The news from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) that shipments for May were up nearly 12% over last May came as no surprise to Joe Wooldridge, sales manager at Indiana’s Great Lakes RV Center and Elkhart RV Center.
As reported by the South Bend Tribune, the company sells RVs not just to a local audience but a national one as well via the Internet. His company delivers them as far away as Canada and Alaska.
“There was a tremendous surge of travel trailers in the spring, which is a seasonal type of activity,” Wooldridge said. “May was a very, very good month for us.”
At Great Lakes RV Center and Elkhart RV Center, sales for the year are up over last year and are going very well, Wooldridge said. The same is true for the entire industry. Through the first five months this year, total RV shipments have now reached 144,015 units, up 13% compared with the same period last year.
Considering that each of the last three years has been up compared with the year prior, that’s saying something, especially in northern Indiana, where more than 83% of all RVs nationwide are made. Elkhart County alone employs more than 24,000 people connected with the industry.
What Wooldridge is seeing are a lot more customers who are opting for the lifestyle on more of a full-time basis, rather than just for vacations.
“There’s a lot more people taking extended times,” he said. “They have that ability to do that, of course. But they are spending three months, six months at a time (in their RVs).”
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The boom in the recreational vehicle industry isn’t only helping the many manufacturers and suppliers in and around Indiana’s Elkhart County, it’s helping dealer Tiara RV on Elkhart’s north side.
“May and June are both really strong months. These last couple of weeks are the strongest we’ve seen since the FEMA stuff” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, said Todd Cornell, the dealership’s owner.
According to a report by The Elkhart Truth, the recession slammed the RV industry, with people putting off discretionary purchases and lenders tightening up their purse strings.
Now that money’s becoming more readily available, Cornell and his staff are seeing more middle class folks getting back into the RV market.
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Indiana Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, has authored legislation to boost recreational vehicle sales in both Elkhart County and throughout Indiana. According to a report in the Goshen News, the bill would exempt sales tax of RVs and cargo trailers for nonresident purchasers who take their new RV purchase out of Indiana.
According to Neese, the bill would exempt from the state’s 7% sales tax on any RV or cargo trailer transported out of Indiana for registration or use in another state.
“The bill’s intent is to bolster Indiana’s RV sales and keep the revenue in Indiana,” Neese said. “Creating an incentive for customers outside of Indiana to purchase RVs in our state will hopefully attract added customers to Indiana RV retailers, strengthening Elkhart County and the state of Indiana’s economy.”
Under current law, Indiana RV and cargo trailer dealers are required to collect the 7% sales tax for sales to nonresidents who plan to register their RV in a state that does not provide reciprocal drive-out exemptions.
“Elkhart County is a nationwide leader in RV manufacturing. We don’t want to penalize those from out of state who are giving Indiana business or lose dollars that could be coming into Indiana,” Neese said. “This is an important issue for RV retailers. My hope is that this will be one step closer to boosting sales for Indiana businesses, to strengthen our economy and provide job opportunities for hard working Hoosiers.”
Neese said the bill is supported by the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association and the Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council.
The bill was read and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.