U.S. park model builders played a central role during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Committee Week, held June 2-6 at the historic Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington D.C. – more so than they have in years.
In an era when camping is trending in some cases toward more long-term stays involving an array of destination-style vehicles and camping cabins, RVIA has been focusing a lot of attention on park trailer builders who last year agreed to rejoin RVIA after an absence of 18 years and shelve their existing trade group, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
And it quickly became evident that park trailer companies are comfortable with their new association ties during Committee Week, where RVIA’s board of directors endorsed committee recommendations to change the name of the association’s “Destination Camping Committee” to the “Seasonal Camping Committee” to better reflect common use of those terms among RV park operators and the camping public.
RVIA, for public relations and marketing purposes, will now refer to these types of units as “Park Model RV’s” while using either of the terms “Recreational Park Trailers” or “Park Model RV’s” for regulatory and standards purposes. Behind the new nomenclature is a desire on the part of park model builders, the national trade association and many campground operators to accentuate their status as recreation vehicles that are essentially mobile and distinct from housing whenever such questions might arise among consumers, zoning boards and taxing bodies in the future.
“Really, it’s a rebranding effort,” reports Park Model RV Committee Chairman John Soard, general manager of Fairmont Park Models, a division of Nappanee, Ind.-based Fairmont Homes Inc. “We for a long time in the park model business have just wanted to be affiliated more closely with what HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) calls us, which is an RV, and we’ve just never had the word ‘RV’ in the actual name of the product. We wanted to have that name – RV – in there, and we are now ‘Park Model RV’s.’”
Soard is pleased with the RVIA staff support his company and the other 23 park trailer manufacturers who have joined RVIA since last year have been receiving in a number of ways — from seals to marketing to shipment reports — under the watch of Matt Wald, executive director of park model RV’s for RVIA.
“Those items are all important,” said Soard. “You have government affairs working hard to get a list of the code states and what their issues are and how to define park models. That was huge, and so was getting accurate shipping data. That’s a big deal, and we were very pleased with how that came about. Getting us RV seals was very helpful. Then, there’s the Show Committee integrating us back into the Louisville Show. That was a big deal for us as well.
“Again,” he added, “all of this took staff’s time and effort to get things done for us. These are all things that we all, as a committee, wanted to be addressed, and they were handled very professionally. All things considered, the recognition within RVIA of the seasonal camping market and how big it is, that was a big deal to us. I’d say, overall, it’s been an incredible first year with RVIA, and I’m very pleased with how smoothly the transition has been going.”
Seasonal Camping Committee member Tim Gage, vice president over park models and cabins for Phoenix-based RV and manufactured home builder Cavco Industries Inc., agrees with Soard’s assessment.
“I think that the direction we’re headed in is going to be definitely positive for our segment of the RV industry,” says Gage, whose company in June introduced a new parkmodels.com website. “And I like the new branding, so to speak, as a ‘Park Model RV.’ That’s really what we are. I think that things have gone well.”
Gage appreciates the “phenomenal support” of Wald, who told WCM that standards inspections were the most pressing priority over the past year in integrating these new companies, which together account for about 3,000 units a year — a fairly small number vs. the RV industry’s estimated total wholesale shipment numbers of 310,000 for 2013. In fact, Wald says the need for consistent and professional standards inspections was one of the main reasons the park model sector wanted to rejoin RVIA in the first place after exiting in 1994.
“Everybody (park trailer builders) was very nervous about how that was going to go,” said Wald. “They had 20 years of experience with third-party inspectors who took a very different approach to the inspection than our inspectors do. Ultimately, the (RVIA) inspectors have found a very high degree of conformance with ANSI 119.5 (the park model standard) among the OEMS.”