If you're a close follower of the recreational vehicle industry, you probably remember the dark days of 2009 with massive consolidation, bankruptcies, and dealer closures nationwide. While the industry remains a cyclical business sensitive to changes in consumer confidence and discretionary income, the signs are encouraging. According to figures released by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, RV shipments are up 11 percent for the first quarter of 2013. Projected shipments for the whole year are 307,000 units, which would represent an increase of 7.5 percent over 2012. If the projected unit shipments are reached, it would be the first time since 2007 that industry shipments exceeded 300,000.

Showing the greatest growth is the motorhome segment, with growth of 23.7 percent, likely partially fueled by the long-term financing available with for motorhomes. Travel trailers, which have represented as much as 90 percent of RV shipments in recent years, are up 9.8 percent.

As with much of the general automotive industry, lighter weight, improved aerodynamics, technology and affordability are major themes. As compact and midsize SUV and crossover models are representing a bigger percentage of vehicle sales, the RV industry has responded with lighter-weight travel trailer models that can be towed with midsize SUVs and minivans.

According to the RVIA, the industry employs more than 250,000 people in the U.S. and notes that 50 percent of RVs sold worldwide are built in the U.S.

Source: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association