The inside of an RV on display at the industry trade show.
The RUV - recreational utility vehicle.
The European-style lightweight towable RV made by Jayco.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The recreational vehicle industry is a billion dollar business. Though you might never consider owning one the industry has a huge impact on WAVE Country.
A big industry trade show is taking place this week at the Kentucky Exposition Center. I found out how RV companies have adapted to a poor economy.
When the economy rolled before the recession, big RV's rolled off the assembly line. The models ranged in price from $400,000 to some approaching $800,000. You won't find those on the lot of Tom Stinnett RV of Clarksville anymore. In fact, Stinnett didn't think he'd survive the recession.
"It was no secret, we struggled," said Stinnett. "We were even going to sell our building over there. But things have a way of working out."
Things didn't just work out, they are working well. Sales the past three years are up 20 percent or more. Those sales include the much more affordable RUVs, recreational utility vehicles. At prices starting around $80,000, RUVS are selling fast and employing a lot of Hoosiers in Elkhart County where most RVs are made.
Those sales are also helping Louisville. Stinnett showed us an RUV built in a Ford 450 chassis, the same chassis used in on cutaway vans.
Jayco, of Middlebury, Indiana, started building pop up trailers in a chicken coop about 50 years ago. Now they have a European-style lightweight towable RV that more families can use with their current vehicles.
"So this is something that's going to be ideal for the normal family with a minivan or a small sport utility vehicle to get into the industry and the lifestyle without having to buy another tow vehicle to pull it," said Chuck Lasley, vice president of Jayco.
Maybe you don't ever plan on buying one, but keeping an eye on RVs can tell you a lot about what you might see in the economy.
"What we found in the RV industry is that when you talk about the economy in and of itself, it's the first one to start to take that dive down, but it's the first one to take that rise up."
Close to 80 percent of RV sales are trailers - from small pop up campers to big fifth wheel units you can pull with a three-quarter ton truck.