Rolling Along: Reno RV's Make a Comeback
RV's in Reno are rolling again…after being sideswiped by the recession. On the Sierra RV sales lot, Charles Rickman is just one of many who pulled the trigger on a rolling home…and not just for himself. He told us he bought, “because my kids fell in love with it. I did too, and the wife. So, I decided to buy!"
This is comeback territory. It's been a long, slow climb since the recession…but with help from low gas prices compared to a few years ago, sales of the rolling homes are expected to return this new year to levels from before the recession. As Sierra RV sales manager Dave O'Brien told us, "Since 2008 we had a little bit of a downturn. Since then we've increased every single year since then."
RV shipments from manufacturers to dealers, a key measure of consumer demand, will increase by 4% this year. That finally beats the number sold in 2007 just before the economy tanked. This year's projected growth would be the 5th straight yearly gain in RV sales, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. O'Brien told us, "Just to give you an example, our total sales in 2010 was 289. This last year we surpassed 550."
And the reason is not just gas prices. There's pent-up consumer demand. There's also available credit, low interest rates, and a big reason: the baby boomers finally getting their fifth wheel. Sometime this year, 45% of the U.S. population will be over 50 years old. They're buying models like...”The Cougar”. Sierra RV sold over a hundred cougars just last year. O'Brien told us, "It's the top selling fifth wheel on the market today. A lot of them are half-ton friendly."
And that's yet another factor in the RV's favor: these days all pickups and crossovers are offered with towing packages, making it easier to hook up and drive away and live the RV lifestyle. Sierra RV CEO Cathie Macdonald says nowadays, "Most people drive an SUV of some type and they have a hitch on the back, so yes it's easier to hook up one of these."
Cathy had to hire more sales and service staff to keep up. For buyer Charles Rickman, it's all about feeling confident enough to buy a big-ticket item, and getting the best deal. That's why he bought…in the winter: “They dropped the prices to try to get a buyer. And they hooked me."