LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The iconic American vacation machine, the motorhome, is experiencing an uptick in popularity.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association tracks manufacturer shipments of motorhomes to dealers and reported this week that those shipments are up 36.2 percent compared to 2012. RVIA’s numbers show 28,198 motorized RVs were shipped in 2012 and 38,100 will be shipped by the end of this year. And the industry’s projections expect 41,900 motorhomes will be shipped in 2014.
“The last two years was the beginning of a recovery,” said Winnebago Industries Chief Executive Officer Randy Potts, who was busy greeting dealers at the company’s display at the National RV Trade Show. “The four years before that was a tremendous struggle.”
He said of the RVIA’s projection of growth in the motorhome segment, “I think it’s reasonable, but of course only time will tell. I think it is a safe estimation.”
Ninety-percent of Winnebago’s business is motorized RVs, and those are built in Iowa. The company builds its much smaller line of towable products in Middlebury.
Like the job growth Elkhart County has experienced from the comeback in the RV industry, the rising RV sales are benefiting the economy in Iowa. Winnebago is expanding its Class B van line by leasing a vacant factory in Lake Mills, Iowa. “We have promised to bring some jobs up there. We are going to assemble our B van products up there,” Potts said.
Those vans are currently being assembled in Charles City, Iowa.
“We just outgrew that,” Potts said. “Our product line is expanding and volume is picking up, so we needed more capacity and this opportunity came up. It is going to work out well for everybody.”
Any expansion in motorized products is a positive change after the recession drastically shrunk that segment of the RV industry. While towable recreational vehicle sales and shipments have picked up quickly and account for the bulk of the 300,000 plus units that will be made this year, motorized units have not bounced back as fast.