The reason for increased 2020 RV sales ironically is the same reason so many other industries suffered economically during the health crisis: a concern by Americans for health and safety. The thought among some RV buyers apparently was that a family traveling alone and vacationing in their RV is a lot safer than traveling one that uses airports, flies on airliners and stays in hotels.
RV shipments for all of 2020 were projected late in the year to hit about 424,400. That would be an increase of 4.5 percent over the 406,070 units shipped in 2019. The number for 2019 was lower than in 2018, which was the first time in nine years that RV production decreased.
RVs Seen as COVID Fighter
RV Industry Association President Craig Kirby saw a direct link between Covid-19 and increased demand for RVs.
“The RV industry has experienced strong consumer growth over the past 10 years, but the recent soar in consumer interest in RVing driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a marked increase in RV shipments to meet the incredibly strong order activity at the retail level,” Kirby said in an RVIA statement. “This new forecast confirms what we have been seeing across the country as people turn to RVs as a way to have the freedom to travel and experience an active outdoor lifestyle while also controlling their environment.”
Kip Ellis, Patrick Industries executive vice president and chief operating officer, and RV Industry Association market information committee chairman, said the momentum will only increase after 2020.
Overcoming Low Inventories
“As we continue through the rest of this year and into next year,” Ellis said, “sustained wholesale RV production will be needed to replenish dealer inventories that are at historically low levels.”
RV dealers let inventories shrink after the sales slumps in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 downturn in shipments, although the first year-to-year decline in U.S. RV shipments since 2010, still was the second-best year since 1990, according to the Wall Street Journal. With the bigger slump in 2019, it was the industry’s first two-year decline since the Great Recession, when shipments fell three consecutive years, from 2007-2009. Economists blamed the 2018-2019 decline on a weakening economy and the U.S.-China trade war.
Optimism About 2021
Shipments will rise in 2021, the RVIA said, possibly to record levels. RVIA projects a stellar 19.5 percent increase in shipments during 2021, for a year-end total of 507,200 units. The previous high was 504,600 RVs in 2017.
The estimated 406,070 units shipped in 2019, although lower than in 2018, were still the fourth-best one-year total ever, according to RVIA.
Although 2021 projections are a sizable increase over 2020 figures, RVIA officials said figures could be even higher if it weren't for economic factors. COVID difficulties in some locales, limitations on parts manufacturing, and an anticipated tight labor market might keep the number of RVs manufactured below demand.
Towables vs. Motorhomes
Towables continue to outsell motorhomes by far.
The 2020 estimates of units shipped reflects 383,900 towables, as opposed to just 40,500 motorhomes.
For 2021, the number of towables to be shipped is projected at 452,500, as opposed to 54,700 motorhomes.
2021 Atlanta Camping and RV Show Canceled, but Alternatives Possible
The 2021 Atlanta Camping and RV Show is canceled, but the show’s organizers may come up with other ways to share RV trends and new product views during the coming year.
Escalating Covid-19 cases forced cancellation of the show, which had been scheduled for Jan. 29-31, 2021. When nationwide coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities reached record numbers in the fall, health and safety became serious concerns with the tens of thousands of visitors that are typical of a regional RV show
Virtual Show Considered
But in the age of electronic meetings, a technology that has been advancing during the pandemic, a virtual RV show is possible early in the year, organizers said.
You wouldn't be able to touch all the new products, let alone slam doors and kick tires, but you could tour RVs and attend presentations virtually via a computer program. By now, so many businesses and families have used online meeting programs that most RVers probably would know how to attend a virtual show. For those of you who don’t know how, it's not hard; just follow instructions on the virtual meeting website.
There’s no word yet on whether there would be a fee, what the site would be, and when the virtual show would be presented.
Possible Fall Show
Don’t give up on an in-person RV show in 2021—keep all the tailgating equipment ready. Atlanta organizers said they may stage a fall 2021 RV show. That may depend on how much things improve if the new Covid vaccines are distributed to enough Americans during the first half of the year and are effective, and whether public health rules would allow it.
And organizers already are working on the January 2022 RV show.
Keep tabs on any decisions and changes in status by checking the Atlanta RV show website.