The Florida RV Super Show drew heavy traffic last week as more
than 50,000 consumers gathered at the Florida State Fairgrounds
in Tampa to scope out the new 2013 models of recreational
The show, which ran from Jan. 16 to Jan. 20, is a venue for
dealers to sell the products on display from the manufacturers
Thor Industries (
), the largest maker of RVs in North America, had a strong
presence at the show, where all its subsidiaries and brands were
Thor President Bob Martin gave an upbeat early read on the
show: "Attendance at the Tampa show is up from last year, early
indications suggest that retail sales are strong, and our dealers
remain upbeat," Martin told IBD Jan. 17. "These are all very
positive signs for growth for Thor and our industry this
Riding The Comeback Trail
The warm reception at the show is in keeping with the overall
climate for the RV industry, which has seen demand heat up after
cooling off in a big way during the recession.
The industry started to move on the comeback trail in 2010,
and has been gaining speed ever since. RV wholesale shipments are
estimated to have grown to 277,000 to 285,000 units in 2012, says
Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry
Association. That would be up from 252,300 units in 2011.
Forecasters call for a 4% to 5% rise in RV wholesale unit
shipments in 2013, says Broom.
Thor, which makes the whole gamut of RVs under brand names
such as Airstream, has been cashing in on the rebound. Sales have
climbed by double digits in all but one of the past 13 quarters.
And profits have risen by double digits for two straight
First-quarter fiscal 2013 sales popped 30% to $875.6 million,
the highest level of sales growth in over two years. Profits
climbed 41% to 58 cents a share.
Thor, which also is a major builder of commercial buses and
ambulances, saw total RV sales rise 36% to $761.14 million from a
year earlier. Its biggest piece of business is in towable RVs,
which enjoyed a 28% pop in first-quarter sales to $639.2 million.
Motorized RV sales surged 95% to $122.2 million.
First-quarter results were supported by dealer optimism and
strong orders at its open house for dealers in Elkhart, Ind., in
September, said Chief Executive Peter Orthwein in a
Martin says much of the overall improvement in the RV market
is linked to greater availability of credit for dealers on the
wholesale side and consumers on the retail side.
The wholesale credit market has come back strong, he says, and
dealers and lenders feel "very positive" about current inventory
levels. Retail lending has also improved, he adds, but standards
are stricter than the pre-recession days. Lenders now require
more money down, and they've tightened the credit standards for
Consumers are also more in an RV buying mood than they had
been. Consumer confidence is up, the economy is improving, and
the jobs market has stabilized, says Broom. People are more
willing to invest in buying an RV, he adds.
Rival RV makerWinnebago Industries (
) is also enjoying a nice run with solid sales and profit gains
in recent quarters.
"Such strong results from Thor and Winnebago reflect increased
optimism on the part of dealers, which aggressively have ordered
products," said Wedbush Securities analyst Rommel Dionisio. "They
have a renewed optimism in the rebound in market."
He expects the "more of the same" scenario this year, with
continued renewed optimism and further market recovery.
Consumers have plenty of RVs to choose from. Manufacturers,
says Broom, are giving consumers an appealing mix of weight, size
That includes Thor, which, through its subsidiaries, makes
every type of RV from entry-level travel trailers to high-end
Class A diesel motor homes. It's No. 1 in towable RVs with brands
such as the iconic Airstream name, Dutchmen and Crossroads.
Thor Motor Coach makes gasoline and diesel Class A and Class C
motor homes under trade names such as Four Winds and
Followers expect Thor to continue to fare handsomely with its
current lineup. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters see
second-quarter earnings rising 48% to 37 cents a share. They
expect full-year profits to rise 27% to $2.87 a share. They
forecast a 20% gain in profits in 2014.
Broom says the RV industry is regaining ground. "But we don't
consider ourselves recovered," he said.
In 2006, RV wholesale shipments hit 390,500 units. That would
compare with the 277,000 to 285,000 forecast to be shipped in
Separately, Thor has named Dominic Romeo as its new chief
financial officer effective Feb. 4. Romeo's most recent post was
chief financial officer of IDEX Corp (