Friesen: Challenges Ahead as RV Sales Escalate

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July 14, 2017 by   1 Comment

Darrell Friesen

Editor’s Note: The following column by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Darrell Friesen, appearing in the July issue of RV Executive Today, focuses on two looming problems as RV sales soar.

Some fantastic news came out of the RV industry last month – more than 470,000 units are projected to be produced in 2017, and the RVIA estimate for next year is a shade over 487,000.

While that’s great news for manufacturers and dealers, it also exposes long-building issues: the need for more camp sites and for enhancements to customer support, especially in parts and warranty. It’s hard to say which is the biggest challenge right now, but they could be termed problems 1 and 1A.

Campground Capacity

The volume of new units entering the market is starting to exceed the inventory of campsites currently in existence in the private and public camp ground systems. Our own customers and
consumer websites tell tales of limited campground availability in many parts of the country. In some popular tourist areas, there aren’t enough RV parks, and it can be hard to get a reservation if you can find one.

Many of the current public campgrounds were constructed during the Eisenhower Administration and need maintenance to be brought up to current standards. When these sites were constructed, officials never imagined the size and features of today’s RVs. In addition to larger spaces with more hookups, today’s campers require WiFi, not only for safety reasons, but also for access to social media. People want to be able to share the beauty of the great American outdoors and at the same time advocate for our lifestyle.

One way to modernize and increase the national parks’ campsite capacity is to create additional public-private partnerships on federal land. This is the path favored by the recently formed Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), which includes RVDA and RVIA.

Last month, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke indicated he was considering privatizing his department’s campgrounds to offset billions of dollars of deferred maintenance costs. It’s an interesting idea. New partnerships could create revenue for the government while private businesses develop campsites that the public can use. A win-win proposition.

Parts Issue

We also need to improve performance in parts and warranty support if we want to keep the new entrants to the RV industry happy and the growth continuing. Last winter, members of all segments of the industry met to address this subject and form a task force.

Members decided to use the Six Sigma quality control process made famous by General Electric CEO Jack Welch to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the RV industry. This process includes gathering data to determine where in the parts supply process things are getting bogged down and what can be done to improve the interaction between dealers, suppliers, and manufacturers.

As a member of this working group, I am encouraged by the progress since we started, and we expect to have recommendations for all segments of the Industry in the next couple of months.

The good news is that everyone seems to be working together for the common good. There’s no
time like the present to tackle the challenges that will affect our future.

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One Response to “Friesen: Challenges Ahead as RV Sales Escalate”

  1. Dave dobaon on July 16th, 2017 3:40 pm

    Good to see both of these challenges in focus….both very easily solved if all parties work toward common goals. If there is a need for more camp sites and the market will support the required rate current owners will expand and new entrants will come forward if economics are there.

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