(Reuters) - Winnebago Industries Inc (WGO.N) reported its highest motor homes order backlog since the recession, underscoring the recovery of the U.S. recreational vehicle market, sending its shares up as much as 5 percent.
The largest U.S. motor home maker, known for its luxurious touring vehicles that provide home-like comfort on the road, said total order backlog nearly doubled to 1,884 units at the end of the fourth quarter.
The company's order backlog for motor homes was the highest since the fourth quarter of 2007, said Thompson Research Group analyst Kathryn Thompson.
"The dramatic increase in our sales order backlog reflects the positive dealer response to our new 2013 model year products," Winnebago Chief Executive Randy Potts said in statement.
The level of dealer inventory is lower than what it should be given the improved demand for the company's products, Potts added on a conference call with analysts.
"To meet this increased demand, we've been ramping up production and hiring additional employees," he said.
The company's headcount has increase 12 percent for the fiscal year ended August 25, almost all of it in the fourth quarter.
The company, which sells motor homes under the Winnebago, Itasca and ERA brands, plans to continue to increase production.
Rival Thor Industries Inc (THO.N) reported better-than-expected quarterly results last month, driven by higher demand for its recreational vehicles (RVs).
RV manufacturers shipped 24,460 units in August, the strongest August in five years, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
The trade group expects shipments to increase 8.4 percent for 2012, helped by improved credit availability and new designs, but this would still be below the 390,500 sold in 2006.
The 2008 recession and high unemployment rates have discouraged spending on big-ticket items such as Winnebago's motor homes, which can cost up to $350,000.
Potts said Winnebago has been able to increase sales volumes in the recent quarter due to the popularity of its new low-priced models.
Deliveries in the quarter jumped 38 percent to 2,016 units.
Net income rose to $40.9 million, or $1.41 per share, in the fourth quarter, from $3.5 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier. (link.reuters.com/duj33t)
Excluding a tax benefit, earnings were 14 cents per share. Revenue jumped 25 percent to $162.5 million.
Analysts had expected earnings of 17 cents per share on revenue of $163 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Winnebago's total operating expenses rose 43 percent to $9.7 million for the fourth quarter.
Winnebago's stock, which has doubled in value in the last year, were up 3 percent at $12.58 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian and Supriya Kurane)