Mary Pouliot of Thetford Corp. was voted to a Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVC) board seat in June and will undergo orientation at the organization’s Aug. 6 meeting.
Pouliot, director of customer service since 2006 for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford, is an at-large representative and one of two elected to the nine-member board after month-long, all-member voting in June. She was officially appointed on July 1 and is currently studying board responsibilities and issues in preparation for the upcoming meeting.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me personally,” Pouliot said. “I’m pleased to represent Thetford, all members and all RV suppliers on the board.”
A division of the Michigan Manufactured Housing, RV and Campground Association, MARVAC is a full-service, nonprofit trade association representing those industries in Michigan. Through legislation, education, marketing and public awareness, MARVAC works to improve the business climate for members, encourage growth in the RV and private campground industries, and contributes to the quality of Michigan tourism.
A privately held company with seven manufacturing facilities worldwide, Thetford is a leading supplier of sanitation and refrigeration products for the RV, marine, heavy-duty truck and residential industries. Subsidiaries include Norcold, a manufacturer of gas absorption refrigerators and freezers for the RV, marine and truck markets; Tecma, an Italy-based producer of fine-china toilets and waste-transfer systems; and Thetford Europe, which makes high-quality cooking and heating appliances and accessories.
The Battle Creek Camper & RV Show, sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles & Campgrounds (MARVAC), experienced a 20% increase in attendance over the 2012 show, according to a press release.
The show ran March 7-10 at the Kellogg Arena in downtown Battle Creek. MARVAC reported that it was a later starting date – the show normally runs in January – and early spring type weather may have accounted for a higher number of visitors purchasing RVs and also showing greater interest in the campground and accessory displays.
This was the second spring show sponsored by the association with two more events scheduled for Flint and Traverse City over the next two weeks. This year’s Detroit Camper & RV Show experienced record attendance at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi in mid-February. MARVAC member dealers are reporting strong show sales and higher than usual lot traffic in the first two and half months of 2013.
MARVAC is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging growth in the recreation vehicle and private campground industries while contributing to Michigan tourism. For more information, visit www.marvac.org.
Despite the tough Michigan economy, those close to the camping and RV industry say it continues to thrive, WZZM-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich, reported.
“It was two years ago when the industry hit the skids,” says Mike Wilbraham, producer of the 2011 Camping, Travel and RV Show, which concluded Sunday (Jan. 16) at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. “But last year RV sales picked up.”
Consumers can buy RVs for as low as $5,000, or they can go big and drop $400,000 on one; whatever their budget allows.
“The priorities of folks today have changed,” says Dennis Anderson from General RV Center. “What actually drove the industry down for a while is that people who actually owned RVs weren’t upgrading.”
Anderson says now that the economy is starting to rebound, there has been a huge influx of people trading in and trading up their recreational vehicles.
Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) has compiled some statistics to show how RV sales have increased despite the struggling economy.
“2010 was up 33% in motor home sales over 2009,” says Beth Monicatti-Blank, who is a spokesperson for MARVAC. “We sold 10,000 more recreational vehicles in the state of Michigan in 2010 than we did in 2009.”
Monicatti-Blank believes the renewed interest in recreational vehicles can be directly related to more banks willing to finance with low interest rates.
“More banks are getting involved in the recreational vehicle business,” says Monicatti-Blank. “It’s a great time to buy a recreational vehicle.”
Meanwhile, Andy Cripe, general manager of a Keystone RV Co. division, told RVBUSINESS.com that the show “had great traffic.”
“People were upbeat,” Cripe said. “There are people who want to get into an RV or upgrade the one they have. I think we all wish we might have sold a few more but it wasn’t a bad show. Early buyers are out there to look before they buy.”
Editor’s Note: This first-person story about the RV industry was written by Melissa Preddy for The Detroit News.
Doing laundry, answering e-mail, baking a chicken and catching up on TV — all while hurtling southward on I-75 in Michigan at 70 mph.
Now that’s what I call efficient.
And not terribly far-fetched, given the plethora of amenities available in the modern motorhome or travel trailer. The ever-growing ability to take our comforts on the road is one reason not every motor vehicle maven limits herself to four-wheeled machines.
I’ve never ridden an inch or slept a wink in an RV, but it’s always amazed me how this huge consumer market — and employer of thousands of Michigan workers — seems to fly under the radar. It’s a fascinating culture with its own lexicon — like “boondocking” and “diesel-pusher” and “pull-through,” as well as lots of interesting technology and a tradition that parallels the birth of our automobile industry.
Production roots in Mich., Ind.
Michigan and Indiana are the epicenter of RV development. One of the first major producers, the Covered Wagon Company, was born in Detroit in the 1920s. Founder Arthur Sherman was hailed in 1937 by Fortune as “the Henry Ford of the trailer industry,” said Al Hesselbart, RV expert and author of “The Dumb Things Sold, Just Like That!” — a chronology of the early travel-trailer years.
Hesselbart showed me through the RV Hall of Fame museum in Elkhart, Ind., pointing out space-age mid-century models, mod ’70s campers and their ancestors: the tiny wood-crafted “teardrop” trailers with barely room inside for a pallet and a couple of clothes hooks.
Intrigued by the lore, I’ve since clambered through hundreds of RV units in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest pop-ups to luxury coaches that carry more bathrooms and a bigger mortgage than my house. Some even feature flat-panel TVs on the outside of the rig, along with built-in outdoor barbecues, sinks and refrigerators that slide from secret compartments.
250K registered in state
Here in Michigan, we rank fourth out of 50 states — behind California, Texas and Florida — in RV shipments. That’s according to the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), which sponsors the 44th annual Detroit Camper and RV Show under way through Sunday at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi.
As many as a quarter of a million RVs are registered in Michigan, from pop-ups to 40-foot coaches, and they’re served by some 80,000 campsites in 1,600 campgrounds.
Following a recessionary slump, analysts and RV dealers are planning for an upswing in demand ahead of summer 2010. While assemblers and suppliers ramp up production, dealers are combing the classifieds and Craigslist looking for used stock to snap up and re-sell.
“We’re looking for perhaps a 30-35% gain,” said Larry Andree, president of A & S RV Center in Auburn Hills. And while some consumers are downsizing away from giant coaches and towables to compact Class B models that ride on truck and van platforms, they’re not exactly getting back to nature.
Popular options include microwave-convection ovens, multiple LCD TVs, Corian countertops, luxury fabrics, stand-alone dining furniture to replace dinette booths, adjustable-firmness mattresses and glass shower doors. In-motion satellite systems that don’t lose signal are hot sellers at about $2,000, as are GPS devices.
“When you think back to the RV models of 30 or 40 years ago, you wonder how you sold any of them,” laughs Andree, a lifelong industry veteran.
Sue Carlsen of Hubbard Lake, Mich., state director of the Family Campers and RVers Association, said the downsizing trend is a hot topic among enthusiasts, but even those willing to make do with less space aren’t giving up much else. Free Wi-Fi access is a must at campgrounds, she said, along with cable TV hook-ups and other electronic support.
“There’s a whole feeling of redefining camping,” she said. “People are bringing their homes right along with them.”