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Alberta Dealers Prep for Edmonton Show

February 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

rv_expo_2011_edmonton-440A stream of Canadian-owned recreational vehicles heading south on Interstate 15 as Darcy Turgeon returned from a recent California RV vacation gives him hope for strong sales in the RV industry.

Turgeon, chairman of the Edmonton RV Exposition and Sale, said he couldn’t believe the number of motorhomes heading for a place in the sun. Baby Boomers are part of the group heading south. They have long been a commercial force in any market category they enter, and they’re expected to exert more influence on RV sales, The Edmonton Journal reported.

“Boomers want to enjoy the RV lifestyle,” said Turgeon, saying that he expects boomers will buy more motorhomes than travel trailers.

Several factors have come together to help sales in Canada’s fourth largest province, such as low interest rates, banks starting to loosen up on making loans and longer terms on loans, he said.

Dan Merkowsky, executive vice president of the RV Dealers Association of Alberta, expects prices will be attractive since there is more competition in the industry and dealers have sharpened their pencils.RVDA_logo_340

On the eve of the 31st annual show, RV dealers are “pretty optimistic,” Turgeon said. “All indications point to a better year this year than last year.”

That continues the turnaround that began in 2010. Merkowsky said last year was better than 2009, when sales suffered due to the economic slump.

The RV show will be held at the Edmonton Expo Center (formerly known as the AgriCom) at Edmonton Northlands from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13. The show will fill all ground-level halls of the Expo Center.

“Edmonton and area consumers will be guaranteed a great selection of new RVs, with more than 400 RV units on display, including tent trailers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, park models and motorhomes,” Merkowsky said.

“The show’s varied exhibitors will showcase many related RV services, products and tourism destinations,” he said. “The popular RV Lifestyle Theater will present speakers with topics ranging from solar panels and maintenance tips to travel destinations.”

There will be one change in the dealer displays, since Otto Mobiles shut down during 2010. That exhibit space has been taken by All Star RV.

Merkowsky said Otto Mobile’s product lines have been picked up by other dealers, with Trailblazer RV now selling Bigfoot trailers and truck campers, RV City selling Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd. camper vans and Grove RV handling Triple E motorhomes.

Bigfoot has resumed building RVs with a smaller product line after being closed for more than a year.

Roadmaster RV will have the largest display, with 29,000 square feet of exhibitor space, while Woody’s RV will pack the most units of any dealer at the show into its 24,800-square-foot space, Merkowsky said.

He expects there will be many new units for consumers to check out, including about 20 new products. There will be a variety of revamped floor plans and new colour schemes.

Both Turgeon and Merkowsky expect to see more lightweight travel trailers. Turgeon expects to see lots of lightweight units, but perhaps not as many big fifth-wheel trailers. These lighter trailers mean campers don’t have to buy a large tow vehicle.

Show visitors will have the opportunity to participate in several contests in which they could win a $2,000 shopping spree at Safeway, a one-week stay at Alberta Beach Golf Resort and RV Park or $50,000 toward the purchase of any RV on display at the show.

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RV Industry Shows Off its Best at Edmonton Show

February 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The RV industry faced difficult times in the last two years as both manufacturers and dealers closed their doors.

But the 30th Annual Edmonton RV Show and Sale added a solid dose of optimism to the industry’s outlook. When the doors to the show opened on Feb. 11, the crowd surged in to look at the latest in RVs and decide what to buy, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Within a few minutes of the opening, the first deals had been written. Many observers agreed it was the busiest opening to the show that they had seen in years.

Don Humphrey, manager of Roadmaster RV in Leduc, went further, saying it was the busiest opening night he had seen in his 30 years of attending shows.

“Sales are at least double last year,” Humphrey said in an interview, pointing out that there is “pent-up demand.”

“This year, people are eager to buy.”

This year’s RV show was the first held in the recently expanded Edmonton Expo Center and filled all the main floor halls, including the brightly lit new halls that opened late last year. In contrast, the recent Edmonton Motorshow did not use Halls A and B on the main level.

The show presented a variety of new RVs and features to grab the attention of consumers. A feature that attracted the attention of many visitors was the outdoor kitchens on a variety of RVs.

After years of seeing many RVs add more and more comforts of home, some of the trailers at the 2010 show took a back-to-basics approach to bring the outdoor experience back to camping. These more Spartan models are available both in tent and hard-wall travel trailers.

The Quicksilver tent trailers sold by Carefree Coach and RV exemplified the minimalist approach. These trailers are available in lengths ranging from just under nine feet to just over 21 feet. The Quicksilver line also includes tent-style truck campers that fold down for travel.

Quicksilver RVs, built by Livin’ Lite, rely on aluminum construction for strength, light weight and long-term durability.

“When I looked at today’s generation of pop-ups, I saw heavy, expensive units, but nothing that could be towed by a car or station wagon,” said Scott Tuttle, Livin’ Lite founder. “That’s when we decided to build our own tent camper that would be both affordable and able to be towed by most cars and minivans.

“Do our units have all the frills of the expensive units? No,” Tuttle said. “But that’s not what camping is all about. Camping for us is about having a great time in the outdoors.”

Not only can the Quicksilver units be towed by cars and minivans, the company also offers units designed to be pulled by motorcycles.

When Tuttle says Quicksilver units don’t have all the frills, he’s talking about trailers and truck campers that don’t have appliances or a bathroom. Storage cabinets and a sink are available in some units. Carefree also displayed one unit with a hole in the floor for ice-fishing.

Carefree president Elmer Lastiwka said Quicksilver trailers are priced at $4,000 to just over $9,000. “It’s affordable for any family with a small car.”

Because of the light weight of the Quicksilver campers, in some situations they could be towed by a quad, such as heading up a cut line into the wilderness or onto a lake for ice fishing. Using a quad would alleviate the fear of a truck or sport utility vehicle going through the ice.

The Kamparoo Camper, a lightweight, folding tent trailer manufactured in Australia and distributed by Kamparoo Campers in Wetaskiwin, is a similar concept.

Some travel trailers at the show also showed a more basic, affordable approach, including the Wolf Pup in the Cars RV and Marine display and the Takena Curv at the Roadmaster RV exhibit. Both of these trailers have a sloping, curved front to reduce wind resistance and make them easier to tow.

A number of manufacturers offer outdoor kitchens on their trailers this year. Some trailers with two entrance doors now come equipped with a bathroom just inside the rear door to shorten the mud trail when children go in to use the toilet.

Most outdoor kitchens are built into the rear corner of the trailer with a lift-up door that doubles as a canopy.

Outback Country RV sells the North Trail, made by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which offers a fully equipped outdoor kitchen that includes a sink, microwave, refrigerator, television and stove. The refrigerator is electric only — the main refrigerator inside the RV is a gas-electric model.

Tango trailers, sold by Western RV of Leduc, have a different outdoor kitchen design, one that slides out of the rear corner of the unit.

Tango’s Dane Found talked about the reasoning behind building an RV with an outdoor kitchen:

“The idea is that most people want to spend as much time as possible outside,” Found said, explaining that this is the first year that Tango has offered the outdoor kitchen.

In addition to offering the option of preparing food outdoors, the slide-out kitchen also fulfils other roles.

Found said it can serve as a privacy barrier in a campground and a windbreak at the campsite.

The outdoor kitchen has been well received by consumers, he said.

During the show, it wasn’t unusual to hear showgoers comparing the various kitchens as they made their way from exhibit to exhibit.

Although RV manufacturers have failed in recent years, some new companies have been started to fill at least part of the void. Arrkann Trailer and RV Center sells the Tracer Ultra Lite trailer line, manufactured by Prime Time Manufacturing, which started producing trailers in August. Prime Time strives to build trailers with designs that appeal to buyers while ensuring that they’re priced right.

Earthbound RV is another new line Arrkann has added to give customers a lightweight RV that’s easy to tow. Arrkann’s Ken Friedenberg said Earthbound interiors are reminiscent of a luxury car. The sleek exterior is slate grey, in contrast to the usual white RV exterior.

Friedenberg said his dealership was selected by RV usiness magazine as one of the top 50 RV dealers in North America and was the lone Canadian to make the top 10 in that group of 50.

Many RV dealers at the show displayed, in addition to tent trailers and various styles of travel trailers, motorhomes ranging from large bus-style Class As to Class B van conversions and the intermediate-size Class Cs.

In Class A, improved fuel economy such as that offered by the Avanti from Damon is a welcome change for buyers. While many Class As travel less than 10 miles per gallon, the Avanti raises that to better than 14 miles per U.S. gallon or more than 16 miles per Imperial gallon.

Chris Cook of Woody’s RV said the Avanti uses a number of European design features such as a sloped front and reduced height to improve fuel economy. Woody’s recently sold one of these units, which have prices starting around $130,000 US.

Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., a Kitchener, Ont.-based manufacturer of Class B motorhomes, has added a rear slide to its van conversion based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. This van, in the Grove RV display, drew a steady crowd of interested onlookers.

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