The recreational vehicle industry is experiencing changes that will influence its manufacturing and financial prospects. Demographic trends, environmental adaptations, and new technologies are combining to affect travel markets. These developments will create industry fluctuations that inevitably alter the way RV retailers view their business models.
Retail vs. Rentals
Generational differences look to play a big role in RV sales due to contradicting perceptions of ownership. The millennial market (born between 1981 and 1996) tends to reject purchasing material goods through methods of sharing and rentals. This inclination toward experience over possession may prompt retailers to portray RV ownership as the most convenient means of fast, easy access to locations, people, and an array of other attractions.
Until recently, RV owners have generally been over the age of 55. That has changed with current owners being represented by the 35-54 age group which surpasses the rate of ownership of those over 55 by nearly 2%. In the past, a typical RV excursion only consisted of half of the RVs occupancy capacity. RV owners are now capitalizing on those capacities by sharing their unused space with family and friends. This type of cooperative RV use and increased rentals by those disillusioned with ownership, and the loans and taxes that come with it, seem to point toward the decreased need for RV production. However, most likely due to a rebound from Covid-19 lockdowns, wholesale shipments for 2021 are expected to increase by almost 19% over those of 2020.
RV as Residence
There is an increased interest in a minimalistic movement that encompasses efficient living and tiny homes. This, joined with enthusiasm for mobility and digital workspaces, is helping to promote RV living with over 1 million people making RVs their permanent homes.
This trend calls for both architectural and functional adaptations. Aerodynamics may be less important than the amount of space provided by a more cubed style vehicle to an owner who spends most of his or her time in a parked RV. Larger water reservoirs, stoves, showers, refrigerators, and windows are just a few more considerations for permanent residents.
Climate models and records are indicating increasingly varying temperature patterns. A location that required only an open window and a fan 10 years ago may now need a boost from air conditioning.
Sudden drops in temperature calls for more effective heating appliances and improved insulation. Technologies dealing with energy collection and efficiency for temperature stabilization will be a serious consideration for the RV industry going forward. Equipping new vehicles with solar panels to assist with cooling, heating, and appliances is the most available and environmentally friendly solution.
Economics and Size
Another response to environmental concerns has been the call for smaller recreational vehicles. Smaller RVs decrease fuel consumption, environmental impact, and operating expenses for owners. Lower fuel, heating, and cooling costs leave more money for other vacation endeavors. At the same time, for buyers more interested in sharing their space, a larger RV used to its capacity is more efficient, economically and environmentally, than multiple smaller vehicles.
Towable RVs fit well into the fuel consumption equation by allowing the tow vehicle to unhook and run necessary errands during the camp. Because of this feature and other conveniences, towables make up over 80% of overall sales.
There is an abundance of technological upgrades and modifications becoming available for RVs. High-end lithium batteries are providing improved electrical systems. Along with being necessary to replace a generator with solar power, they offer a series of other benefits. Lithium batteries have higher power capacity, more temperature resistance, less weight, and longer lifespans than traditional batteries.
It is well known that RVs do not always offer the best space to access Wi-Fi signals. Fortunately, signal boosters can now help counteract the bad connection created by a typical RV’s construction materials. Also, many models are now coming equipped with built-in USB charging ports.
Safety is always an issue when taking to the highway, especially in a large RV. New technology has been developed to calculate the load-displacement on the axles and hitch. Helium technology is a new process that combines new materials and manufacturing processes to reduce the weight of an RV while maintaining its strength.
The RV industry is experiencing a revitalization in 2021. The trend looks to benefit manufacturers, distributors, and, moreover, the buyers. As with most businesses, innovation and adaptability will be the driving forces for success.