ELKHART — A new report projects that RV manufacturers will see a decline in shipments for a third straight year in 2020.
The forecast, which predicts a 60 percent chance of a 3.5 percent decline in wholesale shipments in 2020 compared to 2019, was made by independent RV industry analyst Richard Curtin, director of surveys of consumers at the University of Michigan.
The total number of shipments for 2019 is expected to reach 401,200 units, down 17.1 percent from 2018.
Through July, RV shipments have reached 244,625 units, down 20.6 percent from the 308,113 units at this point last year. That means Curtin is expecting the industry to be closer to 2018 standards for the remainder of the year.
And in 2020, “the rate of decline will ease substantially,” reaching at 387,400 units in Curtin’s most likely scenario. Still, that is three years of downturn in a row. Two straight years of decreasing RV shipments have preceded the three latest U.S. recessions.
There is a 15 percent chance, according to Curtin, that 2020 shipments will be practically the same as 2019.
Curtin sees the drop in RV shipments being moderated next year by an overall economy that is still expanding as well as low inflation and continued growth in wages and employment. Higher wage and job growth could push the yearly total to the higher end of the forecast, while an economic growth rate below 2 percent and sliding consumer confidence could send annual totals toward the lower end of the projected range.
The RV type that has seen the largest decline in shipments in 2019 is van campers, or Type B RV’s, with a 38.1 percent decrease from last year. The least-affected RV type, with a 10.1 percent decrease, is folding camping trailers.
Part of the shipment decrease has been ascribed to tariffs, 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, instituted by President Donald Trump. Curtin has described the tariffs as a headwind for the RV industry.
According to the RVIA, the RV market remains healthy and robust in historical context. The projected year-end totals of 401,200 units in 2019 and 387,400 units in 2020 would rank as the fourth- and sixth-best years for the industry, respectively. The all-time high of 504,600 unites was reached in 2017.
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