If you live in the US, you might be seeing a lot more recreational vehicles (RVs) this summer.
In March, when the pandemic shut down the US economy, the values of Thor and Winnebago, the two biggest publicly traded RV companies, cratered even faster than the S&P 500 index. But their stock prices have steadily risen since, and soared in late May as signs of a promising summer have become clearer. Of the 31 publicly traded automobile manufactures worth $5 billion worldwide, Thor’s stock has performed third best since the beginning of February, trailing only Audi and Tesla.
“Since the end of our third fiscal quarter, our outlook for the balance of our fiscal year and the calendar year has markedly improved. We’re seeing an influx of first-time buyers, which bodes well for the long-term health of the RV industry,” said Bob Martin, president and CEO of Thor Industries, according to Thor’s recent earnings report.
The RV industry has a long history of volatility. The vehicles—trailers (towed behind cars), campers, and motor homes—aren’t a necessity, and so become more popular when people have more money to spend on discretionary purchases. They’re also useful in emergencies, as field stations or temporary housing during natural disasters or dwellings for self-isolating frontline workers, though these uses have less of an effect on overall sales.
The biggest boon to the industry started in 2017, when #vanlife became a popular trend in the US, particularly among younger people; the last four years have seen record highs in the number of units shipped by manufacturers. People between the ages of 35 and 54 make up the biggest proportion of RV owners, according to a study commissioned by the RV Industry Association.
“There truly is an RV for every lifestyle and every budget. You can get a small popup for under $6,000, or a million-dollar coach, and everything in between,” says Monika Geraci, a spokesperson for the RV Industry Association.