Responding to strong sales, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based American RV is undertaking a five-acre expansion of its display lot.
“Right now, we have about five acres of current display, and we are going to double that,” said Chad Neff, American RV general manager.
The Grand Rapids Business Journal reported that American RV sits on 19 acres and the business will use land that it already owns for the expansion, allowing room to display a greater offering of RVs.
“Our inventories are the highest that they’ve ever been and, as far as rolling inventory, our RV stock is up,” Neff said.
Construction is set to begin in early this summer and will be completed around July.
In addition to the expansion, Neff expects to add staff before the summer season hits, bringing the number of employees at American RV to more than 50. He said he is looking for both sales and service professionals.
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Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC announced the signing of an agreement to acquire American RV, an existing RV dealership in Olive Branch, Miss., in the next 60 to 90 days.
According to a news release, plans are for the location to undergo expansion to renovate into larger facility including additional service bays, a new Camping World retail store and a state-of-the-art collision center. The company has nearby RV supercenters in the Little Rock, Nashville and Calera markets and a total of seven stores in the greater regional area. American RV is owned by Peter Albano, who previously served as Convention/Expo Chairman for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
“We are pleased to begin the acquisition of American RV and expand our market share throughout Mississippi as well as nearby Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam. “We expect the greater Memphis market to allow us to broaden our customer reach, build upon our market leadership position in recreational sales, and make Camping World the leading retailer in the growing outdoor market.”
Lemonis continued, “Our goal is to add more quality manufacturers and brands, increase our presence in the market, and grow the work force. The greater Memphis area is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts to fish, hike, camp, and swim and just enjoy life. We are excited to begin serving this market. “
The new location, officially named Camping World of Memphis, is the first full-service location in Mississippi for the company. However, Camping World, Lemonis and his family have long-standing ties to the nearby Memphis area with its continuous support of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which provides pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.
The new outlet will add to Camping World’s future growth plans and the company expects to soon announce several additional markets of expansion throughout the country. The company will also be adding new positions for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians and retail support to join current employees at the American RV location as the facility expands.
Michigan-based dealer American RV is building a mobile medical clinic for Calvary Church in Holland, according to a press release.
The van will be shipped to Fort Mercredi, Haiti, in April to the STEP Seminary. A medical team of two local doctors and two nurses will use the mobile clinic to serve more than 23,000 people who are in need of life-saving medical care.
Calvary Church purchased a 2012 Mercedes Benz Sprinter 3500 for the foundation of the mobile clinic, but finding designers and builders to convert it into a specialized medical vehicle proved to be a challenge.
“There were only a couple companies we found in other states that would consider this project,” says Joyce Johnson, missions director for Calvary Church. “So, we were thrilled when we found a local company, American RV, who had the expertise and desire to take on this project.”
“What started out as a custom project for Kirk, Jon and Hank at American RV, has turned into a passionate labor of love. These men are dedicated and driven – working on the project from home, past work hours, making manuals, taking pictures and videos. Along with Calvary, these men are invested in this mission with their hearts.”
Chad Neff, general manager of American RV, noted, “We are honored and humbled to use our talents to help Calvary Church aid people across the world. We put a lot of labor and a lot of love into this project knowing just how vital and appreciated it will be to the people it serves in Haiti.”
After nearly 200 hours, the mobile medical clinic is almost complete and includes:
• Two consultation rooms & two exam beds.
• Sinks & tanks for fresh water and waste water.
• Custom-built cabinets for medical equipment & supplies.
• Generator for electricity and AC.
Olive, Miss.-based dealership American RV has hired Susanne Dickerson-Bone as general manager, according to a press release.
Dickerson-Bone is a native of Kosciusko, Miss., and attended the University of Mississippi where she received a bachelor’s in accounting.
She held a position in accounting at Clark and Clark Properties, Memphis, Tenn., followed by specialty manager positions at Adesa and Memphis Auto Auctions where she built the RV trade into a major category, according to the release. Dickerson-Bone resides in Hernando, Miss.
Owned by Peter Albano, American RV is a full-service dealership founded in 1990. The company is a member of the Route 66 RV Network.
Monaco RV LLC, a manufacturer of motorized and towable recreational vehicles, celebrated with American RV at an Open House held June 3.
The event, held at the dealer’s Grand Rapids, Mich., location, included a look at new Monaco products, prize drawings and a presentation by Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development for Monaco. In attendance were six executives from Monaco, a representative from the Navistar Engine Group, and American RV staff, who greeted and answered questions from over 75 customers.
“American RV is a family-run, outstanding organization that puts customer service first,” said Snell. “Our 10-month partnership with American RV has been one of mutual respect, built on a commitment to bring the best recreational vehicles to customers.
“American RV has demonstrated in a short time, the qualities that make it an outstanding dealership; a knowledgeable, well-organized sales and management team, unequalled customer service and highly trained certified technicians and parts staff with belief that the customer comes first. Monaco RV is honored to have American RV as a dealer partner.”
John Monterusso, American RV motorhome sales manager, noted, “From its innovative Monaco Vesta to being the only RV manufacturer building diesel motorhomes that do not require DEF/Urea additives, I find Monaco RV is setting an industry standard with its Monaco Class A motorhome lineup that is very hard to beat. At American RV, we want all our customers to get behind the wheel and take a drive before they make the purchase. This is different from the average dealership standard. Driving a Monaco with the out-mounted air system defiantly sets it apart from the competition.”
He added, “The support and cooperation from the entire Monaco executive team has been a great experience. I am looking forward to continued success and growth. With Navistar being a company that has experience in building engines, trucks, military vehicles as well as many other venues, the quality control implemented into the Monaco RV line will set it head and shoulders above the competition.”
American RV is a premier dealer of new, used and rental RV’s, offering an expansive inventory selection and showroom. With a 17-bay modern service facility staffed by factory-trained, RVDA/RVIA/ASA master certified and state-licensed technicians, the dealership also boasts a state-of-the-art research and special order parts department, overnight on-site parking and sanitation facilities.
For the first time ever, an outdoor hospitality company, an RV dealership and a manufacturer are forming a joint venture.
RVC Outdoor Destinations will be teaming with American RV of Olive Branch, Miss., a dealership carrying a variety of RV classes and park models, and Athens Park Homes of East Texas, quality builder of RV park models, park model cabins and now the Resort Cottages branded by RVC, according to a news release.
“This is the first time in the RV industry that these three types of establishments have formed a partnership,” said Phil Surles of Athens Park Homes and manufacturer of RVC Resort Cottages.
RVC President Andy Cates added, “A dynamic team has been formed and I believe it will drive more interest to park models and to the outdoor hospitality industry.”
The partnership is new for everyone involved, but relationship ties beforehand have helped to ease the way. Cates and Peter Albano, president of American RV, have been supportive friends providing feedback to each other in the past. Albano was interested in pursuing the park model business that Cates and the RVC team have spent considerable time exploring.
Each company expects to benefit from this venture by giving interested buyers a new and improved product line, thus widening their purchasing options. The RVC Resort Cottage’s superior architectural design, layout options and overall quality are just some of the features that make it stand out from traditional park models.
In addition to providing a new line of park models, American RV is now able to offer a highly attractive destination for people interested in purchasing an RVC Resort Cottage, which can be placed at any RVC Outdoor Destination. American RV will continue to offer traditional park models, which are ideal for farms, hunting camps, recreational land and guest houses.
Furthermore, RVC Outdoor Destinations will assist in sales of RVs by arranging a smooth “maiden voyage” experience. This program is designed to help the new RV owner from purchase to their first RV vacation at an RVC Outdoor Destination. American RV is reciprocating favors by helping to drive traffic to RVC properties via park model sales and cross marketing.
About the Principals
RVC Outdoor Destinations is rapidly becoming a leading outdoor hospitality company. Based in Memphis, Tenn., RVC Outdoor Destinations owns and operates six properties in the Southeast, one of which is a boat club. An RVC Outdoor Destination is a natural environment mixed with a hotel experience. Their properties are typically located in scenic pastoral settings often with significant water frontage.
American RV, located not far from RVC’s headquarters, has been operating for over 10 years and is the oldest northern Mississippi RV dealership. They take pride in their vast selection, dutiful assistance and economical prices. Their “easy to find…hard to beat!” motto reflects their devotion to sell the right kind of motor or land home for each customer.
Athens Park Homes is headquartered in East Texas and operates the nation’s largest park model manufacturing plant. With their already advanced floorplans and features, they have joined RVC to create another exceptional product in the industry.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based American RV is one of the top 50 RV dealers in North America, according to RVBusiness magazine’s annual rankings. The rankings, judged by an independent panel of industry leaders, are based on customer service and satisfaction, employee training and education and strategic planning and current initiatives.
“We’re honored to be recognized as one of the Top 50 Dealers of North America for the second year in a row,” Chad Neff, general manager of American RV, stated in a news release. “We’ve worked hard over the past 20-plus years to become successful at what we do. Customer service is our top priority and we are grateful to be recognized for our hard work and dedication.”
American RV’s service technicians are are master certified by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA)/Recreation Vehicle Industry Assocation (RVIA) Certification Governing Board and the Automotive Service Assocation (ASA) along with being state licensed and all employees participate in customer service training. Customer feedback is posted on the dealership’s AmericanRV.com website, which demonstrates why the dealership has consistently achieved an over 90% customer satisfaction rating.
In its third year, the program garnered a higher number of responses and depth of response. “We found that the applications were filled out to much greater detail than in previous years,” said RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “It was apparent that these dealers are coming out of rough times and were both tough and creative in their endeavors to do so. They clearly had a lot to be proud of and a lot to say about it, and rightfully so.”
The Top 50 were recognized by RVBusiness and their industry peers at an Oct. 6 awards dinner at the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association International Convention/Expo at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Ann Coulter, conservative pundit and author, was the celebrity guest speaker.
To view the complete list of the Top 50 dealers and to learn more about members of the Leadership Alliance, visit www.RVBusiness.com.
Monaco RV LLC has announced its partnership with American RV of Grand Rapids Mich.
American RV is a premier dealer of new, used and rental RVs, offering an expansive inventory selection and showroom, according to a news release. With a 17-bay modern service facility staffed by certified technicians, the dealership also boasts a state-of-the-art research and special order parts department, overnight onsite parking and sanitation facilities.
“We are extremely honored and pleased to partner with such a tremendous organization as American RV,” said Josh Ciernia, national sales manager for Monaco. “American RV and its associates operate a first-class dealership that is nationally respected and provides unequalled customer service and service after the sale. The team at American RV has demonstrated their commitment to the Monaco brand and we are excited about the future ahead and joining forces with American RV to bring the best recreational vehicles to our mutual customers.”
“I am very confident and have seen firsthand how Monaco is building the best coach in the industry today,” said John Monterusso, American RV motorhome sales manager after recent visit to Monaco RV’s manufacturing facilities in Oregon. “The teams at Monaco, with the assistance of Navistar, are all on the same page, putting quality, innovation and growth as motive No. 1. Accountability is in full force, from the production line, the innovation process to inspections at work station to work station. Monaco RV has implemented Navistar proven quality practices in both their Indiana and Oregon production facilities. Navistar has one of the largest fleets of trucks and buses on the road in the world.
“They are built to be driven and reliable. Navistar’s belief, as well as Monaco RV’s, is to build a coach that starts with quality, reducing warranty claims and keeps the end user on the road traveling.”
For more information about American RV their products and services, visit www.americanrv.com.
For more information about Monaco products, visit www.monacocoach.com.
The 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.
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.
“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
The 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.”
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.
“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
RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) 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/Expo
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.
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.”
Recreational vehicle dealers had cause to smile at this past weekend’s annual Detroit Camper and RV Show. The four-day event was packed morning to night, every day, according to ABC News.
Attendance at this year’s Detroit show was up 15% over last year. Industry insiders are encouraged by the enthusiasm after a big slump last year.
And the families who came to see everything from small pop-up camp vehicles to 40-foot luxury coaches with bathrooms, refrigerators and built-in barbecues were in a buying mood.
“Things have been great,” Chad Neff, general manager of American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich., said. “The traffic has been good and people are buying.”
American RV sells a full range of recreational vehicles from small economic campers to the fifth-wheel Montana, which has an interior floorplan that seems almost as large as a studio apartment. Neff, like many other RV dealers at the show, attributed increased industry sales to the improvement in the availability of credit.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “People right now, they’re willing to get out, and the banks are lending more money, and those things are helping us out.”
The increased interest is a dramatic change from last year’s show, which occurred amid the backdrop of a weakened U.S. economy and uncertainty about the future. RV enthusiasts weren’t buying because of job insecurity and the prospects of losing their homes, leaving little appetite for mobile ones. Several RV manufacturers filed for bankruptcy early last year and even industry giant Winnebago Industries Inc. had a rough go at it.
The RV industry has long been thought of as a good indicator of the overall economy’s performance because RVs are a major discretionary purchase that often require financing. After a sales slump, which coincided with the worsening economy, and an overall lack of enthusiasm at RV shows last year, 2010 has started with a boom for the industry. Attendance at this year’s Novi, Mich., show was up about 15% from last year, according to show director Bill Sheffer, who is with the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds.
“We’re encouraged by what we see,” Sheffer said this weekend. “I’m not an economist but I sure hope this is a harbinger of good things to come.”
Attendance was also strong at two other important RV shows last month. The annual Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show was up 26% from last year and the Florida RV Super Show surpassed 50,000 for the first time in the history of the show, according to organizers.
The Florida show is one of the most important indicators of retail demand for the industry, analysts and insiders say.
“A year ago this time, financing was terrible,” said John Monterusso, a Michigan motorhome dealer. “People’s existing RVs took a beating in value so a lot of people were upside down in what they already owned. But things are on the upswing. Sales are better.”
About 1 in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households, or about 8.2 million, also owns an RV, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA. The industry employs more than a quarter-million Americans.
RV lovers and the culture associated with owning the vehicles runs deep across the country. Retirees love the time outdoors, on the road in their vehicles. And people with small children enjoy the family time.
“You’re outdoors, instead of being at a theme park or something,” said John Dotson, who visited the show with his wife looking for an entry-level RV in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, “Instead of relying on something else to entertain you,”
He said he has never owned an RV but thinks now is the right time to buy one.
Another Michigan resident at the show, Larry Nethot, said he was looking for a replacement RV. He and his wife are former backpackers and they need a new RV because she no longer likes the outdoors. “Our parents stole our retirement home, so we’ve got to find another place to sleep,” he said.
Nethot checked out an RV that had an LCD television, DVD player, a kitchen dinette and other home furnishing in it. “I like the outdoors but my wife can no longer stand it at the camp, ” he said.
The RV is a compromise for the couple.
Jeff Rank, the president of Prime Time Manufacturing in Wakarusa, Ind., attended the Novi show and was delighted with interest from prospective customers like Dotson.
“The traffic is awesome,” he said. “Let’s face it, the last couple of years, it’s been a struggle. People seem to be in a better mood.”
Rank sells the impressive high-end LaCroose RV, which is 35 feet long and features a 26-inch LCD screen inside. That people are looking to buy some of the high-end RVs is a real sign the industry is back on track, he said. “You’re already seeing the comeback in wholesale shipments to dealers,” he said. “It’s about a 50-70% increase in shipments.”
Rank’s family has been in the RV business since 1969 and he says the past few years have been one of the worst periods he has seen in the industry. “It seems like every decade we have had a 10-, 12-year run that has been whatever the U.S. economy is doing, our industry is doing.”