The 55th National RV Trade Show, took place at the end of November 2017 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, KY. We have been there for the 3rd time and we collected some good stories and interviews.
Words and photo Antonio Mazzucchelli
The show featured over one million square feet of exhibit space filled with all the top manufacturer and supplier brands in the RV industry: over 300 exhibitor booths featuring products including Motorhomes Travel Trailers, Campers, Park Models, RV Parts & Accessories. Before going deep with numbers, we would like to summarize the different type of RVs in the US market. There are two main categories: motorhomes (motorized) and towables (towed behind the family car, van or pickup). Type A motorhomes are generally the largest; Type B motorhomes or van campers are the smallest, and Type C motorhomes generally fall in between. Types of towable RVs are folding camping trailers, expandable trailers, truck campers, conventional travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers. Sports utility RVs (also sometimes called “toy haulers”), which feature a built-in garage for hauling cycles, ATVs or sports equipment, are available in both motorhomes and towable RVs.
There’s an RV for every taste and budget. Prices for new RVs are typically $6,000-$22,000for folding camping trailers; $6,000-$55,000 for truck campers; $8,000-$95,000 for conventional travel trailers; $18,000-$160,000 for fifth wheel trailers; $43,000-$200,000 for Type C motorhomes; $60,000-$130,000 for Type B motorhomes, and $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes.
The RV industry’s economic impact
There are more than 22,000 RV-related businesses in the U.S. with combined economic output of more than $27 billion. The RV industry employs more than 150,000 Americans. The RV industry has recovered from effects of the recession. RV shipments have risen each of the past seven years, reaching record levels in 2016. Shipments are projected to continue growing in 2017 and 2018. RVs are made by American companies employing American workers that are located in America. More than 60% of recreation vehicles are made in Elkhart County, Indiana. RVs Move America, the first-ever economic impact study of the recreation vehicle industry, revealed the RV industry contributed $49.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, and provided 289,852 full-time jobs to American workers. “The study demonstrates that the RV industry is a dynamic part of the U.S. economy,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which commissioned the study. “American workers involved in our industry earned more than $15.8 billion in wages and benefits, and, along with the firms that employed them, paid $5.7 billion in federal, state and local business taxes.”
The ninth straight year of growth
The RV industry’s shipments will top a staggering half a million units in 2017 with expectations of 505,600 units shipped by the end of the year. This represents a 13% increase above the projected 2017 total of 445,700 units, according to a new forecast from RVIA. The forecast was prepared by RV industry analyst Dr. Richard Curtin and released by RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer at Outlook 2018, the all-industry breakfast program that kicked off the 55th National RV Trade Show.The market projection sees towable RVs ending 2017 at 444,100 units and then jumping to 455,200 units in 2018. Motorhome shipments will rise to 61,500 units in 2017 and then grow to 65,500 units in 2018. “In 2017, each and every month was the best on comparable record for shipments in that month. And, 6 of those months – March, May, June, August, September, and October – recorded the highest monthly totals we’ve ever measured. October alone marks the highest monthly shipment totals we have ever seen at 48,926 units.” said RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer. “These historic shipment totals mark the ninth straight year of growth and represents an incredible rise of more than over the market bottom in 2009”.
The Go RVing experience
Go RVing celebrated 20 years of success at the National RV Trade Show. The RV industry’s national advertising and marketing communications campaign consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers and campgrounds, and works to provide the public and media with general information about the benefits of RV travel and camping. The campaign launched in 1997 with the aim of boosting RV sales that were hovering around 250,000 units per year. Two decades later, and Go RVing is still going and celebrating 20 years of promoting the RV dreamlife and looking forward to record high 2017 shipment estimates of more than 505,000 units. The campaign achieved more than 56 billion impressions over the last 20 years “Go RVing has been a great collaborative effort by the industry and a campaign that’s admired by other industries,” said Karen Redfern, RVIA’s vice president, brand marketing and communications. “We were able to get competitors to band together for the good of the entire industry and keep them together.” From its beginnings to now, Go RVing has evolved. Themes have changed from “Wherever You Go, You’re Always at Home,” to the current tagline, “Find Your Away,” and marketing efforts have become more multi-faceted incorporating digital, social and event-driven elements. What’s stayed the same: the collaboration. Co-chair of the Go RVing Coalition, Bob Wheeler said, “Go RVing is positioning itself to be the consumer data and market trends leader for the industry, and we have three major Go RVing research projects underway that we will unveil later in the spring. This research will help us understand the American millennial consumer and their perceptions about owning and using RVs, as well as market and consumer trends impacting their behavior.” Dan Pearson, co-chair of the Go RVing Coalition explained the importance of providing opportunities for people to experience RVs in unexpected places. “Research, data and numbers are all great, but we also know we connect best with consumers when they can see, feel and touch an RV. That is exactly why Go RVing has brought RVs to hundreds of major consumer events where they never would have expected to see one. Over the past six years, more than a half million consumers have been introduced to RVs at Go RVing events. Over 150,000 this year alone.” Chairman of the RVIA Public Relations Committee, Chad Reece said “From advertising, to experiential marketing, to our PR efforts, the Go RVing program literally brings the RV lifestyle to life for consumers. So be proud – and I hope you’ll join me in continuing to support this all-industry endeavor. Here’s to 20 more years!”