Travel Trailers and Campers

SIC 3792

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the manufacture of travel trailers and chassis and campers for attachment to motor vehicles, pick-up coaches and caps, covers and canopies for mounting on pick-up trucks, and tent camping trailers. This classification includes travel trailers of up to 35 feet long and 8 feet wide (with storage facilities for waste and water), but excludes mobile home manufacturers. Mobile home manufacturers are classified in SIC 3716: Motor Homes.

Industry Snapshot

In 2010, 480 U.S. establishments engaged in manufacturing travel trailers and campers, according to Dun and Bradstreet. Most were private subsidiaries of companies that manufactured a range of recreational vehicles. Manufacturers of trailers and campers often incorporated chassis made elsewhere into their products; these chassis were produced by large automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors.

The travel trailer and camper industry in the United States employed a total of 13,084 people and generated about $1.7 billion in sales in 2010. Although a majority of companies were small, with approximately 70 percent employing fewer than 10 people, more than 60 percent of all employees in the industry worked for larger companies, or those that employed more than 100 people. Indiana was the number one state in terms of revenues and number of workers employed by the industry, accounting for almost half of the nation's sales and 42 percent of all employees.

Background and Development

Travel trailers and pick-up cabs were introduced in the early 1930s, with camper attachments entering the market in the late 1940s. The emergence of mobile homes in the late 1940s shifted manufacturers' emphasis away from travel trailers and camper attachments. While mobile homes dominated the recreational vehicle market in the 1950s and 1960s, the market for travel trailers and camper attachments continued to grow.

Economic recessions during the 1970s and 1980s dramatically reduced sales and manufacturing in this industry. At the same time, some travel trailer and chassis producers were negatively affected by product recalls. At one point, over 10,000 units of small mobile homes attached to Toyota pick-up truck chassis were recalled.

The RV field was increasingly competitive and crowded as the nation entered the twenty-first century. A trend in the industry toward small, lightweight travel created a wide range of products with innovative uses of space. Also hot on the market during the first decade of the 2000s were sport utility trailers (SUTs). SUTS were divided with living space in the front end of the trailer and storage space for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, or other recreational equipment in the back section.

RV sales rose sharply in the early years of the first decade of th 2000s, reaching $8.5 billion in 2001 and $10.9 billion in 2002. The industry continued to pick up the pace into the middle of the decade, reporting new record sales annually from 2002 through 2006. Industry experts pointed to a combination of baby boomers entering retirement and younger families planning vacations closer to home as factors for growth. In 2006, the industry surpassed $14.5 billion and nearly reached 400,000 units sold, an increase of 80,000 over 2002. 2006 sales represented a 1.6 percent increase over 2005, when RV shipments topped 384,400, which was itself nearly 4 percent more than in 2004. High fuel costs combined with a global economic recession in the later years of the decade, however, caused sales to move in the opposite direction, down to $10.6 billion in 2007 and $8.4 billion in 2008. Skyrocketing fuel costs and other negative economic factors resulting from the global recession continued to drive sales down as the first decade of the twenty-first century neared a close. In 2009, retail shipments were down 30 percent, and sales totaled only $5.1 billion, with 165,700 units shipped, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. The following year was not much better, but by 2011 many in the industry were seeing signs of a recovery.

Current Conditions

According to the September-October issue of RV Business,"While the growth [in 2011] may not be the double-digit red-hot growth many hoped to see," statistics showed a definite increase in production and sales from the year before. For example, the year-to-date figures in May showed an increase in sales of almost 6 percent as compared to 2010, and in September, shipments were 13 percent higher than the same month a year earlier. Whereas motor home sales held steady, towable RVs showed the most growth. Many in the industry were optimistic that sales would continue to rise, albeit slowly, as the economy recovered.

By 2011, the travel trailer and camper industry in the United States was worth $6.8 billion, according to U.S. Supplier Relations LLC. Imports remained low, at around $500 million, whereas exports topped $2.0 billion. The United States shipped products in this industry to 164 different countries in 2010.

Industry Leaders

Thor Industries Inc. of Jackson Center, Ohio, marketed travel trailers and motor homes under a variety of brand names, including Airstream and Dutchmen. With sales of $2.7 billion in 2010, Thor employed 8,250 people.

Forrest River Inc., of Elkhart, Indiana, produced cargo trailers and RVs, including fifth wheels, motor homes, tent campers, and travel trailers and was one of the largest privately owned RV manufacturers in the United States in 2010. That year, the company, which was a subsidiary of Berkshire-Hathaway, registered sales of $568.4 million and employed 6,000 workers.

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. of Riverside, California, was another industry leader. The firm manufactured a full range of recreational vehicle products, including motor homes, travel trailers, and folding trailers. The company had annual revenues of more than $1.5 billion in the late 2000s, which included its large manufactured home division.

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News and information about Travel Trailers and Campers

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