The RV industry, which is so important to the local economy, is showing signs of improvement. According to the latest numbers from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), during the first 5 months of 2012, the total number of RV shipments went up each month compared to last year. This is an indication dealers are more optimistic, and dealers say it's because they are selling more RVs.
When the economy, and the RV industry, tanked in 2008 Barry Hyser found himself without a job.
"A lot of the RV industry was closed and certainly a lot of us were unemployed for a period of time," said Hyser.
According to numbers from the RVIA, in 2007 between 21,000 and 37,000 RVs were shipped per month. Wholesale shipment numbers show how many RVs are ordered by dealers. But in 2008 the numbers began to decrease. Then, in November and December, the number of shipments plummeted. Only 6,000 Rvs were shipped in November. 5,000 in December.
"It has changed a lot since then," says Hyser.
Hyser is right. The industry is showing signs of growth -- and Hyser is back to work. He is the location manager at Campers Inn in Elkhart and he has a lot of optimism. The dealership has been open for 2 years -- and it is doing well. In May the dealership sold out of Class C motorhomes which are motorhomes built on a van chassis.
"We are seeing about a 20% growth for May and June over last year, so it is picking up again," says Hyser, "so that is really good news for Elkhart, and of course good news for Campers Inn."
It is good news for anyone in the RV industry. Especially for companies like Livin' Lite.
"We boast on having an all aluminum and all composite plastics trailer -- (there is) virtually no wood in our units," says Livin' Lite General Manager Troy Andrews.
Industry wide, shipments of small towable RVs has increased between 2 and 26% each month this year over last year. RVIA numbers show in May this year more than 26,000 RVs were shipped within the industry.
Livin' Lite specializes in lightweight towables. Andrews says families are looking for fuel and cost efficient options -- which is why the company is doing so well.
"The big trucks are gone, everyone is driving more economic vehicles and our product leans toward that," says Andrews, "It makes sense. They don't have to go buy a big truck, they can use what they already have. A mini van is a perfect vehicle for most our products."
In 2008, Livin' Lite employed 13 people and they produced 1 or two RVs a day. Now 100 people work in the two Wakarusa plants and they built 7 to 8 RVs everyday.
Andrews says, business is booming. The hope is, it stays that way.
Industry experts say the industry is certainly not back to where it was before the economy tanked. But things are definitely improving. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association compiles industry numbers. Year to date numbers show each month this year the number of RV shipments has improved over last year:
Total RV Shipments:
Month % Year to Date Increase Over Last Year
January + 5.1%
February + 15.2%
March + 9.7%
April + 9.7%
May + 8.6%
While numbers overall are up. That is primarily because the number of towable RV's is up. The number of motorhomes isn't doing as great. So far this year, the total number of motorhomes sold is down 1.2% compared to last year. Here is what they look like month to month:
All Motorhome Shipments:
Month % Change Over Last Year
January - 5.0%
February + 4.8%
April - 10.7%
Numbers for June will be released on July 25. For the latest numbers and other industry data visit: http://www.rvia.org/