RVDA Con/Expo Comes at Industry Juncture

August 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Expo LogoThe RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, scheduled for Oct. 4-8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., comes at a crucial time for the U.S. economy in general and the RV industry in particular as both work their way out of the tough recession of 2008/2009.RVDA logo

On one hand, the industry’s rebound has exceeded expectations in many ways, especially for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers aligned with the right towable recreational vehicle brands. On the other hand, however, the aftershocks of the Great Recession are obviously still with us in terms of unemployment, stock market fluctuations and a general discomfort among many Americans with regard to the general state of the economy.

And while most Americans assume that the worst is over, many of the nation’s durable good manufacturers – including RV builders — are still looking to bridge their way to the next year and the next level of recovery and to find a comfort zone in this new post-recessionary age.

Mike Molino

Mike Molino

“There is a consensus we have to recalibrate our definition of what is a good business environment,” said Mike Molino, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), lead sponsor of October’s annual Con/Expo. “We’re not going to get back to the 400,000-unit years any time soon. We’ll probably never return to that. The next couple of years will be tough, but doable. If dealers stay within the cash structure they have, they will survive. The consumer will come back — slowly. We won’t see a significant increase (in sales) until there is more certainty (about the state of the economy). I’m not so sure the election of 2010 will bring more certainty. That might just bring more confusion.”

But Molino, generally a realist, does tend to see the cup half full.

“The dealers who are still in business, for the most part, are the ones who will survive,” he maintained. “The dealers coming to the convention are in good shape. The shakeout is well on its way to being complete. But it’s not totally over. Dealers are telling me they have inventory but are paying more finance charges on the inventory they have than they used to, and retail financiers are very stringent on who they are lending money to, so the ability to buy a recreational vehicle, the threshold for buying, is higher and the ability to buy is a lot lower.

“Another dynamic is that there is uncertainty among businesses, both large and small, and that drives employment, and employment drives the mentality of the economy,” Molino continued. “When a consumer is hearing levels of unemployment we currently have (around 10%), it’s still not conducive to them going out and buying an RV, even if they can afford to get a loan for an RV. Until unemployment goes down and employment rises, we will have some issues.”

A New Era for the Industry As Well as RVDA’s Con/Expo

RVDA of CanadaThe RVDA is tackling this new era head-on with a refreshing revision of the annual convention, which is co-sponsored by RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.

A crowd of between 475 and 550 U.S. and Canadian dealers, with total registrations of about 1,100 attendees, is anticipated for the five-day event.

“I think it’s going to be the best convention ever,” adds Molino. “We’ve got a very, very active committee under (Convention Chairman) Peter Albano. Between him and my staff and the volunteers on the committee, I think they have put together the most pertinent program for dealers and the management level of staff I’ve ever seen.”

As ever, of course, there will be an aggressive educational component including workshops on everything from wholesale and retail financing options to new inventory management strategies and how to reach new customers through innovative marketing communications. And the 2010 convention will again feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s leading OEM and supplier companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability.

But attendees will notice significant changes, starting with the brand committee meetings, closed door sessions in which dealers meet as a group with representatives of the recreational vehicle brands they carry. RVDA’s “Partners in Progress” brand committees, among other things, will work on important dealer-manufacturer issues and address results of RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI).

“We’ve restructured the brand committees meetings, so they come early in the session,” Molino explained. “We tried to make it so there is no conflict between the committee meetings and anything else they want to do. I think it will enhance the experience for the dealers, especially the manufacturers.”

Peter Albano

Peter Albano

Before he took on the assignment of chairing this year’s convention committee, Albano confides, he talked with many dealers and asked them what they wanted with regard to the convention. “They said that we need to change and get some new blood into the system and see how we’re running the sessions, break it up and make it new,” Albano, owner of American RV in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Miss., told RVBusiness. “We’ve worked very, very hard at doing that.”

Former Interior Secretary Kempthorne Will Keynote

Albano predicts that convention attendees will especially enjoy the remarks of former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who will serve as keynote speaker at the first general session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Dirk Kempthorne

Dirk Kempthorne

“Secretary Kempthorne has a track record of developing innovative approaches to meet the outdoor recreation needs of RV travelers and other outdoor enthusiasts,” Albano said. “As a long-time motorhome owner, he is enthusiastic about the future prospects for our industry. He will provide an inspiring message for everyone who makes their living in the RV business.”

Kempthorne continues to champion outdoor recreation and is an active RV traveler and motorcyclist. As Secretary of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration, he brought fundamental relational changes in the environmental, conservation and outdoor recreation arenas.

During his service in the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne led successful efforts to create a sustainable funding source for building and maintaining trails and to promote balance between resource protection and outdoor fun – which is among the reasons he received the 20th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award in 2008 from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).

A second general session, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, will feature an “RV Outlook Panel Discussion” for which panelists will include Ron Fenech, president of Thor Industries Inc.’s RV Group; Craig Kennison, analyst with Robert W. Baird, Inc.; and Pete Lannon, GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance.

Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., will chair the discussion, which will focus on minimizing risk factors with RV floorplan loans, a manufacturing outlook on the future of RV product development and distribution, financial markets and the impact the issues will have on the dealers’ bottom lines.

“This session is sure to be extremely informative for everyone attending the upcoming convention,” said Albano. “It will provide some important steps that dealers can take to reduce their risk and successfully meet the financial challenges we are all facing today. The Convention/Expo Committee secured an outstanding group of RV industry experts to participate in this event.

RVBusiness HostsTop 50 Dealer Awards Festivities

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

RVBusiness magazine (and will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards during a Wednesday, Oct. 6, reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.

While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers – just as it was expanded last year to include Canadian retailers — the awards format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Go RVing Coalition Convenes at Con/ExpoGo RVing logo

Concurrent with RVDA’s convention agenda, the pan-industry Go RVing Coalition will convene 8-11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Rio’s Tango Room to continue discussions of topics raised during the coalition’s last meeting June 8 during RVIA Committee Week in South Bend, Ind. This will likely include campaign planning, 2011 funding levels and development of the Go RVing consumer leads prioritization system approved by the coalition in June.

Gary LaBella

Gary LaBella

Along with recent shipment and retail data, the coalition will rely on a new University of Michigan RV market forecast and new ad tracking research. “Go RVing’s 2010 ad tracking research will be complete, giving us a better handle on the impact of our media mix and the Ambassadors of Affordability creative,” reports Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the coalition’s staff liaison.

Additionally, LaBella says results of the new study of Go RVing leads over the past three years will be reported by The Richards Group, the coalition’s Dallas-based agency. “This study will enable us to better prioritize leads, to provide more information to users about the specific products and price ranges consumer are considering, the lifestyle attributes of our leads and which media are most effective in delivering them,” he said. “All of this information will be helpful to future Go RVing media and creative planning as well as industry marketing efforts.”

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BLS: Recreation Employment Rebounding

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Chart courtesy of Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chart courtesy of Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courtesy of Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), comes this interesting fact: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in the recreation field is doing markedly better than other leisure and travel segments.

Look at the accompaning chart to track how employment in the fields of air transportation, recreation and lodging have evolved over the past year.

In general, recreation employment retreated less during the recession and has come back more quickly than the other two industrial segments.

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RVIA’s Coon Attends White House Conference

April 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Coon

Richard Coon

Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon was in attendance as a delegate at the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on Friday ( April 16) at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., where President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

Coon joined leaders representing the recreation, sporting, conservation, farming, ranching, forestry, private industry, local parks and academia communities from the nation’s 53 states and territories. He participated in his role as vice chairman of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).

Coon applauded the new initiative saying, “America’s public lands and green spaces are favorite destinations for the nation’s millions of RV enthusiasts. This new effort will help protect these natural treasures, encourage more outdoor recreation, and improve access to these areas. We look forward to working with President Obama on this effort.”

The Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative calls on the secretaries of the Interior and of Agriculture, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to lead the Initiative, in coordination with the departments of Defense, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, Education and the Office of Management and Budget.

The Initiative will support a 21st century conservation agenda that builds on successes in communities across the country, and will start a national dialogue about conservation that supports the efforts of private citizens and local communities.

“Since President Theodore Roosevelt held the first White House conference on conservation in 1908, we as Americans have taken extraordinary steps to protect our land, water, wildlife, and history for future generations, but today the places we love face new challenges that require new ideas and new strategies to solve,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative will start a much-needed dialogue about conservation in our country so that we can hear directly from Americans about the places they care about and how they are working to protect them. This is about listening, learning, and finding common-sense ways to support the good work that is happening in communities across the country.”

“Today, with 80% of Americans living in cities and suburbs, it is more important than ever for people to have access to outdoor space. Just as we cherish our childhood memories of hiking and sledding, fishing and camping, and just as we enjoy spending time outdoors with our families, we must guard these places and traditions for new generations,” said CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley. “Through this initiative we hope to identify new opportunities to work with Americans on a modern approach to conservation that begins at the ground level, and to reinvigorate the national conversation about our outdoors.”

“President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative will play an important role in confronting the serious challenges our natural resources face today: climate change, air and water pollution, landscape fragmentation and loss of open space,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This effort will bring Americans from across the country together to look for new approaches to protect our national treasures. And it will highlight the importance of working across ownership boundaries to restore and conserve both private and public lands in a way that recognizes that conservation and economic vitality are inextricably linked.”

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ARC’s Crandall Urges RV Industry to Focus on Value

November 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Derrick A. Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition, shared these comments on a story posted Monday on the RVBUSINESS.COM website quoting Gina Martin Adams’ forecast of consumer attitudes Nov. 10 at the National Marine Bankers Association Annual Conference in Hilton Head, S.C. The Wells Fargo Securities economist said today’s American consumers are changing. “You will lose those consumers in 2010 and 2011 if you think they are the same consumers that you sold to from 2003 to 2007,” she said.

I think that Gina Martin Adams’ forecast about consumer attitudes for the next several years is likely to prove correct. There is a new realism about stability of assets, in homes and in the stock market and a real aversion to being too debt-laden. And this has important – and positive – implications for the RV business. Unlike high-end leisure purchases of overseas trips, cruises and luxurious resorts, money spent buying an RV isn’t lost. The RV is available for additional uses – weekend getaways, accommodations while visiting family that beat sleeping on couches and staying in hotels, tailgating and next year’s grand adventures.

But the real lure for RV sales is what an RV unlocks. For just $10, any American over the age of 62 can purchase a lifetime of free entry into our national parks and hundreds of other great places, including national wildlife refuges and national forests. These federal lands cover one-third of the nation and offer hiking, fishing, picnicking, swimming and other water sports, wildlife viewing and more. They are connected by more than 150 national scenic byways – great places for RV travelers. And the $10 fee is for all of the passengers in the RV, whether they are 62 or not – so bring the grandkids. And camping in national parks is a bargain, too.

If an RV prospect is not 62 –no problem. The same unlimited access for all of the passengers in an RV or other vehicle is just $80 annually – the America the Beautiful Pass.

Bottom line is that the RV industry can capitalize on consumer sentiments and the focus on value. Our message is remarkably like that used successfully by Wal-Mart for the past 18 months: Save money. Live better.

Good slogan for the RV business any time, but especially now.

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RVs in Spotlight at Next Week’s Public Lands Event

September 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


2010 Winnebago Via

2010 Winnebago Via

RVs will be featured at a forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior in cooperation with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) in downtown Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, according to a news release from the Recreation vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Winnebago Industries Inc. will provide its new high-mileage Class A Via motorhome for tours by government officials including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. RVIA President Richard Coon will join ARC President Derrick Crandall to brief the secretaries on RV travel and innovations as they tour the motorhome.

The Via is the first Class A motorhome built on the imported Dodge/Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis.

The event will include remarks by LaHood and Salazar, who are expected to speak about the continued popularity, importance and benefits of outdoor activities on public lands including RVing in this economy. They are expected to recognize RV product innovations, which will be represented by the green RV on display, as part of a more eco-friendly, fuel- and cost-efficient RV industry taking shape.

“This is going to be a tremendous opportunity to share our industry’s story with two key officials in the Obama Administration,” said Coon. “Secretary Salazar already is familiar with RVing, having spent almost two weeks traveling through Colorado in a motorhome during the 2008 presidential campaign. He also understands that jobs in factories in Indiana and elsewhere depend upon the public being interested in visiting parks and other places, and being welcomed there to enjoy outdoor recreation.”

“Secretary LaHood heads an agency that is vitally important to the RV industry,” he continued. “The Transportation Department is now leading the way to help promote livability in our communities, protecting and expanding our ability to move to and from where we live, work and play. Their programs have also increased the public’s access to America’s Great Outdoors with a vast network of federally-aided roads, from Interstates to scenic byways.”

The Department of Interior forum, “Stimulating Economic Vitality and Resource Conservation in Gateway and Tribal Communities,” will focus on how to balance the need for economic growth with conservation and protection of natural resources during a time of severe economic challenge. Attendees will include leaders from gateways and tribes, state and local governments, the tourism and recreation industries, and federal lands and other agencies whose policies have an effect on these communities.

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ARC Presents Seven with ‘Legends Awards’

June 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) has presented its 2009 Legends Awards to seven federal managers in recognition of their outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people. 

The awards were presented on Tuesday (June 9) during Great Outdoors Week – ARC’s celebration of the value and importance of outdoor recreation. 

Initiated by ARC in 1991, the Legends Award program involves seven federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service. 

Each agency nominates an individual whose extraordinary personal efforts have made a real difference in enhancing outdoor recreation programs and resources. 

Recipients of the 2009 Legends Awards are: 

  • James Jennings, Bureau of Land Management. 
  • Jay Leasure, Bureau of Reclamation. 
  • Dan Johnson, Federal Highway Administration. 
  • Christopher K. Jarvi, National Park Service. 
  • Miles Johnson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
  • Kelly Blackledge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
  • Laurie A. Thorpe, U.S. Forest Service. 

To read the full story, visit

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Webinar to Explain Loan Payment Program

May 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) has found a way to bring to the RV sector a program pioneered by the U.S. auto industry to temper the fear of a job loss by potential buyers. This program makes monthly payments on a vehicle for several months if the buyer loses his or her job.

These programs have now become widespread throughout the auto market, including all vehicles manufactured by General Motors Corp.

Derrick Crandall, ARC president,  on behalf of the RV and boating industries, announced Friday (May 15) that the the program administrator of GM’s Payment Protection program, cynoSure Financial Inc., has offered to provide RV manufacturers with a similar program covering all U.S. purchasers.

The following is a brief synopsis of how this program might work.

The program offered by cynoSure is a short-term (12 or 24 month) protection instrument which provides up to a specified number of monthly payments of an agreed upon amount. There is also a 90-day exclusionary period and a 30-day waiting period built into these programs. The policies normally make three or six payments ranging from $500 to $1,500 a month. The program is designed to act as a bridge, as the buyer finds a new job, or to give the buyer time to sell his RV.

There are important exclusions, including pre-knowledge of a layoff or loss of employment. The exclusionary period begins the same day as the coverage period, which is the purchase date of the RV. The exclusionary period is used to eliminate those people who have prior knowledge of a potential job loss. If he/she loses his/her job during this period, there are no benefits eligible to be paid. Once the 90-day exclusionary period is up, the purchaser has up to 21 months of coverage remaining. If he/she loses his/her job any time during those 21 months, he/she is eligible (after waiting 30 days) to receive up to three or six loan payments for up to the maximum payment amount.

The cynoSure proposal can be modified by the RV industry as a whole, or for manufacturers of sufficient volume, on a company-by-company basis. For example, a manufacturer offering high-end RVs could increase the monthly reimbursement of payments to eligible buyers by paying a higher cost per vehicle.

If enough companies are willing to provide the information on the RV market, the pricing for various programs can be reduced below the following “ballpark” figures:

  • 12 month coverage period, 90-day exclusionary period, 30-day waiting period, three payments up to $500 $115/vehicle.
  • 12 month coverage period, 90-day exclusionary period, 30-day waiting period, six payments up to $500 $215/vehicle.
  • 24 month coverage period, 90-day exclusionary period, 30-day waiting period, three payments up to $500 $180/vehicle.
  • 24 month coverage period, 90-day exclusionary period, 30-day waiting period, six payments up to $500 $275/vehicle.

Keep in mind that there could potentially be many, many variations to this concept. The product could be offered to those purchasing:

  • At specific shows or during a specific period – say June and July.
  • Only new non-currents, adding value without further discounting prices.
  •  Wrapped into certain financing packages, including a national credit program. 
  • Qualifying used RVs that are financed.

cynoSure is planning a webinar at 1 p.m. on Friday to further explain the mechanics of the program and to answer questions on the proposal.  To participate in the webinar,  contact  Derrick Crandall, either by e-mail at or call (202) 682-9530 no later than close of business on Tuesday.

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National Parks to Benefit from Stimulus Funds

May 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The National Park Service (NPS) will use $1 billion in federal stimulus funds to attack an estimated $9.6 billion maintenance backlog among the park system’s 388 properties.


 “This is going to make a major dent in our backlog. And it will provide jobs,” Dean Reeder, NPS national tourism  director, told state campground association leaders during the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’  (ARVC) 2009 National Issues Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

Also speaking at the conference were U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., ARVC consultant David Gorin, David M. Huether, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, Suzanne D. Cook, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association, Carvin DiGiovanni, senior director of technical and standards for the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), Lyle Laverty, a consultant and former assistant secretary of the Interior, Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Phil Ingrassia, vice president for communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).

Reeder said that NPS plans to promote the national parks as a “brand” and establish “a dialogue with the American public” in an effort to stem declining visitation, which has dropped 10% in the last 20 years. He termed “a crisis.”

“It should be a concern to all of us,” he said.

Reeder, on the other hand, said that Americans are returning to basics and seeking “more authentic experiences” in their travel. “And that’s what we offer,” Reeder noted.

As part of the NPS’ branding effort, he reported that the park system will conduct a national survey in the fall and establish focus groups to establish the national parks as a brand.

“The fact that people are looking to take shorter trips — in both distance and duration — we see as a positive,” Reeder said. “The national parks are great and they’re doing great … except that they haven’t kept pace with other alternatives that attract people when they travel. We are getting into that to understand what motivates people and how we can hone our message to reach them at a base level.”

Reeder said branding efforts will get a boost this fall with the telecast on PBS of a 12-hour series produced by Ken Burns, whose previous projects have included the Civil War and American jazz. It’s the best branding gift we are ever going to see,” Reeder added.

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