Since 2008, the number of RV manufacturers has dropped by 35 percent, Coon said. The ranks of suppliers fell by almost the same amount.
Everyone had to make adjustments to survive.
Tom Stinnett, an RV dealer in southern Indiana, said he reshuffled his inventory to focus mostly on towable units. Before the recession, his lot was divided between towables and more costly stand-alone motor homes.
Towables cost between $6,000 and $100,000, according to RVIA. Stand-alone motor homes range from $50,000 to as much as $400,000 for top-of-the-line, bus-like vehicles.
Stinnett said his business is profitable again after several tough years, adding "We have nowhere to go but up."
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also gave a pep talk to the industry.
"Your best days are still ahead," he said before touring a convention hall filled with the newest models.
Salazar said investments in conservation and outdoor recreation would help fuel job growth. He cited a study showing more than 8.4 million U.S. jobs are created every year thanks to outdoor recreation.
In 2010, RV travelers spent nearly 2.3 million nights at national parks, up 10 percent from 2008, Salazar said.
Employment is also on the rebound in the industry. RV manufacturers and suppliers now employ about 375,000 people, up about 50 percent since November 2008, according to RVIA. But the overall work force is still down from the more than 500,000 workers before the recession.
Among the RV makers showing off their latest models was California-based manufacturer MVP RV Inc., which debuted an all-electric motor home powered by batteries attached to the chaise.
Â Â "It's a bold step for us, but we believe that these are the kind of actions that are necessary to help change the perception of not only the industry but the economic climate overall," said MVP CEO and President Brad Williams