RV sales, jobs gradually coming back

RV manufacturer Winnebago Industries shows off a recreational

RV manufacturer Winnebago Industries shows off a recreational vehicle that can be towed at a show this past month in Louisville, Ky. Winnebago, best known for motor homes, has begun making RVs that can be towed for cash-conscious consumers. (Nov. 27, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Travel deals

The RV industry's recovery from the Great Recession has picked up speed.

Recreational vehicle makers are churning out higher numbers of travel trailers bound for dealers' lots and, ultimately, campgrounds.

Overall shipments from manufacturers to dealers -- a key measure of consumer demand -- are expected to rise 10 percent in 2012 and could gain another 4.5 percent next year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association said last week.

Through September, shipments were up nearly 11 percent from the same period last year, the group said. The number had dealers, manufacturers and suppliers feeling more optimistic as they gathered for an industry trade show last week in Louisville, Ky.

"We made up a lot of ground this year," said Jeffrey Pastore, owner of Hartville RV Center in northeastern Ohio.

Jobs are coming back, too. RV manufacturers and suppliers have started hiring, and the industry's workforce has risen to 375,000 from below 250,000 in 2008, according to RVIA. It was 530,000 in 2007.

Driving the industry's gradual comeback have been less-expensive towable RVs attached to pickups or hitched to other vehicles.

Towables, which now account for about 90 percent of the new RV market, cost between $8,000 and $100,000, with an average price of $32,000, according to RVIA. Before the recession hit, towables represented eight out of every 10 new RVs shipped.

By contrast, stand-alone motor homes range in price from $55,000 to $1.5 million for top-of-the-line, buslike vehicles. The average price is $100,000 for the amenity-filled moving homes.

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