RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore told the association’s leadership during RVIA’s Annual Membership Meeting on Tuesday (June 7) in Washington D.C. that the recreational vehicle sector continues to regain strength in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
“With regard to the industry as a whole, we’ve been indeed fortunate that over the last 18 months our industry has recovered from the depths of the economic meltdown to a level today that, based on history, is a more sustainable volume,” Fore told an assembled luncheon crowd at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel during the association’s annual RVIA Committee Week proceedings.
“While the economic downturn took away some RV manufacturers, suppliers and dealers, our industry remains strong with shipments at a sustainable volume because of the millions of RV owners who love their RVs, love what they can do while RVing and can’t imagine giving up the enjoyment of their RVing experiences,” said Fore, president of Dicor Corp., Elkhart, Ind.
Fore, noting that the recession triggered the loss of as many as 20% of the nation’s dealers, also touched on the following topics during his wide-ranging comments:
A Pending Upgrade in Service Technician Training: This past February, a group of industry professionals reviewed the existing RV industry technician certification tests and developed six new tests to support the new RV Service Technician Career Ladder, said Fore. This new approach, addressed this week during the RVST Committee meeting, gives RV technicians the option of two different paths for certification. “One path maintains the existing process of becoming a master certified tech,” said Fore, “while the new approach allows technicians to become certified in specific specialties, including body, chassis, electrical systems, appliances and plumbing as they progress along the certification ladder.”
Newly formed Canadian Coalition Committee: Fore cited the association’s newly formed Canadian Coalition Committee — and RVIA’s move to require member manufacturers to place RVIA seals on all North American products as of June 1 — as key steps in a more coordinated approach for the two countries’ RV industries. “The Canadian Coalition Committee will work toward harmonizing U.S. and Canadian RV standards as well as address other important issues that affect the North American RV industry,” he said. “The new RVIA seal requirements simplify the process for manufacturers while assuring that Go RVing Canada receives proper funding to better promote RV ownership in Canada.”
Opening Up More Global Markets: Fore pointed out that the popularity of RVing is flourishing beyond America’s borders, and he pointed specifically to efforts to open up the Chinese market. A focal point of that effort is the possible adoption of current U.S. RV standards to allow China’s market to better develop through the import of vehicles and components. “We are driving toward a true North American RV industry,” he said. “RVIA, along with our industry partners in Canada, are working hand-in-hand to strengthen relationships and tear down artificial walls so that we can conduct business more efficiently and effectively.” RVIA, at the same time, is looking into the feasibility of providing “disaster products worldwide” and is working more closely with the European associations as RVIA prepares to host an RV World Congress in 2013.
A Growing Trend Toward Destination Camping: The association is beginning to look at how destination camping fits into the RV market. Recently, RVIA and the Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) agreed to form a Destination Camping Alliance in an effort to find common ground as it relates to destination camping, regardless of product type. “Destination camping has long been viewed as more of a market for park models,” Fore told the assembled RVIA leadership. “But in reality, people use both park models and RVs for this purpose.”
The Status of RVIA’s Shows: Fore cited the strong demand for exhibit space at RVIA’s upcoming National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and the California RV Show in Pomona as evidence of the industry’s continued recovery. “The National RV Trade Show remains the industry’s showcase event,” he said. “I’m pleased to report that the outlook for both shows is very encouraging… The Pomona event will be larger this year than it was last year, and Louisville will be about the same size.”
More Stringent New Federal CAFÉ Standards: Fore, in closing, addressed federal and state legislation and rulings that impact the industry, an area RVIA’s Government Affairs Department has been involved in.
“Today, we have more federal issues that have a potential impact on our industry than we’ve ever faced before at one time,” said Fore. “The new federal medium-and-heavy-duty vehicle CAFÉ greenhouse gas standards for the first time include pickup trucks with a GVWR of greater than 8,500 pounds and all motorhome chassis regardless of GVWR. In the past, new CAFÉ standards applied only to cars, light trucks and SUV’s. RVIA has (previously) played an important role in making sure that NHTSA took towing into consideration. Our message was heard, and NHTSA made a number of concessions in setting the newest round of car, light truck and SUV mile-per-gallon fuel standards.
“But this new effort to set standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles is a double whammy,” he added, “as both NHTSA and EPA are trying to harmonize a miles-per-gallon standard with a tailpipe greenhouse gas-emissions level. The fight today is much more difficult in an environment of high fuel prices, turmoil in the Middle East and no sign of any reasonable national energy policy coming out of Washington. RVIA has filed comments making a number of recommendations, one of which would exclude personal use vehicles such as motorhomes.
“But this is an uphill battle,” Fore continued. “And while we need to stay strong in our thinking, we also need to be ready to work with the standards that these agencies ultimately set. These types of new regulations seem intended to have the government make decisions for all Americans regarding what they purchase and use. These types of regulations serve to set up false economies that are not consumer driven, but are driven by bureaucracy, often leading to more bureaucracy over time.”