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.”
Michigan-based General RV provided a Class A motorhome (shown at left) which has been decorated and will be used in a three-month tour to promote Michigan’s new $10 Recreation Passport.
The $10 will buy each resident a Recreation Passport, and the program is Michigan’s solution for funding recreation destinations. It begins Oct. 1.
As explained in an article in Great Lakes Camper, instead of spending $24 for an annual motor vehicle permit or boating access permit, Michigan residents will now be asked to support the Recreation Passport with an optional $10 fee when renewing their vehicle registration with the secretary of state. The license plate renewal sticker received from the secretary of state will have a designation that indicates the Recreation Passport payment. If an individual purchases their Recreation Passport fee at the park, the park will provide an identifying sticker.
The current system brings in $11 million. But if just 25% of residents pay the $10 Recreation Passport, $18 million is generated. If there’s 50% participation, $36 million is generated; $55 million for 75% participation and $72 million if every resident buys the Recreation Passport.
But, for the plan to work, people have to choose to pay the tax. So the state is about to embark on a whirlwind tour to convince its residents the $10 is money well spent.
This will not be an easy thing to do. Not the RV tour, that’s easy. But convincing people to dig deeper into their wallets will be a tough sell. Look no further than the recent August elections. How many local millages were successful? Not many.
Regardless, the state can’t afford for the Recreation Passport to fail. That’s why the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is launching the “Road to Recreation” RV tour, a three-month tour of Michigan’s festivals, concerts and best destinations.
At the heart of the tour is a 32-foot recreational vehicle completely wrapped with inspiring images of wildlife, beaches, outdoor activities and smiling faces, thanks to the financial support of Merrell, a Michigan-based shoe and apparel company, and General RV.
“This is a great new way to support our state’s most important natural resource — our park and forest land,” said Dennis Anderson, spokesman for General RV. “The Michigan state parks are a big part of why so many people vacation in Michigan and it is important we adequately fund them for the future of our state.”
The RV will make stops along the tour to share information about the $10 Recreation Passport, which — starting Oct. 1 — will replace the current state park sticker and provide easy access into all Michigan state parks, recreation areas and boat launches. The Recreation Passport will also preserve state forest campgrounds and trails, historic and cultural sites in state parks and local parks, too.
Husband-and-wife team of 43 years, Eliot and Naomi Haycock — residents of Chassell in the Upper Peninsula — happily volunteered to drive the RV. A retired state of Michigan employee, Eliot and his enthusiastic wife, Naomi, said they are up for the adventure. Both are longtime park enthusiasts, having camped in many state and national parks over the last 30 years.
“I think it’s been 30 years,” said Eliot. “We’ve been (camping) so long, we’ve kind of lost track.” The two have been campground hosts for the past five years at Fort Wilkins State Park in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
“We love Michigan and, as campground hosts, have been able to help share our love for camping” said Eliot. “We love to travel and we love Michigan state parks, and we thought this would be fun to try something different for the summer.”
The Haycocks are responsible for getting the RV to each event during the three-month tour. Once on site, it will be staffed by local DNRE employees who will be on hand to explain the Recreation Passport and how it will benefit Michigan in many different ways.
Prime Time Manufacturing, a division of Forest River Inc., has expanded its product offering with the introduction of the company’s first fifth-wheel, the mid-priced Crusader.
Full production of the new Crusader started in June at Prime Time’s facility in Wakarusa, Ind., and officials recently delivered the first production model to General RV in Wixom, Mich., according to a news release
Loren Baidas, president of General RV, and several members of the dealership’s management and sales team were presented with the 2011 Crusader 270RET fifth-wheel by Prime Time president Jeff Rank and Chris Hermon, Prime Time’s vice president of sales.
According to Rank, “General RV is not only one of Prime Time’s largest dealers, but also a huge dealer for all of Forest River. When we started the company, General was one of the first dealers to come aboard and we are thankful for their continued commitment and support of Prime Time Manufacturing. It’s an honor to deliver this very special Crusader fifth-wheel to Loren and his team.”
General RV, with nine locations, is the nation’s largest family-owned dealership. In acceptance, Baidas was quick to compliment the young company.
“The new Crusader has a great look and lots of easy to sell features. It will definitely be a nice addition to our dealerships. Prime Time is quickly becoming a bigger part of our business plan and we are excited to be a factor in their rapid growth,” he said.
After the presentation, Hermon was able to show several unique features of the new Crusader including the innovative Super Turn front cap, Slam Latch pass thru baggage doors, Quiet Cool ducted return air conditioning and solid cherry hardwood cabinet doors and drawers. During the walk-through with the dealership, Hermon emphasized, “We’ve loaded Crusader with features not normally found on a mid-profile fifth wheel and priced it very aggressively to deliver more value.”
Additional Crusader upgrades on the 270RET include solid surface countertops, an RCA Soundwave entertainment system, bumper mounted swing arm grill, hitch cover and a 42-inch LCD with electric lift.
Base MSRP of the new Crusader fifth-wheel is $29,500.
For more information regarding Prime Time Manufacturing and the LaCrosse, Tracer, and Crusader brands, please consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Statistical Surveys Inc. ranked Camping World Inc., with 77 stores nationwide, the No. 1 dealer of motorhomes, towables and combined towables and motorhomes in the U.S. for calendar year 2008.
The Top 5 dealers in each category, for the most past, were represented by the same companies as 2007 with some changes in ranking. Crestview RV Center in Buda, Texas, was the only newcomer, moving to fifth spot in the trailer group.
The top five retailers in trailers, motorhomes and combined categories for 2008 are:
• Combined trailers and motorhomes: Camping World, Lincolnshire, Ill.; General RV Center, Detroit, Mich.; Lazydays RV Center Inc., Seffner, Fla.; Fun Time RV Sales, Keene, Texas; Giant RV Montclair, Calif.
• Motorhomes: Camping World, Lazydays, General RV, Giant RV, Mike Thompsons RV, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
• Trailers: Camping World, General RV, Fun Time RV, Giant RV, Crestview RV Center.