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Justin Fox

A Decline in RV Sales Is Bad News for Trump

The president’s trade war has increased manufacturing costs and hurt a bellwether industry.

A nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have

A nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have

Photographer: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group Editorial

Last summer something strange started happening in the recreational-vehicle business. Even as President Donald Trump proclaimed “an economic turnaround of historic proportions” and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, asserted that “this is a boom that will be sustainable frankly as far as the eye can see,” RV manufacturers shipped out 11.4% fewer vehicles and trailers in June 2018 than in the same month a year earlier. Shipments rebounded in July but turned negative again in August, and have been falling short ever since.

This RV decline has been getting a lot of attention lately as a possible harbinger of a broader economic downturn to come. The last three recessions (which started in July 1990, March 2001 and December 2007) were all preceded by declines in RV manufacturers’ shipments.