After two punishing years of downturn, many in the RV industry say a rebound has started.
“There’s a saying in the RV industry – we lead the country into and out of recessions,” said Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIC).
As the economy improves, Bowersox and the manufacturers and dealers he represents are seeing more signs of hope for the industry that sagged deeply in 2008 and 2009, according to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel.
Beginning today (Jan. 28), campers and recreational vehicle owners can peruse the latest that area businesses have to offer at the Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show at Memorial Coliseum. Exhibitors say there’s reason for optimism, despite the well-publicized rollbacks in manufacturing and employment in RV businesses in the last two years.
For one thing, attendance at shows like the RV & Camping Show are up dramatically in recent months. Ron Sleeper, owner of the RV Center in Columbia City, said attendance is typically up 25-30% at recent annual shows over the preceding year.
In fact, Sleeper said his store saw the beginnings of rebound in 2009. “In service, parts and accessories, we finished up for the year” compared with 2008, Sleeper said. His store does more of its business in smaller, towable rigs rather than the top-end motorized RVs with price tags that reach into the six figures. But he is seeing strong interest in used “Class A” RVs, and his service department is scheduled into February.
Bowersox said the sharp decline in the number of used RVs – and new RVs liquidated from defunct dealers’ lots – bodes well for the strength of the market in the vehicles this year. Improving economic conditions have led to more RVs being drained off the pool of used or repossessed units. Given demand that exceeds supply, factories are likely to continue ramping up to produce more RVs.
There is a new wrinkle in the market that’s emerged to complicate the recovery, Bowersox said. While final stage RV assembly businesses generally have large pools of skilled, experienced workers they can call back to work, a recession drove some component suppliers out of business. If demand increases the way Bowersox and Sleeper anticipate, it could mean that RV builders will have to find alternatives to bridge gaps left in their supply chains. The impact for buyers, Bowersox said, may be more limited selection on dealers’ lots.
The Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIC) is sponsoring two RV shows this month and promoting a third.
The 36th Annual Valley RV & Camping Show will be held Jan. 15-17 at the Century Center in South Bend.
Seven Hoosier RV dealers have booked all 45,000 square feet of exhibition space in South Bend’s Century Center and are showing between 80 and 90 RVs, mostly 2010 models, said Mark Bowersox, RVIC executive director.
“All the space is sold; the building will be full,” he said. “The dealers are back to, ‘We don’t have enough space, we need a little bit more’ which is good.”
The RVIC is tying this show in with the centennial observance of the founding of the RV industry, he noted. A 1916 tent camper, on loan from the RV/MH Heritage Foundation in nearby Elkhart, will be on display during the show.
Bowersox said Hoosier dealers are “an optimistic group” and tell him 2010 is opening on a strong note. “High-end stuff is slready moving,” he said.
Meanwhile, the 50th Annual Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show is scheduled for Jan. 28-31. The association is also promoting the Central Indiana RV Show to be held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis Jan. 16-24.
As for legislative matters, Bowersox noted that the 2010 session of the Indiana General Assembly has begun. This will be a “short session” and will end no later than March 14. The state’s declining tax revenues are a primary concern and a bill to amend the state’s constitution to include property tax caps has already been passed by committee.
IMHA-RVIC starts the new year with a new slate of officers. The following officers of the IMHA-RVIC began their terms in office Jan. 1 They are:
- President Gregg Pardieck, The Village Green, Seymour.
- Vice President Scott Hammontree, Canimex, Goshen.
- Secretary/Treasurer Nathan Smith, SSK Communities, Erlanger, Ky.
- Manufacyured Housing Chairman Bob Young Jr., Young Homes, Indianapolis.
- RV Council Chairman Barry Lang, Eby’s Pines Campground, Bristol.
Board members are:
- Pat Cross, Champion Homes (manufactured housing manufacturer), Topeka.
- Ron Kinsey, Modern Trailer Sales (RV retailer), Anderson.
- Eric Oaks, Oxford Bank & Trust (manufactured housing finance firm), Logansport.
- Tim Fister, Blevins Inc.- (manufactured housing supplier), New Carlisle, Ohio.
- Jan Wagner, Wagner Properties (communities), Evansville.
- Roger Huffman, L & W Engineering (RV supplier), Middlebury.