Even after shutting down for about two months in the spring, the recreational vehicle industry is going to outpace the previous year. In 2020, production increased about 4 percent.
There was a surge in demand for recreational gear with people wanting to get outdoors during the pandemic.
RV companies also saw that rise in interest, producing more than 400,000 units of various sizes in 2020, according to industry figures.
RV Technical Institute executive director Curt Hemmeler said COVID-19 may have driven some people to buy or rent RVs, and the interest will last beyond the pandemic.
“We definitely feel that the trend will continue even as the vaccine rolls out and folks’ comfort levels may return to flying again or taking a cruise,” said Hemmeler. “The RV industry has opened eyes and folks are experiencing things and the ability to work as well.”
Hemmeler said he expects strong demand to continue into 2021 with more than 500,000 units forecasted to be produced.
RVs have often been considered by economists as a bellwether for the U.S. economy, using the industry to gain insight into Americans’ discretionary income. Traditionally considered a luxury item, some in the RV industry say that could be shifting as the vehicles are used for more than just occasional trips.
At the same time, millions of Americans face eviction or foreclosure.
Hemmeler said he believes the industry may still provide some insight into the U.S. economy, but younger people looking at RVs are shifting the traditional indicator.
“As it was once before when it was truly a discretionary buy for the most part, I think folks are now doing it with the purpose they're doing it with other than the idea of just retirement,” he said.
Hemmeler said the increase in work from home and remote learning in 2020 were part of the rise in interest.