Douglas and Julie Luckey of Cadillac, Mich., look for a tow-able with the help of sales associate Brett Yoder, right. Sales remain at strong at Total Value RV in Elkhart despite concerns about tariffs and other economic issues. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
Douglas and Julie Luckey of Cadillac, Mich., look for a tow-able with the help of sales associate Brett Yoder, right. Sales remain at strong at Total Value RV in Elkhart despite concerns about tariffs and other economic issues. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
It was a foggy morning in Elkhart, but that didn’t stop Douglas Luckey and his wife from showing up at Total Value RV early Friday morning to shop for a 28- to 30-foot towable trailer.

The couple from Cadillac, Mich., were out in the expansive lot with salesman Brett Yoder when more customers came into the office looking for a salesperson to help guide them through the buying process.

It was business as usual at Total Value RV despite some worries that we might be seeing the very earliest signs of a recession.

That story line gained some traction last week when the New York Times published an article highlighting some of the anxiety that is being felt in Elkhart that the good times — following the brutality of the Great Recession — could soon be coming to an end.

As Elkhart, Ind., Goes, So Goes the Nation, and Elkhart Is Nervous,” the headline read.

Shipments of all RVs were down 11.4 percent in June compared to the same month in 2017, according to the RV Industry Association, and some companies have cut down on the number of shifts in order to get supply more in line with demand.

Additional concerns have been caused by aluminum and steel tariffs that have translated into somewhat higher prices — perhaps $2,500 to $3,000, according to one estimate — for models utilizing a lot of those materials.

If additional tariffs are imposed on goods coming from China and other countries, the effect on RV sales could be even more chilling as higher prices for those goods likely would be passed on to consumers through higher sticker prices.

With tens of thousands of local jobs dependent on the RV industry, its health is obviously important to the region, but it also gets the attention of economists and others across the country who are in the business of looking for leading-edge indicators of what’s to come.

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