Jacksonville, Fla.-based Dick Gore’s RV World announced it will be carrying the 2012 Canyon Star 3911 by Newmar Corp., the first luxury motor coach designed from the ground up to be wheelchair accessible.
According to a press release, the Canyon Star 3911 is a full-size Class A motorhome built on a Ford chassis and powered by a V10 gas engine.
“Unlike units that have been aftermarket adapted for handicap access, the Canyon Star 3911 was actually built with wheelchair access in mind,” says Dana Drake, general manager at Dick Gore’s RV World. “It has all the luxury you could want — a plush interior, three slideouts, rear and side cameras, truffle full-paint Masterpiece finish — but it also has a 48-inch power wheelchair lift, lowered switches and controls, and a 30-inch path through the coach, even with the slides in.”
Other features include:
• Lowered cooktop with the microwave below.
• 48-inch by 37-inch roll-in shower with seat.
• Accessible sink, with lowered mirror and cabinet and commode grab bars.
• Wheelchair storage behind the passenger seat.
• Combo dinette with table that accommodates wheelchairs.
Dick Gore’s RV World is a full-service dealership with with three locations in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Richmond Hill, Ga.
Florida-based Dick Gore’s RV World has taken on the eco-friendly Element trailer line by EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC at the dealership’s St. Augustine, Fla., location, according to a press release.
“Dick Gore’s RV World is beyond excited to introduce the Element travel trailers to the Florida market area,” said Joe Andrick, general manager of Dick Gore’s RV World of St. Augustine. “We are very happy to carry the innovative Element. It is the ultimate green trailer. We are thoroughly impressed with the construction and longevity of this product.”
“The most noticeable feature of the Element is the unique styling and colors on both the outside and the inside,” added Doug Lantz, president and COO of EverGreen RV. “The Element is available in four color schemes over a unitized-body built of lightweight, all-composite materials. Panelized components are fused and fastened to form a one-piece outer perimeter shell that is stronger and more aerodynamic than conventionally built trailers. The result is a great looking trailer that will far outlast the competition.”
EverGreen said that there is virtually no wood in the structural components of an Element which means far less chance for rot, mold or mildew. “We are thrilled to have Dick Gore’s RV World carrying the Element brand,” said Ron Wiseman, Element product sales manager. “Gore’s has been in business for 26 years. They have big town inventory and small town service. The team is outstanding and really understands the product line and takes great care of their customers.”
Dick Gore’s RV World will be celebrating its one-year anniversary event beginning Oct. 30 through the month of November at the St. Augustine location. The company also has outlets in Jacksonville, Fla., and Richmond Hill, Ga.
Dick Gore’s RV World is an hour away from row upon row of camped-out recreational vehicles for the Daytona 500.
It’s easy to assume the RV dealer in St. Augustine, 60 miles north of Daytona Beach, Fla., isn’t impacted. That would be wrong, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“It’s a great profitability for the dealership, and the area for that matter,” said Joe Andrick, general manager.
Dennis Robbins, owner of Robbins Campers and RV Sales in Ormond Beach, said visitors think that RVs in Florida are a bargain because there are many dealers here.
“We sold one today from New Hampshire and one from Wisconsin that are all race people,” he said on Wednesday.
Andrick had already sold two expensive RVs to out-of-state fans, one to a couple from Colorado and another to Pennsylvanians. The Coloradoans traded in their 1993 RV for a 40-foot, 2006 RV worth $105,000.
From Ormond Beach to St. Augustine, Speed Weeks provides sales for RV dealers. Some see more, and all report a big bump in service traffic as Northerners discover problems on their trek to Daytona.
“It helps us a lot in service, somewhat in sales,” said Tim Karr, general manager of Giant Recreation World in Ormond Beach. Most customers he sees aren’t looking to buy or trade a new RV because they already have set plans for doing that. The servicing he provides is slight tinkering that takes a few hours but has helped double the business’ traffic compared with January.
“The vehicle’s been sitting up north or whatever, and they’ve let it freeze,” he said. “A broken showerhead, or they let the generator sit for a year and haven’t cleared the fuel line.”
Robbins said Speed Weeks provides an increase of about 25% compared with a typical February week.
“We pretty much schedule around them being here,” he said. “It’s new business, so it’s always a good shot in the arm.”
The surge in customers also provides something more permanent. Some locals see Volusia County filled with all types of RVs, get interested and stop in to browse. It’s similar to a fad in elementary school — when someone has a new toy, everyone has to check it out.
Seeing the sheer amount of RVs at the Speedway inspires locals, Robbins said, and people that are frustrated with the airline industry’s well-documented comfort issues seek out RVs as a “more pleasurable way to travel.”
Locals driving to work this week might see 15 RVs on the road, Karr said. Last week, they saw two. “People are thinking, ‘Gee, maybe we should do that, too.’ That’s what’s more likely to generate sales business,” he said.
Another RV dealer in St. Augustine is seeing increased traffic, but his is driven more by snowbirds than NASCAR fans. Karl Senderling, business manager at Ocean Grove RV Sales, said this is the time of year when people, especially snowbirds, start looking. Some shoppers are in town for the race, but the majority are vacationers who would be in the city anyway.
Dick Gore’s store has only been at its location in St. Augustine since Oct. 31, but Andrick, a veteran of the industry, sees positives overall in the market. He lives in Palm Coast, and, when he drives to work every day, he pays attention to the Flying J truck stop and rest areas along Interstate 95.
“I use that as a barometer,” Andrick said. “You’ll see at the beginning of February both areas are jammed up with RVs, people here for races. You can definitely tell once you hit February with the beginning of the Rolex 24.”
Motorhomes and trailers are a big business, accounting for about two-thirds of the RV industry’s $10 billion in revenue, according to market analyst First Research. Popups and other vehicles make up the other third.
The last few years have not been kind to the RV business. Sales across the country of that very discretionary toy dropped by almost half from 2007 to 2009. In Jacksonville, Fla., they dropped more than that, the Florida Times-Union reported.
“For 2 1/2 years, you couldn’t give them away,” said Richard Gore of Dick Gore’s RV World.
But things have changed.
- Three months ago, Gore opened a new location in St. Augustine.
- In Orange Park, General RV is expanding its dealership from five to 25 acres.
- Rivers RV delivered two units each in December 2008 and December 2009. In December 2010, it delivered 14 and signed contracts on twice that many.
“I’m flat-out speechless,” said Karen Schaffer, sales manager at Rivers RV.
Gore said he started to see things pick up last year.
“My customers said they were tired of listening to Fox and CNN and they were going to go out and have some fun,” Gore said. “People are feeling better.
“But it’s not like it was,” he said. “We’ve still got problems.”
Sales of new RVs last year in the Jacksonville area were still less than half of what they were three years ago.
But with the increased sales late last year and attendance at RV shows, dealers are getting ready for major increases. Manufacturers are expected to ship 246,000 units to dealers this year, that’s 80,000 more than 2009.
The drop in sales had a major impact on the manufacturers.
Now, Gore said, the manufacturers are telling him another story.
“They’re building more at the plants,” he said. “Instead of working three days a week, they’re back up to four and five days.”
Which types of RVs are leading the charge depends on who you talk to.
Schaffer said she’s seeing the biggest increase in the diesel motorhomes, which can run as high as $300,000 on her lot.
At General RV, a national chain that opened two years ago on Wells Road in Orange Park, it’s towables: travel trailers, fifth-wheels and popups.
Gore said he’s seeing a bit of everything.
But they all agreed that the buyer is changing.
“Back in the early 2000s,” Schaffer said, “the average demographic was the retired couple, with only the occasional 30s and 40s.”
Though retirees still buy the bulk of the large motorhomes, younger buyers are now a bigger chunk of the market.
“If you’ve got a young family,” said Dennis Anderson with General, “it’s a lot more affordable to camp in a travel trailer than it is to rent a condo or getting in an airplane and flying somewhere.”
R.J. White, a 33-year-old construction project manager, just ordered a new 21-foot travel trailer from Gore’s RV World. He’s not new to it, he’s had a pop-up that he’s taken around the state.
“We just get out to the state parks,” White said. “Blue Springs, Hillsborough River, Torreya. We’re going to try to get up into Georgia with this one.”
White doesn’t have a family yet, but he’s engaged.
And he chose the 21-footer because it has a couch that folds into a bed for children, just in case.
In addition to consumer confidence, Schaffer said much of the improvement has come because banks have started loosening up on loans.
Five or six years ago, she said, it was easy for an RV buyer to get financing, particularly if the buyer were trading in.
“You could just roll over your negative equity from your old RV with no money down and do it over and over,” Schaeffer. “It wasn’t uncommon to see people do that three times.”
But then the banks started wanting higher down payments and credit standards went up.
Of course, a lot of RVs, as with homes, were being repossessed.
“We had people wanting to come up here, park it and hand us the keys,” Schaffer said.
But more available credit and more eager buyers has things looking up.
Gore said his father, who started the business in 1985, made this observation years ago: “He said ‘The RV business is the first people to feel a recession and the first to come out of it.’
“I’m starting to see good things.”
With America’s Baby Boomers hitting their golden years, recreational vehicle manufacturers and sellers expected a skyrocket in sales.
But then came the financial meltdown of 2008, and the boom went bust as money in peoples’ 401(k) accounts dried up with the stock market, and banks tightened their lending requirements. Because of that, buyers didn’t get loans to make purchases, and retailers couldn’t get financing to put new RVs on their lots, according to Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.
“It was not only devastating for RV dealers, it was devastating for RV manufacturers,” said Dan Ball, owner of D.P. Ball Advertising, a marketing firm that represents RV dealers, including Dick Gore’s RV World, which has locations in Jacksonville and Savannah, Ga.
But that hasn’t put a damper on people’s desire to have a recreational vehicle, said Maher “Matt” Bateh, general manager of Suncoast RV in Jacksonville.
“Shocking as this may sound, customers are still coming in like they were two years ago,” Bateh said. “The biggest thing that’s held us back is the banking end.”
Banks now require higher credit scores than they did two years ago to approve financing, he said. And in some cases, that’s excluded fixed incomes typical of those of people who are retired, he said.
“You’re taking a very large segment of the population out of the market,” he said. “They (banks) look at these as luxury items, not necessities,” he said.
“The demand has always been there,” said Ball. “What’s happened is last year, in September, the bottom almost fell out of the country. The portfolios of the majority of people getting ready to retire were seeing half their worth.”
The turn in the economy happened on the eve of the 100-year anniversary of the RV, which has allowed Americans to get away from it all while bringing it with them. From the smallish early vehicles to those the size of buses, RV ownership has allowed travelers to explore the countryside bringing bedrooms, kitchens, dining and play areas with them and bypassing the need to stay in hotels.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), shipments of RVs larger than vans fell by 44% nationwide between August 2008 and August 2009. But amid low consumer confidence, recent trade show attendance has been strong and dealer inventories have been reduced by recent sales, the association reported.
And the RVIA reported that it expects things to turn around within the next year.
Salem Hassan, president and co-owner of Jacksonville-based myrvlink.com, said business for the 2-year-old company, which sends Web-based business referrals to RV dealers nationwide, has been steady since it started in 2007. He said referrals fell by about 30% from 2008 to 2009, which he attributes to people’s reaction to the economy and his company’s transition from start-up.
“There were a lot of people who decided to wait,” he said. But the business created by RV “enthusiasts” — people who regularly trade up their vehicles on a three- to five-year cycle — remained constant, he said.
Already, improvement for financing in the RV market is beginning to show, Ball and Bateh said.
Some six months ago, Ball said, sellers were seeing about 40-50% of customers being rejected for financing. Today, that number has dropped to about 25%, he said.
“One of the saving graces are the local credit unions and banks,” he said.
And Dick Gore’s RV World is opening a new dealership in St. Augustine around Jan. 1, Ball said.
Bateh said the average sale on his lot is from $35,000 to $40,000.
“This isn’t an impulse buy, by any means,” he said. “But the demand’s here. There’s people walking through the door.”