SIC 3792

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.

NAICS Code(s)

336214 (Travel Trailer and Camper Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

In 1999 there were approximately 806 U.S. establishments in this industry. Most were private subsidiaries of companies that manufacture a range of recreational vehicles. Manufacturers of trailers and campers often incorporate chassis made elsewhere into their products; these chassis are produced by large automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors.

Several factors contributed to the steady sale of travel trailers and campers, resulting in a modest growth at the end of the twentieth century. The popularity of outdoor recreation, particularly with the baby boomer generation as they approached retirement age, boosted recreational vehicle sales. The strong economy and booming stock market of the late 1990s sparked the industry's growth, as well. The value of shipments in 2000 rose to $6.2 billion, compared to $4.6 billion in 1997.

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, also 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.

The economic recessions of the 1970s and 1980s dramatically reduced sales and manufacturing in this industry. Also during that time, some travel trailer and chassis producers were negatively effected by recalls of their products; at one point, over 10,000 units of small mobile homes attached to Toyota pick-up truck chassis were recalled.

Because the recreational vehicle field was increasingly competitive and crowded, the future for the industry was uncertain,. Some analysts felt that the continued development of other types of recreational vehicles boded ill for this segment of the transportation manufacturing industry. Richard Rescigno of Barron's, however, predicted that sales of small campers and travel trailers might actually improve through the 1990s, since such products were at the inexpensive end of the recreational vehicle market. Rescigno reasoned that such products would appeal to the growing number of retirees on limited incomes.

Just as Rescigno had predicted, motor home sales rose sharply: retail figures went up by 19.4 percent from September 1992. Recreational vehicle (RV) trailers also posted a 15 percent gain in overall sales for September 1993. RV shipments increased by 2.7 percent from May 1993 to May 1994. The growth trend continued into the mid-1990s, with sales of RV trailers growing by 18.8 percent to 13,962 units for the first half of 1994. The continued growth trend was attributed to strong sales in the east north central and west north central regions of the United States.

By the mid-1990s the state of Indiana had the distinction of being the RV capital of the world, producing 49.8 percent of all RVs in the country. According to the Tribune Business Weekly, the total retail value of the industry nationwide was $9.5 billion during that period, with $4.5 billion being generated from the production in Indiana.

In June 1995, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) gave its final approval to a RV weight-labeling requirement. Motor homes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and folding camping trailers would be required to comply; truck campers and conversion vehicles were exempted from this requirement.

Current Conditions

America's increasing demand for travel trailers and motor homes continued into the late 1990s. This growth was attributed to the nation's aging population of baby boomers. People between the ages of 55 and 65 accounted for much the industry sales, which were expected to grow over the next 10 years. In 2000, shipments were reported at $6.2 billion, up from $5.9 billion in 1999, $5.2 billion in 1998, and $4.6 billion in 1997. Employment between 1997 and 2000 grew from 33,793 to 39,843. Production workers in 2000 numbered 33,092, compared to 27,382 in 1997.

Industry Leaders

Employing around 21,000 people, Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. of Riverside, California led the industry with sales revenues of $3.5 billion in 1999. Known as the "Big Guy" in the industry, Fleetwood was the only Fortune 500 company in Riverside and rolled out 250 RV models from its California plants.

Thor Industries of Ohio was second in the industry, with 1999 sales of $805 million and 3,350 employees. Other leaders included Holiday Rambler LLC, Winnebago Industries Inc., Coachmen Industries Inc., and Safari Motor Coaches Inc.


By 2000, 39,843 workers were employed by this industry. Most worked just over 40 hours a week for an average wage of $12.85 per hour.

Further Reading

Bureau of the Census. Economic Census 1997, 2000. Available from .

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Statistics, 2000. Available from .

"Hoover's Company Capsules." Hoover's Online, 2000. Available from .

Longsdorf Jr., Robert. "RVIA Board OK's Labeling, Market Expansion Plan." RV Business, August 1995.

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

Ward's Business Directory of U S. Private and PublicCompanies. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2000.

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