When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, flights were grounded, cruises were cancelled and train services were cut down. This, coupled with the fact that many hotels and holiday accommodation providers closed their doors, meant that budding travellers had to find a new way to get away from it all.
This left many American holiday makers coveting every RV, camper van or motorhome they saw out on the road. And soon, that meant sales of these homes on wheels were skyrocketing. According to the RV Industry Association, 2020 was a record-breaking year for camper shipments, with 430,412 units rolling off production lines.
But that record was short lived and the following year, demand for RVs didn’t let up. In fact, the RVIA reported that a whopping 600,240 vehicles were shipped over that 12-month period.
And 2022 already looks set to be a bumper year for the industry. So far, 107,012RVs have been shipped, marking a 39.5 per cent increase on the same period last year.
In a release, RVIA president and CEO Craig Kirby said: “Our data shows the increased interest in RVing is being driven by changing attitudes around the increased importance consumers are placing on the health benefits of getting outdoors.
“We expect this trend towards an active outdoor lifestyle to continue into the foreseeable future, which bodes well for the RV industry.”
Which obviously sounds great at first, but some manufacturers have warned that it might not all be sunshine and roses on the horizon.
Sure, they are comfortably churning out campers at a rate of around 50,000 every month, but that doesn’t appear to be quick enough to keep up with the insatiable demand for a house on wheels.
In fact, two of the biggest RV manufacturers in America have warned that their backlog of orders is growing at an alarming rate.
In the second quarter of its financial year, RV maker Winnebago reported that revenue was at a record $US1.2 ($2) billion. But, alarmingly, the firm reported that its backlog increased to $US1.9 ($3) billion and said it was “up 55.2 per cent over the prior year.”
That backlog is equivalent to more than 67,000 vehicles, according to the firm’s latest financial data. These RVs, trailers and marine vehicles, the firm says, are units that have been “requested to be shipped within the next six months” but that they could be “cancelled or postponed at the option of the dealer.”
It isn’t just Winnebago that is struggling to keep up with booming demand for RVs. It’s a similar story at rival Thor industries.
The Indiana-based RV maker reported sales worth $US3.88bn for the three months up to the end of January. But, similarly, had a ballooning backlog, this time worth $US17.73bn, an increase of more than 60 per cent compared to January 31, 2021.
Both firms set out assurances that they are combatting the backlog in their order books, but that still leaves many customers playing a waiting game.
And, with outside factors like a shortage of semiconductors and other essential elements in RV production, this doesn’t look like a problem that can, or should, be solved in a hurry.
Maybe it’s time to find a good RV renter to tide you over for your summer vacation?
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