Time to replace that nostalgic image of the old-fashioned, bulky recreational vehicle (RV) as RV makers have changed their strategy to achieve significant growth. Many companies have bulked up sales by catering to the coveted millennial generation through some clever online campaigns and innovative product designs. Who is leading the pack? Thor Industries.
This fall Thor Industries launched its Airstream Basecamp, a sleek, silver bullet of aluminum that can be towed behind a small SUV. It contains one massive panoramic window, solar power, Italian cabinetry, and a Bose Bluetooth speaker system. It even has a place to store your drone or kayak.
Thor leads the pack as more companies make smaller and lighter RVs. Gone are the bulky, heavy wood frames as they make way for stronger, slimmer plastic composites. Old appliance infrastructure has been completely replaced with more modern and efficient units. Just like about everything else in the modern world: Big and bulky is no longer better.
Recent industry reports predict that US consumers are projected to purchase roughly 420,000 homes-on-wheels by the end of the year, more than since the mid-1970s. In addition, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association expects sales to increase by another 4.4% next year.
The predictions make logical sense. Unemployment rates and gas prices have reached near-record lows over the years. Consumer confidence continues to steadily rise as more travelers hit the road. Plus, the transportation sector is always looked upon as a bellwether of the national economy. I mean, really, what symbolizes all these culminating factors coming together more than a next-generation RV?
Thor’s latest annual numbers might foreshadow the future for the RV sector as a whole. The company’s revenues climbed 14% from $4 billion in 2015 to peak at a record-setting $4.58 billion in 2016. The historic growth was driven by a 8% rise in towable sales and a 26% spike in motorized sales driven by acquisitions. Profits also surged, jumping 29% from 2015 to 2016, another company milestone.
Thor’s competitors are also focused on another coveted demographic: the tailgater. This seems like a no-brainer as Winnebago Industries CEO Michael Steppe explains: “The industry, at large, is trying to make these products more versatile. If you go to an SEC football game, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of RVs.”
As the average age of an RV owner in the US continues to drop virtually every year, look for more of these sleek RVs on a road — or at a sports stadium parking lot — near you.
Adam Anderson is the managing editor of Bizmology. He has worked at Hoover’s in several editor roles writing about various industries since 2004. He has his BS in media studies from the University of Texas. Follow Adam on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Airstream Basecamp website.