RV wholesale shipments are expected to drop in 2020, but not as much as the final numbers from 2019 will reflect — news that will likely be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the RV industry. 

That’s according to the latest issue of RV Roadsigns that includes a quarterly forecast commissioned by the RV Industry Association (RVIA). The forecast is authored by independent RV industry analyst Richard Curtin, director of Surveys of Consumers at the University of Michigan.

Per the report, RV shipments are projected to total 402,100 units by the end of this year, off 16.9 percent from the 2018 total of 483,700. Looking ahead to 2020, the double-digit percentage declines seen throughout 2019 will ease substantially as RV shipments are expected to dip 3.9 percent to 386,400 units in the most likely scenario (60 percent probability) of Curtin’s ranged forecast. The aggressive outlook of the forecast (15 percent probability) shows a slight rise in 2020 shipments to 404,600 units. The lower end of the range based on a conservative forecast (25 percent probability) sets the annual total at 359,600.

Curtin said he sees the slight decline in RV shipments being moderated by continued favorable trends in wages, jobs, inflation and interest rates. The positive factors will be clouded by consumer uncertainty about economic prospects due to policy issues such as tariffs and regulations, as well as political concerns that include the impeachment and a presidential election. Continued strong growth and lower inflation could push wholesale shipments toward the top of the forecast range while economic growth below two percent and sliding consumer confidence could lead to shipments in the lower end of the range.

Towable RV shipments are anticipated to reach 355,600 units in 2019 and 344,400 units in 2020. Motorhome shipments are projected to finish at 46,500 units by the end of this year and 42,000 units in 2020.

Although shipments are below an all-time comparable record high of 504,600 units in 2017, the RV market remains healthy and robust in historical context. The projected year-end totals of 402,100 units in 2019 and 386,400 units in 2020 would respectively rank as the fourth and sixth best years for the industry and easily exceed the 30-year (294,676 units), 20-year (331,206 units) and10-year (332,210 units) industry averages for wholesale shipments.  

As the RV Lifestyle has previously reported, the RV industry has an estimated $114 billion economic impact, according to the results of the 2019 RVs Move America Study, research commissioned by the RVIA. The industry provides 596,355 jobs and $32.2 billion in wages.

Of course, there are other ways RVs have impact on the economy.

“Owners might pay thousands of dollars to have maintenance done before a trip and then thousands more for fuel and travel expenses,” wrote Amber Hestla, of StreetAuthority. “RVs can even be expensive when they aren’t being used. Many owners need to pay to store their vehicles since they don’t have room at home for such large vehicles.”

Last, many consider the health of the RV industry a kind of bellwether for the  entire economy.

In short, the relatively small drop in RV shipments that is projected for 2020 could be a whole lot worse.