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RV industry on the move in Huntley

Published: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

More families are hitting the road in a recreational vehicle.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association recently reported the number of RV-owning households in the United States has increased to a record 9 million, and roughly 40 percent of these have children who are 18 years old or younger.

At General RV Center in Huntley, sales have grown 10 to 20 percent each of the past three years, despite being in the middle of a war zone, also known as the Route 47/Interstate 90 interchange project.

“Once the tollway project is complete, I think the floodgates will open,” said Keith Lessner, General RV operations manager.

The RV dealership is planning a $500,000 expansion to its existing recreational sales/service facility to include a 4.57 acre tract to the north. The proposed expansion includes a 13,240-square-foot, 10-bay recreational vehicle service building including office space and restrooms.

RV buyers in the 35-to-54 age group have posted the largest ownership growth, rising to 11.2 percent in 2011 from 9 percent in 2005, outpacing so-called “empty-nesters,” according to the RVIA’s RV Consumer Demographic Profile.

RIVA reported wholesale recreation vehicle shipments increased 12.8 percent in the first six months of 2013. Shipments for all of 2013 are projected to total 309,800 units, an increase of 8.4 percent from 2012.

This growth projects an 87 percent increase from the RV industry’s recession low in 2009, and would mark the first time shipments surpassed 300,000 units since 2007. Shipments in 2014 are predicted to rise another 4 percent from the 2013 total.

RV sales tend to reflect the levels of disposable income throughout the country. Americans tend to buy non-essential and big-ticket items when they aren’t afraid of their financial futures.

The study, prepared for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association by PKF Consulting USA, a member of an international travel and tourism consulting group, found RV travel is 23-to-59 percent less expensive than other types of vacations for a family of four that owns an RV. For an “empty-nester” couple traveling by RV, savings were 11 to 46 percent.

Even after accounting for factors such as RV ownership costs and fuel prices, the study claims RV vacations offer greater savings than those taken using a car or airline, staying in a hotel, rental house or condominium, and eating in restaurants.

While RV ownership is on the rise, the RV and camper rental industry has struggled during the past five years, with revenue declining at an annual rate of 4.4 percent.

RV rental industry revenue grew in 2012 thanks to renewed consumer confidence, but it is expected to fall again in 2013.

This is because of volatile gas prices deterring customers from this mode of travel, according to IBISWorld industry anaylst Natalie Everett.

Many of those who still chose rental RVs for their road trips downgraded to smaller, less expensive models or took shorter trips in order to afford an RV vacation.

• Email ccashman@shawmedia.com

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