End of the Road for the RV?

Between the spike in gas prices in 2008 and the current recession, the RV industry is in serious trouble as the market for enormous homes on wheels dries up.
March 20, 2009, 2pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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"The [Recreational Vehicle] industry is in dire trouble, and the whole RV subculture can feel it. In the past two years, at least a half-dozen RV manufacturers have ceased to be. In March alone, three different big-name RV brands went Chapter 11 -- Fleetwood, Monaco and Country Coach. And on Thursday, the industry leader, Winnebago, announced an operating loss of $35 million for the first six months of fiscal 2009. The RV lifestyle goes on, but the RV business, starved by $4-a-gallon gas last year, is now reeling from the recession and a serious credit drought. An industry that has always been characterized by peaks and valleys, ultrasensitive to economic change, has entered the Valley of Death.

For whatever reason, the RV industry began to decline before the weakness of the larger economy became obvious. RV sales increased every year this decade until 2006. After the peak year of 2006, however, when nearly 400,000 RVs were manufactured and shipped, the market began to tremble. Shipments of new units slipped slightly in 2007. And then the market collapsed."

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Published on Friday, March 20, 2009 in Salon.com
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