Multilocation dealer General RV Center has a tentative agreement to purchase about 33 acres of land in Wixom, Mich., at a former Ford Motor Co. manufacturing site where it plans to relocate its corporate headquarters.
Crain’s Detroit Business reported that the company, currently headquartered in Wixom, is expected to finalize the purchase from New York-based Trident Barrow Management this week, said Wixom City Manager Tony Nowicki. Barrow purchased much of the land in January.
Loren Baidas, president and chairman of General RV Center, declined to comment until the purchase is finalized. The dealership is reportedly also looking at property in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area for its second location in the Sunshine State.
General RV Center sought and got a rezoning of the property from industrial to a mixed-use classification that allows for some retail, Nowicki said. It plans to construct a two-story building that will house a showroom and service and parts area, he said.
General RV Center plans to move its existing Wixom operations and to consolidate its other corporate operations from other states to the new site, Nowicki said.
The company currently employs about 75 people in the city, he said, and it expects the moves to create roughly another 75 jobs there.
Once it has completed its purchase of the property, General RV Center will submit a final site plan to city officials for approval, which should come within 30-45 days, clearing the way for construction to begin, Nowicki said.
The city is not providing incentives for the project, he said.
In honor of President Obama’s declaration of June as “Great Outdoors Month, Mich.-based General RV has launched a campaign designed to introduced underprivileged children to the RVing and camping lifestyle.
According to a press release, through the end of June General RV will be looking for families who are RV owners that would be willing to take an underprivileged child or family camping with them. General RV will pay for the expenses of the camping trip, including a gas allowance, campground fees and miscellaneous expenses.
“The RV community is extremely family oriented, and can make a difference in children’s lives in our communities,” the release stated.
The company will be selecting families in each of the states in which they have stores (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Utah). Some details, regulations, and background checks may apply.
Interested individuals, families and those who would like to take advantage of General RV’s offer, should contact the company through its corporate Facebook page here. For more information, call Dennis Anderson at (248) 866-4657.
Despite the challenging economic climate throughout the United States, Michigan-based General RV Center is preparing for another prosperous year, according to a report in the Macomb Daily, Mount Clemens, Mich.
In fact, General RV Center, one of the top RV retailers in the nation, projects $300 million in gross sales with plans to add more than 200 jobs between all of its locations and departments.
“By the time it’s all said and done, that number is actually closer to 300 new jobs,” said Dennis Anderson of General RV Center. “There are a lot of businesses that are starting to rebound in Michigan and the RV business has actually benefited lately.”
General RV Center boasts Michigan locations in Mount Clemens, White Lake, Wixom and Birch Run. It has nine locations nationally and plans to open another in Huntley, Ill., this spring. The Illinois location alone is expected to create 60 to 70 local jobs. In addition, three of General RV Center’s locations — North Canton, Ohio; Jackson, Fla.; and Salt Lake City, Utah — are expanding and adding 20 to 30 new positions at each property.
Anderson jokes that it’s magic, but in reality it’s the fact that people are choosing to stay closer to home on vacations and opting for RVs as the best way to go.
“New data is showing that young families are the fastest-growing group of RV owners,” he said. “I think there’s an overall shift in values among young families and RV vacations are an affordable way for families to spend time together.”
Anderson said people choose to travel by RV for several reasons — one of the greatest being cost.
“If you’re single, you’re probably not going to vacation in a RV,” he said. “If you have a family, though, it can get very expensive very quickly to pay for plane tickets and hotel rooms.
“A lot of people want to go on vacation but they don’t want to go thousands of miles away to do it,” he said. “They’d rather go 100 or 200 miles away so they not only don’t spend as much time traveling but they don’t have to spend as much money, either.”
According to the Macomb Daily, the increase in RV sales has forced a change in vacation destinations with many places creating special RV parks and hotels, including Las Vegas.
“Some of the RVs are like campers, but others are like having a home you just happen to travel with,” Anderson said. “There are different choices for everyone depending on exactly what it is they’re looking for.”
Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan said recreation-vehicle shipments are projected to total 236,700 nationally for 2010, a gain of 42.8% from 2009 shipments.
“We want to promote the fact that there are good things going on not only in the country but here in Michigan as well,” Anderson said.
Michigan-based General RV, which is opening a dealership in the Auto Mall in Huntley, Ill., held a job fair last week attracting about 125 applicants for 33 sales, office and service positions, the Huntley Patch reported.
Operations Manager Keith Lessner said he was pleased with the turnout and General RV had seen many qualified applicants at Thursday’s and Friday’s job fair held at a West Dundee hotel.
“We are doing a lot of the hiring on the spot,” Lessner said.
Applicants have ranged from those who have been unemployed for a while to those with jobs who are looking for a better opportunity, Lessner said.
General RV’s job fair comes at a time when unemployment in McHenry County has continued to increase. Pam Cumpata, president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp., said the county’s unemployment rate was 8.4% in December and increased to 9.4% in January, she said.
MCED has co-hosted job fairs with Illinois Worknet Center in Woodstock. The center offers assistance to the unemployed but has so many people calling its phone lines get overloaded, she said.
There were many people applying with General RV who had excellent credentials, but the company just didn’t have a position open for their skills, Lessner said.
General RV is the first Auto Mall development, located off of Route 47, in 10 years and it’s the company’s first Illinois dealership. The building is under construction.
Despite competing with another RV show in DeLand, Fla., organizers said last week’s Jacksonville RV SuperShow was one of the most successful in the show’s 25 years, The Florida Times-Union reported.
Alan Dulberger, regional president of the Florida RV Trade Association and general sales manager of Camping World RV Sales in St. Augustine, said Wednesday )March 2) that attendance dropped by about 300 to 400 people. He also said that organizers of the DeLand show reported reduced attendance.
“I was told every dealer did as good or better than last year,” Dulberger said, adding that Camping World had its best show ever in sales.
“This really was a very positive show,” Dulberger said.
Another participating dealership agreed.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better,” said Steve Fogle, general sales manager of General RV Center on Wells Road in Orange Park.
Fogle said the dealership, now in its second year of operation, topped last year’s show sales with a reported 80 units sold.
Even with the slightly lower turnout, the show remains one of the largest in Florida. Dulberger credits much of the SuperShow’s success to the facilities at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
Having the show at a permanent structure allows for a much simpler show to run and makes it friendlier to show-goers, compared to the parking lots at EverBank Field, where the show was held until last year, or other impermanent locations used by other RV shows.
The Jacksonville SuperShow annually displays more than 350 RVs or various sorts, from popup trailers to massive diesel RVs.
“I expect it to be even bigger next year,” Fogle said, expressing hope in a recovering economy.
Fogle also said he continues to see RV sales pick up. General RV has even seen fit to begin a massive expansion of their dealership in response to growing sales.
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.”
Dealerships specializing in recreational vehicles turned a corner in the second quarter of 2010, and the dealers expect the uptick in sales to continue well into the new year, The Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, reported.
“I anticipate 2011 will be an extremely good year for us,” said Scottie Manson, general manager of Camping World RV Sales in St. Augustine. “Our inventories are in line with what our customers are wanting today. The manufacturers are responding to the market, and are actually building more RVs that are available for less money.”
Beyond the RV industry as a whole, Manson’s dealership has experienced a record year in sales compared to the other 47 Camping World locations nationwide. His St. Augustine location ranked No. 1 in sales in November.
General sales manager Alan Dulberger gives much of the credit to the team Manson has put in place at the store, with many of its 11 salespeople boasting years of experience in automotive sales. Manson attributes part of the success to the dealership’s competitive pricing – which has brought customers from as far away as Pennsylvania to the dealership, located next to the Prime Outlet Mall at State Road 16 and Interstate 95.
“Unlike some of our competitors, we also get a great deal because we buy in bulk,” Manson said. “We buy 10 to 40 [RVs] at a time and can pass those savings on to our customers. The savings are significant enough that they result in a widespread customer base.”
Compared to the automobile industry, RV manufacturers responded more quickly to customer demand, retooling their factories to turn out more lower-priced and small-to-midsized RVs.
Consumers have responded. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments in the third quarter of 2010 were 20% higher than in 2009. The association expects total shipments in 2010 to reach around 236,700. That’s a 43% increase over the 165,700 units sold in 2009 — the most anemic sales recorded by the industry over the last decade.
University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin projects further growth in 2011 with shipments rising by 4% to 246,000. Curtin anticipates growth in every vehicle type.
The resurgence in RV sales led Suncoast RV, located at Beach and Southside boulevards in Jacksonville, to reopen its location up the street at Beach Boulevard and Forest Street two months ago, which was shuttered when the recession began. The company has added salespeople and technicians to support the growth in both sales and service.
Suncoast General Manager Matt Bateh credits the nimble actions of the manufacturers, along with an easing of financial hurdles, for the comeback.
“I have to give some credit to the banks, because the rates that are available now are phenomenally low,” Bateh said. “While it’s not like it was three years ago, when a customer with a 600 credit score could get a loan with no money down — which got us into this mess in the first place — it’s gotten a lot better.”
Bateh notes that RV buyers with a credit score of 700 or better, who will put at least 10% down, can capture a great financing rate.
Just as Suncoast is expanding, so is General RV in Clay County with the addition of another five acres to its dealership on Wells Road.
“We’ll basically be doubling the size of our lot, in addition to expanding our service bays,” said Operations Manager John Dyer. “From the corporate side, we have a total of 37 stores and will be adding another 10 nationwide over the next few months. We’re gearing up for a very big year.”
Unlike previous years, most RV dealers say the growth in sales in 2011 will be in the areas of towable and smaller RVs and not the large 42-foot motorhomes that supported the industry in the early 2000s.
“The trend actually began about eight years ago, well before the recession started,” said Dulberger. “Because of the economy, owning a big motorhome is out of the range of most camping families. The cost difference is significant. You’re looking at $100,000 for a large motor home compared with $30,000 for a travel trailer or towable, which also makes it much easier to finance.”
Also, Dulberger said that many families now own either a sport utility vehicle or crossover SUV, which allows them the flexibility of transporting towables and travel trailers with their own vehicles. This trend has been further aided by RV manufacturers, who are churning out lighter campers that are easier to pull.
“For the novice or part-time camper or camping family, who may go out six to 10 times a year, by far the travel trailer makes the most sense and is the least expensive to own,” Dulberger said.
Depending on the size and amenities, travel trailers range in price from $12,000 to $35,000, with pop-up campers available for even less, ranging from $4,500 to $10,000.
Dulberger and many in the RV industry expect travel trailers will lead the way in sales next year, followed by fifth-wheel trailers, and the three classes of motorhomes and other RV types bringing in the smallest percentage.
“The large RVs are a luxury item, similar to yachts in the boating industry,” Dulberger said. “And it’s going to be awhile before that market rebounds.”
Editor’s Note: Michigan-based General RV donated a 32-foot Damon Motor Coach Class A motorhome to help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) promote its Passport to Recreation program to rescue the state’s parks. The RV traveled throughout the state this summer to promote the program. Excerpts from a report on the program appear below. To read the full report click here.
In April 2010, the Recreation Passport legislation was passed, establishing a new funding model for state parks and recreation areas, as well as state forest campgrounds and pathways, historic and cultural resources, while also establishing a grant program for community recreation agencies.
For the first year of the campaign, the DNRE goal is for 50% of Michigan motorists to check “YES!” for the Recreation Passport on their license plate renewal form. Therefore it was imperative to reach out to more than just current park supporters. The “Road to Recreation” RV tour was developed to help reach Michigan motorists, to educate them about the Recreation Passport and to encourage them to purchase theirs.
For three months, drivers Eliot and Naomi Haycock (with support from many DNRE staffers) toured Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, sharing information about the Recreation Passport and encouraging people to check “YES!” for every vehicle, every year.
The RV tour covered 3,200-plus miles and introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the Recreation Passport at different events and locations.
About the RV
General RV generously donated the RV used throughout the tour. The 32-foot Class-A Damon was fully equipped with an extendable living area, full bathroom, private bedroom, full kitchen, and a large flat-screen television.
About the RV Graphic Wrap
The RV was wrapped in vinyl from front to back with dramatic images of outdoor experiences covering every side of the vehicle. The wrap, applied by TruckSkin of Traverse City, portrayed four seasons of outdoor recreation, with many of the photos being the same images used in the Recreation Passport promotional materials. This wrap was kindly paid for by Merrell, which was just part of their generous donation.
About the Freebies
Merrell provided apparel for the drivers, freebies to give away at events, bean bag toss games, and $100 gift certificates for every 25 entries. In addition to the carabiners, keychains, and cozies from General RV and Merrell, many thanks go to Oreo and Outback Steakhouse for providing free cookies and promotional scratch-off cards. These added to the excitement of the tour and helped make the visitor experience more rewarding.
About the Haycocks
Eliot and Naomi Haycock are residents of Chassell, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They have been married for 43 years, serving the residents of Michigan as state employees, and most recently as volunteers supporting the successful implementation of the Recreation Passport.
The Haycocks have been enjoying Michigan’s recreational opportunities for the last 30 years, and supporting DNRE efforts to encourage everyone to do the same for nearly a decade. The Haycocks served as campground hosts at Ft. Wilkins State Park for the last five years. As the RV drivers, they dedicated three months, and nearly 24 hours a day to the tour. Even when Eliot found himself in the emergency room after an incident at one of the events, he took the opportunity to tell his doctor about the Recreation Passport.
The village board in Huntley, Ill., has given final approval for a new General RV store in the northwest Chicago suburb, The Courier News, Elgin, reported.
Owners of Horizon Group Properties have secured an 8.28-acre site in the auto mall along Route 47 south of the Northwest Tollway and just west of the Prime Outlet Mall.
The development allows for a 1.2-acre parcel to be set aside for the village’s planned interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 90, according to Village Manager David Johnson.
The building will be constructed of beige brick with red awnings and details and offer 33,000 square feet of showroom space. There will be parking for 58 employees plus customers, with 150 parking spots for recreational vehicles.
General RV is headquartered in Michigan and has similar store locations in Ohio, Florida and Utah. This will be the company’s first venture in Illinois.
The board voted unanimously to approve the plat for development.
Recreational vehicles have become synonymous with the three-day weekend celebrating the efforts of working Americans and the end of summer. That means RV dealerships are gearing up for this week’s influx of customers, who are preparing for next weekend’s festivities, wherever the road leads them, the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, reported.
General RV in Orange Park is preparing for the expansion of its Wells Road dealership. Operations Manager John Dyer said that this is a perfect time to rearrange the facility and get ready for the holiday weekend, as well. He has ordered American flags for decoration and is working on reassembling the lot.
General RV has marked down all 2010 products and will have specials on folding camping trailers, fifth-wheels, travel trailers and motorhomes.
“Because of our size and buying power, we are able to put together phenomenal deals,” Dyer said. “Our customers benefit from our buying power.”
General RV is a family-owned business that has been in existence for 50 years. There are six locations in Michigan, one in Ohio and the one in Orange Park. They sell parts and service all RVs.
Dyer, who has been with the company for 10 years, said the summer months were excellent for General RV, especially the servicing of air-conditioning systems.
The same can be said for another Jacksonville-area dealership.
Matt Bateh, general manager of Suncoast RV on Beach Boulevard, said he’s seen an increase in business now that summer is ending.
“With school starting, we are seeing a lot of boat trade-ins for RVs,” Bateh said. “We have fewer [customers] interested in pull-behinds, and we have a lot more Northern folks with motorhomes.”
Suncoast RV, also a family-owned business, has been in business 28 years. Bateh, who has been with the company for 12 years, said that being family owned and run allows customers to call the owner directly if they have a problem.
For Labor Day, Suncoast RV will have deals on motorhomes and special financing with no payments for three months with 10% down.
“The bank is allowing us to work with customers, so you can get an RV with finance options with a relatively cheap monthly payment, if you qualify,” Bateh said.
South on Interstate 95, Camping World RV on Prime Outlets Boulevard in St. Augustine is simply bringing in a large amount of inventory, said General Manager Scottie Manson.
“We are having an open house to promote our excess inventory,” Manson said.
Camping World has 47 stores nationwide and has been in business for 40 years. Labor Day is one of the biggest weekends of the year for Camping World, as far as sales go.
“There is nothing that won’t be on sale,” Manson said of the Labor Day weekend. “We treat customers right; nobody beats our deals.”
Camping World also will have special financing with a bank representative on-site at the open house. Appraisers will be on-site, as well, for trade-ins, and the dealership welcomes motorcycles, boats and more.
Alan Dulberger, Camping World RV’s general sales manager, is now serving as president of the Florida RV Trade Association, which has been around since 1979. Its purpose is to promote the general welfare of the recreational vehicle and camping industries throughout the state of Florida. Dulberger served as the organization’s vice president for the last three years.
“I have been able to bring great customer satisfaction skills [to Camping World RV] from my knowledge [gained] from the association,” Dulberger said.
The summer has been outstanding for Dulberger’s dealership. Manson said sales are up 50% and not all of them are from motorhome sales and service. Customers are purchasing items like blankets, barbecue grills, motorcycle accessories and picnic accessories.
“The mood is soft in some locations in the industry. It’s all doom and gloom,” Dulberger said. “But the traffic has been unbelievable here and the mood has been up.”