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University of Michigan Study Credits Industry Marketing Efforts

RESTON, VA -- U.S. ownership of recreation vehicles (RVs) has reached record levels, reveals a study by the University of Michigan, with aging baby boomers driving the gains. In addition, rv trader purchase intentions have improved among current and former owners.

Nearly one in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households now owns an RV. That's nearly 7 million households–an increase of 7.8 percent during 1998-2001, according to the study.

A leading force behind RV ownership's upswing is the baby boomer market of consumers 35 to 54 years old, the study confirms.

In fact, during 1998-2001 the number of RVs owned by those 35 to 54 grew faster than all other age groups, "underscoring the success of industry marketing efforts aimed at the baby boomer," said University of Michigan Survey Research Center Director Dr. Richard Curtin. The industrywide Go RVing advertising campaign was launched in 1997 when the RV trader market was last researched by Curtin.

Nearly 10 percent of those 55 and over own an RV, slightly exceeding the 8.9 percent ownership rates of 35-to-54 year olds, the study shows.

Commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), this RV consumer demographics study updates similar research conducted every four years since 1980. Telephone interviews were conducted January through June 2001 with 3,000 consumers-randomly selected to be representative of all U.S. households.

The average RV owner is married, owns a home and has an annual household income of $56,000. Reflecting the aging population, the median age of all RV owners is now 49 years, up slightly from the previous study, which recorded a median age of 48.

Long-term signs point to substantial RV market growth because of favorable demographic trends. Curtin estimates the number of RV owning households will rise to nearly 8 million in 2010–a gain of 15 percent between 2001-2010, outpacing overall U.S. household growth of 10 percent.

"Primary RV demand is very good and the potential for future sales quite bright," Curtin concludes.

RV travel's appeal is further demonstrated by intentions of current and former owners to purchase RVs again in the future. In fact, six in 10 current owners intend to purchase another RV, with 40 percent of those saying it would likely be a new vehicle, the study shows.

While there are slightly more former owners than current owners, nearly one out of three former owners expect to purchase another RV in the future. Although more likely to purchase a used vehicle when they return, former owners represent solid sales prospects, the study suggests.

Curtin credits industry marketing efforts for successfully improving RV repurchase rates among current and former owners.

The data contained in the study refer to traditional recreation vehicles, defined to include all types of motorhomes, conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers, folding camping trailers and truck campers. All data, including results from past surveys, reflect this definition of traditional RVs, allowing for robust comparisons with prior surveys, which also included conversion vehicles.

"Overall, there is a strong and enduring appeal to the RV lifestyle that is as valid today as it was 20 years ago," Curtin declares. "The latest survey data only adds support to an optimistic forecast of RV sales and future ownership growth."

The 64-page study, The RV Consumer: A Demographic Profile, is priced at $45 for RVIA members, plus $6.25 shipping; and $60 for nonmembers, plus $7.50 shipping. To order, call RVIA's Publications Department, (703) 620-6003, ext. 311.

RVIA is the national association representing more than 500 manufacturers and component suppliers producing approximately 98 percent of all RVs made in the United States.

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