Hard times may be with us still, but the romance of the recreational vehicle is still strong and may be strengthening, according to the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer.
That, at least, is the conclusion to draw from the RV Camping Show at the State Fairgrounds this past weekend in Raleigh.
“We’re paying the bills and even making a little money,” said dealer Paul Hood, whose company sold about 25 campers and recreational vehicles during the three-day show.
A dense Sunday crowd wandered, looked and ooh’d and aah’d at one home on wheels after another.
“Wow, this is nice,” said John Patty of Cary, settling into a swivel chair inside a 400-square-foot Holiday Rambler Imperial. “You could have a party in here.”
More modest models were on view, as well: pop-up campers and cozy house trailers to tow behind a pickup, with prices from less than $9,000 on up. The show also featured dealers in camp sites, refinishing services, bedding, hot tubs, campfire food, grills, travelog videos and RV insurance.
Recession hit the RV industry hard, said Dave and Jan Kenyon, staffing a booth for the Good Sam Club, an association for RV owners. According to the RecreationVehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the industry has laid off 53% of its work force since June 2007, but University of Michigan analyst Richard Curtin projects a 30% increase in units shipped to dealers this year, about 216,000 compared with 166,000 in 2009.
Dealer restocking is one reason for optimism, and it’s easier to get financing for an RV than it was a year ago, Jan Kenyon said.
Plus, dealers are dealing. The Imperial’s regular retail price of $420,102 had been marked down to $336,541. A Cherokee Wolf Pack trailer was marked down from $27,535 to $19,922, complete with kitchenette and queen-size bed.
“I don’t know how much it is, but I like it,” said Brad Seavey of Vass, N.C., when he saw the Wolf Pack.
Danny and Glenda Honeycutt of Angier, N.C., with daughters Bayley and Brooke, said they are about a year away from moving up to a motorhome from the fifth-wheel trailer camper they’ve had for 10 years.
“Oooh! This is nice!” said Brooke, climbing into a $251,000 Holiday Rambler Ambassador.
“You can travel in here,” Glenda said as she looked around the interior; riding inside the fifth-wheeler is against the law, she explained. Compared with car travel, Danny said, having space to spread out is “so much easier than to pack everything up.”
Dealer Dave Hansing said people who are enthusiastic about the RV lifestyle are still enthused, despite the economy.
“The worst thing about an RV is not having enough time to use it,” he said.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) and the Good Sam Club, the world’s largest recreational vehicle owners’ organization, announce that Executive Director Sue Bray is leaving to form her own consulting business, Sue Bray Consulting, (www.suebray.com). Bray’s new business will focus on and utilize her expertise in marketing, managing and operating membership clubs and events.
Affinity CEO and President Mike Schneider made the announcement stating, “Sue has dedicated her 33-year career to enhancing our members’ experience through excellent membership benefits development and service. Much of Good Sam’s phenomenal growth over the years can be attributed to Sue. We wish her the very best of luck in her future endeavors, and I’m proud to announce that the Good Sam Club will be one of her first clients. She now has the opportunity to expand her outreach, public relations and development functions for the club as well as providing her expertise to other organizations. We are fortunate Sue will remain available to the members for the foreseeable future.”
Bray joined the Good Sam Club, a division of AGI, in 1976 as chapter activities director. In 1979 she was named executive director of the club, and became an Affinity vice president in 1980. During her tenure with the Good Sam Club, the organization grew from less than 200,000 members to nearly 1 million families today.
Bray spent most of her career with the Good Sam Club developing partnerships and benefits for members, including the popular trip routing service, an RV financing program, a member credit card, and was deeply involved in the design of the club’s popular emergency road service. She marketed and managed club events, including Affinity’s annual event, The Rally, which attracts upward of 8,000 guests each year and provided editorial direction for Highways, the club’s monthly magazine.
Bray managed the Good Sam Club’s participation in several major charity initiatives, including the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Dogs for the Deaf and Hole in the Wall Camps. She also managed its legislative and lobbying efforts, which she’ll continue to do on behalf of the club and its members.
In 2009, Bray was inducted into the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.— one of the youngest members and only the ninth woman selected for the RV industry’s most prestigious honor.
Also included among Bray’s initial clients is the Venice Beach House (www.venicebeachhouse.com), an upscale inn located beachside in Venice Beach, Calif., and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Editor’s Note: The following column by Sue Bray, executive director of the Good Sam Club, discusses the RV centennial, which will be celebrated this year. Her column appears in the February issue of Highways magazine. Affinity Group Inc. is the parent company of the Good Sam Club and www.RVBUSINESS.com.
It was a much simpler world 100 years ago. But with so many technological advances just around the corner, 1910 must have been an exciting time to be alive. Like today’s world, in which the latest computer technologies open up new possibilities, the world of 1910 was opening up to motorized travel. Innovative horseless vehicles were embarking on new highways and byways across the continent.
The lure of the open road had enticed tourists prior to 1910. People traveled to camping spots by horse and wagon, but those trips were restricted by time and distance. A few wealthy excursionists had tent trailers custom-built so they could enjoy the outdoors in relative comfort. But in 1910, the adventure of travel on North America’s developing roads began to change as three manufacturers, led by Pierce Arrow, started building motorized campers. In 1914 towable tent trailers were introduced, and in 1917 the first fifth-wheel appeared on the horizon.
Fortunately, a handful of historians have preserved this past. David Woodworth, for one, has chronicled RV history for decades. In 1986, David arrived at the headquarters of the Good Sam Club driving a Model A and towing a Ziegelmeyer tent trailer. We began working together, and for years David toured the country on behalf of Good Sam, meeting with club chapters and other groups and displaying his ever-growing collection of vintage vehicles. He’s taken his amazing assortment of RVs and RV gear on media tours representing the RV industry. Today, much of his collection is on display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
David has a wealth of information on RVing’s early days. He even has a collection of collapsible coat hangers! He tells how auto pioneers Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, both avid campers, made plans for RV manufacturing while on a train ride in 1915.
David’s also researched the evolution of campgrounds. In the 1800s, he relates, many towns built wagon yards where visitors could release their horses and store their wagons when they were passing through. By 1914, the now-obsolete wagon yards were converted into free municipal campgrounds. “After World War I,” says David, “cities started charging 25 cents a night to camp in their campgrounds, basically in an effort to weed out the undesirables.”
In 2010, the RV industry will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Events recognizing the milestone will be held at the Elkhart museum and various RV dealerships, shows and campgrounds around the country.
The Good Sam Club is sponsoring a special RV History Caraventure en route to the Louisville Rally, which runs July 22 through 25. Up to 100 RVs, both old and new, will meet at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, travel to Dearborn, Mich., to visit the Ford Museum, then drive on to the 2010 Rally in Louisville. Seminars held along the way will offer insights into today’s RVing experience and RV travel’s fascinating past. (Caraventure contact information is available at (800) 829-5140.)
At the Rally, we’ll have a special area for vintage RVs to park and display life as it was in the early days of RV travel.
For David Woodworth, RVing is here to stay: “It’s gone through World War I, the Depression, World War II, high gas prices and high interest rates and it’s still such a popular activity.”
We RVers know it’ll keep on going and we look forward to the next 100 years.
The Good Sam Club, the world’s largest recreational vehicle owners’ organization with nearly 1 million member families, has announced the recipients of the Good Sam 2009 RVer of the Year Award, according to a news release.
Monty and Susan Scales, hurricane relief volunteers currently living in San Leon, Texas, are recognized for their hands-on refurbishment work and volunteer coordination in communities throughout the Gulf Coast region.
The annual RVer of the Year award recognizes a member of the RV community for achievements that benefit fellow RVers or the community at large. Monty and Susan, Good Sam Club members currently living in a fifth-wheel parked in a campground in Texas, will be featured on the front cover of the January 2010 issue of Highways magazine.
“Monty and Susan are a wonderful example of how our members strive daily to make the world a better place,” said Sue Bray, executive director of the Good Sam Club. “The Scaleses’ unflagging determination to help needy storm victims and coordinate additional volunteer efforts inspired fellow members to select them as this year’s winners. This is a true testament to the ideals of the Good Sam Club — helping our fellow neighbors—and we are proud to honor members that embody this spirit.”
The couple, originally from Bloomington, Ind., enjoyed well-paying construction jobs, but that all changed in 2005 when they saw the televised images of devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Realizing that their construction talents could be put to better use, the couple quit their jobs, borrowed a trailer and headed south.
Four and a half years later, they are still on the scene – only today they are helping hurricane victims in Texas. They’ve also worked in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and in Columbus, Ind., following the devastating floods of 2008.
After a disaster strikes, the Scaleses move into an area and look for people who need help. Many times, these are homeowners who are not eligible or for various reasons have not received government assistance. Through the support of various church groups and other organizations, the Scaleses find teams of volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, who will help to rebuild, repair and remodel homes which have been damaged.
They will take a break from their busy schedule to accept the RVer of the Year Award at The Rally 2010, the nation’s largest RV rally, taking place in Louisville, Ky., July 22 through 25.
In 2008, the Good Sam Club honored Waynesboro, Ga., native Richard Daniels with the first-ever RVer of the Year Award for his efforts to rescue injured and abandoned animals and find them permanent homes. The program expanded in 2009 and fellow Good Sam members were encouraged to vote for their favorite of five nominees through the club’s website.
In addition to Susan and Monty Scales, the other nominees for Good Sam’s 2009 RVer of the Year were:
Fred and Suzanne Dow, who traveled 250,000 miles researching 153 U.S. Forest Service campgrounds.
Tom Gonser, chairman of Good Sam’s RV Owners Advisory Council, who led the consumer efforts to develop model motorhome lemon law legislation.
Becky and Johnny Torres, who mentor Navajo youths from grade school through college.
Joe Works, owner of B&W Hitches, who donated his employees’ time to build a baseball field, and make sidewalk repairs throughout his community.
To learn more about Susan and Monty Scales, read their blog at www.msmission.blogspot.com. For more information on the Good Sam Club, please visit www.goodsamclub.com.
Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) is the parent company of the Good Sam Club and RVBUSINESS.COM.
The fairgrounds lost income because of the cancellation. Fairgrounds management charge $18 per RV. Last year the fairgrounds made $7,000, and the year before, it made nearly $9,000.
Local Good Sam Secretary Brenda Mitchell said the rally was canceled because of a lack of participation due to the economy.
That theory was echoed by fairgrounds General Manager Dennis Cupp and event organizer George Kaine of Rockingham County.
“There is the unknown, because of gas prices and now because of the economy,” says Cupp.
“There are a lot of retiree’s in the organization of course. We’ve talked to many of those over the last couple weeks, who’s retirement income, disposable income took a hit with all the dumps last year,” says Kaine.
The cancellation is a hit to the local economy. Mitchell says RV patrons travel from as far as Texas and Florida and leave the fairgrounds to shop in Harrisonburg and Staunton.
Mitchell said the cancellation of this year’s rally has inspired her to do more marketing. She hopes to draw enough RV enthusiasts to hold the event for years to come.
Two RV companies’ products will be getting some quality air time on an upcoming episode of CBS Television’s popoular show, “The Mentalist.”
The Good Sam Club was contacted recently by CBS/Warner Bros. to provide a variety of vehicles for the show at a location shoot on Tuesday ( Sept. 15), according to Sue Bray, executive director of the club.
The club’s parent company, Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), provided two test trailers manufactured by Peterson Industries Inc., Smith Center, Kan., and Northwood Manufacturing Inc., La Grande, Ore.
AGI also supplied a boat, ATVs and motorcycles.
Warner Bros. is going to make a donation to Hole in the Wall Camps in exchange for the vehicles AGI provided, Bray noted.
“The Mentalist” revolves around a celebrated psychic-turned-detective (Simon Baker) who has a powerful gift for observation and investigates crimes for the California Bureau of Investigation.
RVBusiness and RVBUSINESS.COM are AGI holdings.
The Good Sam Club Extended Service Plan has paid millions of dollars in repairs for RV mechanical breakdowns over the years, and now that protection is more important than ever, according to a press release from the Ventura, Calif.-based club.
With the increasing number of RV manufacturers closing their doors or filing for bankruptcy, the Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV owners community, has expanded the protection available from the Good Sam Extended Service Plan to include the time normally covered by the manufacturer.
“We still repair or replace any of the thousands of parts of your RV we have covered for years, but now that coverage starts even during the original manufacturer’s warranty term, in the event the manufacturer is unable to honor their warranty,” according to a news release.
This benefit is now available exclusively through participating Good Sam Authorized Dealers or through the Good Sam Club for anyone in the market for a new or used RV.
The new program was launched in May.
This is yet another new wrinkle from the Good Sam Club which has been providing extended service coverage for more than 12 years, noted Scott Blanc, vice president and general manager of the Good Sam Extended Service Plan Division, part of Affinity Ventures.
“Heretofore, typical coverage excluded the time the vehicle was under the manufacturer’s warranty,” he explained. “We have closed that gap and provide coverage back to Day 1 for vehicles that no longer have protection from the manufacturer.”
There is no additional cost to the consumer, Blanc noted.
For more information contact your nearest authorized Good Sam Club dealer or go to www.goodsamclub.com.
The Good Sam Club is affiliated with Affinity Group Inc., parent company of RVBusiness magazine and RVBUSINESS.com.
The Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV owners’ organization with nearly 1 million member families, today (June 10) unveiled model motorhome “lemon law” legislation, developed in conjunction with RV industry officials and the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA), according to a news release.
If enacted by a state, the legislation will provide specific rights and remedies for motorhome buyers against product defects if the motorhome does not conform to material provisions of the manufacturer’s warranty. If the motorhome purchaser can demonstrate that a purchased unit does not conform to the statutory standards prescribed in the model law, the remedy available can include replacement or repurchase of the unit by the manufacturer.
Most states currently either provide no lemon law coverage for motorhome purchases or offer protection that is extremely limited, typically covering only the chassis. The proposed new model legislation would extend coverage to the structural integrity and functionality of major system components relating to the living quarters of a motorhome.
In 2007, the Good Sam Club joined the IALLA as a corporate sponsor in order to participate actively in this key IALLA project. IALLA presided over a series of conferences and negotiations with key representatives of the RV manufacturing and consumer communities leading to its eventual adoption of the proposed model legislation. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is also an IALLA corporate sponsor.
Pursuant to a series of conferences and negotiations sponsored by IALLA, both the industry and consumer representatives were able to agree on standards that would trigger lemon law liability for motorhome purchases, and provide consumer remedies through alternative means of dispute resolution.
“A new motorhome is a major life investment and new RVs are often used for both transportation needs and as living quarters for new buyers, meaning that any major product defects could present a serious hardship to the consumer,” said Sue Bray, executive director of the Good Sam Club. “It’s imperative that state ‘lemon laws’ protect the rights of new motorhome buyers. The model legislation is the first step in putting those safeguards in place for RV owners.”
The draft recreational vehicle initiative proposed by IALLA and the Good Sam Club acknowledges that motorhomes and RVs have components not common to cars and trucks and therefore should be protected by specific motorhome lemon laws.
The proposed legislation would require manufacturers to repair a new vehicle to the standards of the warranty if the product is defective or nonconforming to the warranty. It also offers a reasonable number of attempts clause, depending on the severity of the defect and/or repair. While the model legislation is designed to protect consumers who use their motorhome for recreational pursuits, full-time RVers who live in their motorhomes on an ongoing basis are specifically protected under the model act.
The next step is for those states interested in offering motorhome lemon law protection to their constituents to utilize this model legislation as a template. The Good Sam Club encourages all state legislatures promptly to enact this important new consumer protection for motorhome purchasers.
Led by Chairman Tom Gonser, the Good Sam RV Owners’ Advisory Council, a group of volunteers who assist the club and its members with RV industry relationships and policies, was heavily involved in resolving issues with both the regulators and representatives of the RV industry.
“We are delighted that the RV industry and the RV consumer were able to work out our differences and develop model legislation that will provide more equitable solutions for both sides,” said Gonser. “It’s most important that state legislators recognize that existing automobile lemon laws do not offer appropriate remedies for the many different working parts of both the living and chassis components of a motorhome.”
For complete text of the proposed legislation, please contact Sara Wacker directly at 619-533-7975 or email@example.com.
The Good Sam Club is affiliated with Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) which also publishes RVBusiness and RVBUSINESS.com.
RV manufacturers and accessory suppliers experienced larger-than-anticipated traffic and sales at the nation’s largest RV rally April 17-20 in Albuquerque, N.M.
In drawing 3,112 RVs, 353 indoor exhibitors and 140 outdoor exhibit slots over the four-day event, this growing annual get-together – officially called The Rally – again demonstrated the ongoing commitment North American RV enthusiasts have for the RV lifestyle, according to a press release.
Millions of dollars in RVs and accessories were sold throughout The Rally, now in its 10th year, including a $460,000 motorcoach by Michigan-based manufacturer Silver Crown LLC. Roadmaster Inc., Camping World Inc. and Demco-Dethmers Mfg. Co. were among the exhibitors reporting “terrific” sales, while a number of companies literally sold out of product.
“Our exhibitors are very pleased with the amount of traffic and sales activity at The Rally 2009; in fact, at times, attendees were shoulder to shoulder inside the exhibit hall,” said Sue Bray, executive director for the Good Sam Club, the event’s organizer. “RV manufacturers and aftermarket parts and accessory suppliers alike saw many buyers in a short amount of time, which is a testament to the strength of the industry and commitment to this lifestyle. It was a huge shot in the arm to an industry that really needs it.”
“The turnout was better than expected,” noted Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Ventura, Calif.-based Affinity Group Inc. (AGI). “Our goal was to get 3,000 family rigs to attend, and we ended up with 3,112. Both the indoor and outdoor exhibitors told us they were happy with the results. Dealers were able to get inventory moved, and the indoor guys were flooded with customers. The first two days of the show it was tough to just walk down the aisles; there were so many people inside. We delivered a bunch of buyers to exhibitors, and nothing makes us happier.”
RV travelers, representing every state and province in North America, camped at Albuquerque’s famous Balloon Fiesta Park, while exhibitors, seminars and daily activities took place down the road at the EXPO New Mexico fairgrounds.
Among the first-time events this year at The Rally 2009 were philanthropic projects, eco-friendly initiatives and pet adoptions. In an effort to give back to The Rally’s host community of Albuquerque, more than 70 Rally-goers participated in a day of service at Rio Grande Community Farm, while conservation expert Brian Brawdy showed how traveling by RV can conserve resources. The Rally also hosted dog and cat adoptions, courtesy of Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, which secured homes for more than half of the animals.
The Rally 2010 will be July 22-25 in Louisville, Ky. Additional information and registration can be found online at www.therally.com. The Rally can also be found on Facebook (The Rally), EONS.com (TheRally), Twitter and Flickr (flickr.com/photos/therally/).
For a decade, The Rally has been an annual event hosted by the million-member Good Sam Club, along with Camping World President’s Club, Camp Club USA, Coast to Coast Resorts, Woodall’s and Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines. All the organizations are either owned by or affiliated with AGI, the nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation clubs, services, media and events, headquartered in Ventura, Calif.
RVBusiness magazine and RVBUSINESS.com are AGI products.
The Good Sam Club has chosen Warrantech Corp. as its exclusive provider of extended service contracts sold through participating Good Sam Authorized Dealers.
Warrantech is a provider of warranty products and administrative services. For more that two decades, Warrantech has been a source for manufacturer, retailers, dealers, distributors and other sales organizations.
Warrantech is backed by Wesco Insurance, an “A” rated insurer with many years of experience in the industry and a subsidiary of AmTrust.
“This was an easy choice for the Good Sam Authorized Dealer Network,” said Larry Chandler, director of the Good Sam Authorized Dealer Division. “In our 12 years of experience developing service contracts for the RV market, I believe that we have found the perfect partner to represent the Good Sam brand which of course is critical to our continued success.”
Good Sam Authorized Dealers now include 73 locations across the U.S. In addition to extended service contracts on new and used RV’s, Good Sam Authorized Dealers offer Roadside Assistance, Certified Pre-owned RVs and other Good Sam branded products.
“Good Sam Authorized Dealers now offer the only extended service plan with unlimited mileage for motorized RVs. Participating dealers also have state of the art on-line contract and claims management service,” said Chandler.
“We look forward to partnering with Good Sam,” said Joel San Antonio, CEO of Warrantech Corp. ”Over the years, Warrantech has established a solid reputation for handling customer service claims with fast, courteous service. With state-of-the-art technology to manage claims, and an extensive network of mechanics on call to handle needed repairs in a timely manner, Good Sam customers have access to extended service plan protection that is unmatched. Dollar for dollar, we take pride knowing Warrantech’s service combines good value with the most comprehensive coverage in the RV industry.”
Warrantech Corp. administers and markets service contracts and after-market warranties on RVs, automobiles, automotive components, appliances, consumer electronics, homes, computer and computer peripherals, jewelry and furniture for retailers, distributors, Internet providers and manufacturers. Acquired by H.I.G. Capital, Amtrust Financial Services Inc. and Stanwich Capital Corp. in 2007, the company continues to expand its domestic and global penetration, and now provides its services in the U.S. and Canada.
Good Sam Authorized Dealers is headquartered in Ventura, Calif., and is a subsidiary of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI). AGI also publishes RV Business magazine and RVBusiness.com.