May 2022.
- June: 24,095 units, a 46.4% decrease from June 2022.
- July: 20,520 units, 30.5% lower than July 2022.
- August: 28,701 units, down 16.9% from August 2022.
- September: 24,700 units, a noticeable 12.9% decrease from September 2022.
The RV industry has encountered a noticeable and consistent downward trend throughout 2023, with each month’s shipments recording figures significantly lower than those of their 2022 counterparts.
In an exclusive interview with Modern Campground, Monika Geraci, the spokesperson for the RV Industry Association (RVIA), addressed the noticeable decline in recreational vehicle (RV) shipments throughout the current year, providing a deeper understanding of the contrast to last year’s performance.
When asked about the interpretation of this downward trend, Geraci pointed to macroeconomic pressures as a significant factor. The RV industry, while still seeing high interest from consumers, is grappling with the impact of inflation and rising interest rates that make large discretionary purchases less feasible for potential buyers.
“Supply chain is, for the most part, under control,” she said. “We’ve got… production is up, we’re able to meet the demand, but it’s really those macroeconomic issues which are the interest rates and the inflation that are squeezing consumers, that even consumers who want to purchase.”
“And it makes it a little bit harder for them to make these large discretionary purchases, even though that interest is still there, the interest in RVing, but the interest rates are not helping the situation.”
According to Geraci, the industry was not caught off-guard by the 2023 downturn, having anticipated it through diligent forecasting. Referencing the industry’s record production in March, which saw the highest number of RVs ever built in a month, she compares it to the exceptional growth in previous years, where the industry saw 50 to 60% increases.
“If you go back and look at comparing 2020 to 2021 and even 21 to 22, we’re having 50, 60% increases,” she elaborated. “And so now we’re really getting back to that more normalization. So it was fully expected.”
Consequently, this has instigated a period of reflection and strategy recalibration among industry leaders and stakeholders, as they navigate through the prevailing challenges while keeping an eye on future recovery and growth opportunities.
Moving forward, the RV industry is showing adaptability and responsiveness to market dynamics, with key stakeholders actively seeking to enhance the consumer experience amidst challenging economic conditions.
Monika highlights the sector’s commitment to innovation, as demonstrated at the Elkhart RV open house event. This gathering served as a platform for unveiling new products, and showcasing the creativity and forward-thinking of manufacturers and suppliers.
By introducing more affordable models, the industry is tactically positioning itself to be accessible to a broader range of consumers, particularly by distilling popular features from top-selling models to lower the cost without compromising on value.
Such strategic modifications indicate the industry’s agility in responding to current financial pressures like rising interest rates and inflation, underlining its intention to remain competitive and consumer-centric despite economic headwinds.
Peering into the Fourth Quarter of 2023
As the industry steers into the fourth quarter of 2023, the prevailing trends cast a shadow of uncertainty over the potential growth. While the introduction of new models and features might inject some vitality into the market, a substantial rebound seems to be a challenging endeavor.
“So we do a quarterly forecast and our latest one came out on September 1st and that has us forecasted right shy of 300,000 units for 2024, and then looking to go to about 350-360 thousand for 2024,” said Geraci.
Despite the current challenges, the RV industry holds the potential to navigate through this turbulence by tapping into emerging market segments. The shift towards a younger and more diverse demographic of RV buyers, as noted by RVIA President and CEO Craig Kirby, indicates an avenue for expansion and evolution.
“In recent years, we have seen RV buyers get younger and more diverse,” Kirby said in the report. “September is an exciting month for the RV industry as many manufacturers debut new units and features to appeal to these new RV buyers.”
“With RVs available at nearly every price point and with features that allow people to work from the road and get off-grid, RVing remains one of the most affordable ways for people and families to travel and make lifelong memories.”
While 2023 has unfolded as a challenging chapter for the RV industry, the story doesn’t end here. The coming years may witness a transformation, with the industry adapting to the shifting sands of consumer preferences and market dynamics.
The road ahead may be rocky, but with strategic navigation, the industry can hope to find its way back to smooth sailing, exploring new horizons in the vast landscape of opportunities.