Rebounding RV Sales May Bode Well for U.S. Economy

"You're outdoors, instead of being at a theme park or something...," said John Dotson, who visited the show with his wife looking for an entry-level RV in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, "Instead of relying on something else to entertain you,"

He said he has never owned an RV but thinks now is the right time to buy one.

Another Michigan resident at the show, Larry Nethot, said he was looking for a replacement RV. He and his wife are former backpackers and they need a new RV because she no longer likes the outdoors. "Our parents stole our retirement home, so we've got to find another place to sleep," he said.

Nethot checked out an RV that had an LCD television, DVD player, a kitchen dinette and other home furnishing in it. "I like the outdoors but my wife can no longer stand it at the camp, " he said.

The RV is a compromise for the couple.

Interest in High-End RVs Lifts Spirits

Jeff Rank, the president of Prime Time Manufacturing in Wakarusa, Ind., attended the Novi show and was delighted with interest from prospective customers like Dotson.

"The traffic is awesome," he said. "Let's face it, the last couple of years, it's been a struggle. People seem to be in a better mood."

Rank sells the impressive high-end LaCroose RV, which is 35 feet long and features a 26-inch LCD screen inside. That people are looking to buy some of the high-end RVs is a real sign the industry is back on track, he said. "You're already seeing the comeback in wholesale shipments to dealers," he said. "It's about a 50 to 60 to 70 percent increase in shipments."

Rank's family has been in the RV business since 1969 and he says the past few years have been one of the worst periods he has seen in the industry. "It seems like every decade we have had a 10-, 12-year run that has been whatever the U.S. economy is doing, our industry is doing."

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