The RV industry faced difficult times in the last two years as both manufacturers and dealers closed their doors.
But the 30th Annual Edmonton RV Show and Sale added a solid dose of optimism to the industry’s outlook. When the doors to the show opened on Feb. 11, the crowd surged in to look at the latest in RVs and decide what to buy, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Within a few minutes of the opening, the first deals had been written. Many observers agreed it was the busiest opening to the show that they had seen in years.
Don Humphrey, manager of Roadmaster RV in Leduc, went further, saying it was the busiest opening night he had seen in his 30 years of attending shows.
“Sales are at least double last year,” Humphrey said in an interview, pointing out that there is “pent-up demand.”
“This year, people are eager to buy.”
This year’s RV show was the first held in the recently expanded Edmonton Expo Center and filled all the main floor halls, including the brightly lit new halls that opened late last year. In contrast, the recent Edmonton Motorshow did not use Halls A and B on the main level.
The show presented a variety of new RVs and features to grab the attention of consumers. A feature that attracted the attention of many visitors was the outdoor kitchens on a variety of RVs.
After years of seeing many RVs add more and more comforts of home, some of the trailers at the 2010 show took a back-to-basics approach to bring the outdoor experience back to camping. These more Spartan models are available both in tent and hard-wall travel trailers.
The Quicksilver tent trailers sold by Carefree Coach and RV exemplified the minimalist approach. These trailers are available in lengths ranging from just under nine feet to just over 21 feet. The Quicksilver line also includes tent-style truck campers that fold down for travel.
Quicksilver RVs, built by Livin’ Lite, rely on aluminum construction for strength, light weight and long-term durability.
“When I looked at today’s generation of pop-ups, I saw heavy, expensive units, but nothing that could be towed by a car or station wagon,” said Scott Tuttle, Livin’ Lite founder. “That’s when we decided to build our own tent camper that would be both affordable and able to be towed by most cars and minivans.
“Do our units have all the frills of the expensive units? No,” Tuttle said. “But that’s not what camping is all about. Camping for us is about having a great time in the outdoors.”
Not only can the Quicksilver units be towed by cars and minivans, the company also offers units designed to be pulled by motorcycles.
When Tuttle says Quicksilver units don’t have all the frills, he’s talking about trailers and truck campers that don’t have appliances or a bathroom. Storage cabinets and a sink are available in some units. Carefree also displayed one unit with a hole in the floor for ice-fishing.
Carefree president Elmer Lastiwka said Quicksilver trailers are priced at $4,000 to just over $9,000. “It’s affordable for any family with a small car.”
Because of the light weight of the Quicksilver campers, in some situations they could be towed by a quad, such as heading up a cut line into the wilderness or onto a lake for ice fishing. Using a quad would alleviate the fear of a truck or sport utility vehicle going through the ice.
The Kamparoo Camper, a lightweight, folding tent trailer manufactured in Australia and distributed by Kamparoo Campers in Wetaskiwin, is a similar concept.
Some travel trailers at the show also showed a more basic, affordable approach, including the Wolf Pup in the Cars RV and Marine display and the Takena Curv at the Roadmaster RV exhibit. Both of these trailers have a sloping, curved front to reduce wind resistance and make them easier to tow.
A number of manufacturers offer outdoor kitchens on their trailers this year. Some trailers with two entrance doors now come equipped with a bathroom just inside the rear door to shorten the mud trail when children go in to use the toilet.
Most outdoor kitchens are built into the rear corner of the trailer with a lift-up door that doubles as a canopy.
Outback Country RV sells the North Trail, made by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which offers a fully equipped outdoor kitchen that includes a sink, microwave, refrigerator, television and stove. The refrigerator is electric only — the main refrigerator inside the RV is a gas-electric model.
Tango trailers, sold by Western RV of Leduc, have a different outdoor kitchen design, one that slides out of the rear corner of the unit.
Tango’s Dane Found talked about the reasoning behind building an RV with an outdoor kitchen:
“The idea is that most people want to spend as much time as possible outside,” Found said, explaining that this is the first year that Tango has offered the outdoor kitchen.
In addition to offering the option of preparing food outdoors, the slide-out kitchen also fulfils other roles.
Found said it can serve as a privacy barrier in a campground and a windbreak at the campsite.
The outdoor kitchen has been well received by consumers, he said.
During the show, it wasn’t unusual to hear showgoers comparing the various kitchens as they made their way from exhibit to exhibit.
Although RV manufacturers have failed in recent years, some new companies have been started to fill at least part of the void. Arrkann Trailer and RV Center sells the Tracer Ultra Lite trailer line, manufactured by Prime Time Manufacturing, which started producing trailers in August. Prime Time strives to build trailers with designs that appeal to buyers while ensuring that they’re priced right.
Earthbound RV is another new line Arrkann has added to give customers a lightweight RV that’s easy to tow. Arrkann’s Ken Friedenberg said Earthbound interiors are reminiscent of a luxury car. The sleek exterior is slate grey, in contrast to the usual white RV exterior.
Friedenberg said his dealership was selected by RV usiness magazine as one of the top 50 RV dealers in North America and was the lone Canadian to make the top 10 in that group of 50.
Many RV dealers at the show displayed, in addition to tent trailers and various styles of travel trailers, motorhomes ranging from large bus-style Class As to Class B van conversions and the intermediate-size Class Cs.
In Class A, improved fuel economy such as that offered by the Avanti from Damon is a welcome change for buyers. While many Class As travel less than 10 miles per gallon, the Avanti raises that to better than 14 miles per U.S. gallon or more than 16 miles per Imperial gallon.
Chris Cook of Woody’s RV said the Avanti uses a number of European design features such as a sloped front and reduced height to improve fuel economy. Woody’s recently sold one of these units, which have prices starting around $130,000 US.
Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., a Kitchener, Ont.-based manufacturer of Class B motorhomes, has added a rear slide to its van conversion based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. This van, in the Grove RV display, drew a steady crowd of interested onlookers.
Motorized manufacturer Damon Motor Coach, Elkhart, Ind., is offering 21 1/2- and 28 1/2-foot floorplans in the 2010 Avanti Class A motorhome, now being built on the 18,500-pound GVWR Freightliner MCL front-engine diesel chassis. Mated to a 200-hp Cummins ISB engine, the Avanti is estimated to get 13-15 mpg and retails starting at $135,000. ”Unlike a traditional motorhome, the chassis is still five inches lower to the ground to provide a lower center of gravity,” said Matt Thompson, Damon vice president and general manager. Also, Damon has designed new fiberglass front caps on the gas-powered Challenger and diesel-pusher Tuscany motorhomes in addition to offering a 42-foot tag-axle floorplan on the Tuscany diesel pusher for the first time. Damon’s gas or diesel Outlaw SURV also has been redesigned with a passenger side door for easier entry into the garage.
Just as consumers begin to plan their summer getaways, the media has turned its attention to RVing as both an affordable and surprisingly “green” family vacation option, according to a release fro the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Environmentalist and full-time RVer Brian Brawdy was the subject of “On the Road, Off the Grid,” an April 15 story in the Chicago Sun-Times that focused on Brawdy’s commitment to adventure and environmentally friendly RVing. Echoing the sentiments of thousands of Americans who love RVing, Brawdy told the Sun-Times reporter, “Some of the greatest moments in science, the classics — they come when man is alone in nature. And there’s something about waking up in a different place every morning … it’s something I just can’t shake. It’s addictive.”
The Chicago Tribune also reported positively on RVing this month with “Resort Campgrounds Grabbing Bigger Share of Vacation Dollars,” highlighting the continued popularity of resort campgrounds among family vacationers looking to “save a buck without sacrificing comfort and fun.” The article noted many of the family-friendly amenities offered by campgrounds and reported that while hotel reservations are currently down significantly, resort campgrounds are expecting a spike in reservations this year.
In a segment titled “Go RVing and Go Green” on the popular Fox and Friends morning show April 18, RVIA President Richard Coon touted the RV industry’s innovations in creating fuel efficient, environmentally friendly RVs.
The Fox and Friends segment, secured through the efforts of RVIA’s public relations team, featured Forest River’s R-Pod ultra-light travel trailer and Damon’s Avanti Class A motorhome as examples of the industry’s latest innovations. As the camera panned the units’ features, Coon discussed the affordable amenities offered by both models, saying about the towable, “This unit is smaller, lighter, but it’s compact -and has everything in it.” He pointed out that ultra-light travel trailers like this are small enough to be hauled by the new crossover SUVs or even a minivan. About the motorhome Coon said, “It’s one of the new, high efficiency, eco-friendly diesels. I have a Suburban that I drive that gets somewhere between 14, 15, 16 miles per gallon – and this gets the same.”
The Miami Herald’s Lisa Sidmunsun highlighted RVing as one out-of-the-ordinary vacation option for Baby Boomers, saying, “For all those “easy riders” who long to roam – but want a little comfort when they do – renting a recreational vehicle (or RV) is a great way to go. Not only are they economical – RV vacations average 27% to 61% less than other types of getaways, gas included – they tend to be less stressful because you don’t have to stick to a rigid schedule, or worry about things like packing and unpacking, or rushing to catch a flight.”
RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella said, “RVIA’s public relations team is working hard to ensure that RVing is touted by the media this spring as the family-friendly, affordable, and green-friendly vacation our industry knows it to be. Especially in the current economic environment, RVing has never been a better deal for families looking for adventure.”
RVIA’s PR team will broaden the impact of positive news stories and video segments by linking to the stories from Twitter and Facebook. “Green” stories also appear in www.GoRVing.com’s“Going Green” section and all stories are available in the Newsroom at www.rvia.org.