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Dealers Blame the Lenders for RV Industry Plight

November 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The thing you have to realize about RVing is that it’s all about the togetherness.

“Our kids are grown now, and we’re looking more for ourselves,” said Bill Thompson, of Clayton, N.J. “The heck with them!”

He’s just kidding, probably. Thompson and his wife, Paula, did not have to be wooed at last weekend’s Atlantic City Fall RV Show — they were already hooked. But they have already reached their RV peak, and it was time to start coming down, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

“We’re looking to what they call ‘downsize,’” Thompson said. “We love the RV lifestyle. We’ve been doing this since 1994. We started out with a pop-up and now we have a huge Class C — and now we’re starting to go back.”

The reason for the trade-in?

“My wife finds it a little bit intimidating to drive,” he said. “But I like it.”

“He likes the power,” Paula added.

A person would have been struck by two things while walking through the maze-like rows RVs filling the great, open expanse of the Atlantic City Convention Center on Saturday — one, this would be a great place to play laser tag, and two, it was awfully quiet. As in, people-coughing-in-an-art-museum quiet.

Blame the banks

“It’s dead,” said George Teutsch, general manager of Atlantic Cape RV Sales in Galloway Township, at about 11 a.m. “In other years, this time of the morning, it’d be wall-to-wall with people.”

Atlantic Cape owner Earle Humphries added that in past years, there would be “200 people on line” just before the doors opened. This year, he said, pointing to Teutsch, “it was us.”

It’s not that there’s a lack of interest, Teutsch explained — it’s just that there’s a lack of credit.

“It’s more the fault of the banks,” he said. “We have buyers, but we can’t get them financing.”

Of course, for those who do not have to worry about financing, going to an RV show is like being a kid in a candy store, if said candy were 12 feet high with two bedrooms and their own generators. Show director Harry Lutz estimated that about 70% of sales at events like this weekend’s show are on a straight cash basis.

“We anticipate strong sales,” said the ever-optimistic Lutz. “The important thing to emphasize is that RVers are not going to give up.”

For those who already have an RV, in fact, it’s a booming time. James Ford, of the Gettysburg Battlefield Resort in Pennsylvania, said his campground has had a banner year, with the past four months breaking all sorts of records.

RVing, Lutz said, “is an extremely inexpensive way for families to travel. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to go RVing than to stay in a hotel.”

Or, as Tony Cahill, of Eagleswood Township, put it, RVing is “just getting away, instead of being a slave to a hotel room — a high-priced hotel room.”

Shawn Manogue, Ford’s partner, even had his own unique pitch in these unsettling times.

“It’s a perfect time,” he said. “With the H1N1 virus, you don’t want to be staying in any hotels. You got to know who’s in your room!”

Some prospective buyers already had their outdoorsy future all planned out.

Steve McLaughlin, of Downingtown, Pa., who described stays in hotels where there was nothing between him, his wife and the baby, envisioned a time when he can “put the kids to sleep, then sit outside and have a fire.”

Walking around inside a Kropf 52 Special Edition — designed to look like a house, complete with siding and windows — McLaughlin was impressed but wondered about a few details.

“This is really cool,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. The question is, where do you put it? They should almost have a person next door with lots for sale.”

For the Kahana family, of Franklin Township, Gloucester County, the answer to that was simple — their own backyard.

With four kids, Julie Kahana explained, “we need some extra space. We want to put it on our property so the kids will have their own house. We can make them chicken nuggets and send them out there.”

The “Fusion,” it seemed, was made to be entered in style — straight up a giant, open ramp.

“This is, like, for a racing team,” said Kahana’s husband, Rob.

“No, it’s not,” she answered. “It’s cool, though! The whole bathroom is black tile. It’s sharp.”

The draped carpetway rolled past RV models with names such as the “CrossRoads Cruiser” and the “Diesel Pushers” — seemingly something for everyone. But Lisa Rundle, of Millville, had no illusions as she walked down the wooden stairwell from one RV’s second floor.

“We don’t have enough money,” Rundle said, “to buy these big’uns.”

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