Jessica and Jim Vaglica are giddy with excitement this weekend after their recent purchase of a 21-foot recreational vehicle.
As reported by the Detroit News, the new, $20,000 2013 Palamino Puma Unleashed toy hauler RV provides lots of features designed to accommodate the Wyoming, Mich., couple’s extreme sports hobbies that include motorcycling and power golf carting — messy pursuits that their 43-year-old 24-footer could not quite accommodate.
“The whole back end of this RV opens up to a big ramp, so we can just ride everything straight out the back,” said 35-year-old Jessica Vaglica, a college student-accounts manager. Her 37-year-old husband is a warehouse manager. “Right where the toys go are two queen-size beds that lift hydraulically to the ceiling to make room for them. And a nice outside feature is a water nozzle so you can spray off your (hobby vehicles), an outdoor shower, and a 15-gallon fueling station.”
And as far as creature comforts are concerned, the new digs have it all over the used RV that the couple is selling. The Puma Unleashed sports a microwave, a freezer and a digital audio system with built-in speakers that can integrate everything from an iPod to Bluetooth.
No wonder recreational vehicle sales and RV camping are surging in Michigan despite occasional $4-a-gallon gas and intermittently wet weather that might have washed out vacation visions. The solid boom has helped create more business at many of the state’s RV campgrounds as well.
Sales of RVs in Michigan through May this year are up strongly over a pretty good 2012 at the state’s 90 dealerships. Michigan dealers sold 5,142 towable RVs, by far the most popular type, or about 2.3% more than a year ago, according to the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVC), which represents the dealers. They sold 383 typically more costly “motorhomes,” up 36.3% over a year earlier.
Nationally, according to the Michigan association, RV dealers sold about 128,000 towables through May, up 11.1% over a year ago, and about 16,000 motor homes, up by 30.4%.
“There’s been a lot of pent-up demand from people who have discretionary income who decided to make the investment in a motorhome,” said Bill Sheffer, director of the Michigan association, based in Okemos. “The economy, in their minds, is fairly stable, and they feel they can make that commitment.”
Dennis Anderson, marketing manager at General RV Center in Wixom, said that so far, “This is the best year in company history. And last year was actually very good as well.”
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Multilocation dealer General RV Center has a tentative agreement to purchase about 33 acres of land in Wixom, Mich., at a former Ford Motor Co. manufacturing site where it plans to relocate its corporate headquarters.
Crain’s Detroit Business reported that the company, currently headquartered in Wixom, is expected to finalize the purchase from New York-based Trident Barrow Management this week, said Wixom City Manager Tony Nowicki. Barrow purchased much of the land in January.
Loren Baidas, president and chairman of General RV Center, declined to comment until the purchase is finalized. The dealership is reportedly also looking at property in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area for its second location in the Sunshine State.
General RV Center sought and got a rezoning of the property from industrial to a mixed-use classification that allows for some retail, Nowicki said. It plans to construct a two-story building that will house a showroom and service and parts area, he said.
General RV Center plans to move its existing Wixom operations and to consolidate its other corporate operations from other states to the new site, Nowicki said.
The company currently employs about 75 people in the city, he said, and it expects the moves to create roughly another 75 jobs there.
Once it has completed its purchase of the property, General RV Center will submit a final site plan to city officials for approval, which should come within 30-45 days, clearing the way for construction to begin, Nowicki said.
The city is not providing incentives for the project, he said.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday (April 23) signed a pair of RV bills written by State Rep. Ken Kurtz of Coldwater. The measures signed by Snyder are designed to simplify the licensing process for certain recreational vehicles in the state.
WTVB Radio reported that Snyder said as warmer weather approaches, this is a common sense change that reduces regulation to better allow residents to get out and enjoy “Pure Michigan.” The bills change the classification of nonmotorized recreational vehicle sales to the same classification for motorized RVs under the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act.
Kurtz says the changes eliminate paperwork and policies for dealers who sell both motorized and nonmotorized RVs. Dealers who only sell nonmotorized RVs can now do business under both licensing options
Police say that the thieves stealing luxury motorhomes from West Michigan RV dealers are smart, skilled and, so far, successful, according to a report by WZZM TV, Grand Rapids.
“We believe they were done by the same group and they knew exactly what they were doing,” says Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Stanley Lis of the Combined Auto Theft Team.
In the past few weeks, three motorcoaches have been reported stolen. The first was taken from Holland Motor Homes and Bus Company on East 16th Street on March 28. Two more motorhomes were taken Tuesday (May 8) from Midway RV Center on South Division in Kentwood.
“We were all kind of in shock,” says Midway Sales Manager Dave Ballast. “You kind of go from shock to disappointment to anger. You are not sure what to feel.”
Police say the motorcoach thefts are something they haven’t seen happen locally in years.
“I’ve been doing auto thefts here for 16 years and this is the first group of these type of vehicles that I’ve ever seen stolen,” says Sgt. Lis.
Investigators have identified two suspects in the thefts based on surveillance photos taken from stores near the scene of the Holland theft in March.
Detectives say the thieves are targeting similar motorcoaches.
“They’re all remarkably similar in color, size, shape. and very valuable,” says Sgt. Lis. “Very valuable. The asking price when these were new was in the high $300,000’s. The value of them currently, they are a couple years old, is like $150,000 each. So we’re looking for almost a half a million dollars of motorhomes stolen.”
Police believe the thieves are experienced and from outside the West Michigan area.
“In my opinion it’s some type of organized theft ring coming into our area,” says Lis.
“They knew what they were doing,” says Ballast. “There were no signs of forced entry, no broken glass. Somehow they got in and were able to hot wire the things and drive away.”
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This weekend, thousands of people will fill up the gas tanks and put the rubber to the road as they head to Northern Michigan, and many to go camping.
According to a report on UpNorthlive.com, the RV business is going strong and dealerships say that, right now, travel trailers are a hot sell.
Inside it has all the essentials — a refrigerator, sink, and probably most importantly, a comfortable bed. RVers love what they do and lackluster economy or not, they’re going to hit the road.
“I can’t think of a better business to be in, I love this stuff, you’re selling vacations! Everybody has stress, this is where your stress goes away,” says Tony Kesselring, the manager of Gaylord’s International RV World.
Kesselring says even with fuel prices through the roof, people find a way to make it work.
“The smaller ones sold faster than I’ve ever seen the little ones go,” he said. “The one that just pulled out of here goes Friday, that one’s Tuesday, that one’s Friday, that one’s next Thursday. We’re moving them, they’re going pretty good.”
And RV destination locations are booking up. Craig Rose and his brother own Hearthside Grove Motorcoach Resort and the KOA in Petoskey.
“Our business is really outstanding. This year, we have doubled the business we had last year, that kind of exponential growth is rare these days, but we’re thankful for it,” said Rose.
Rose said this weekend, they’re booked solid, and throughout the summer registrations are steady. In fact, business has boomed so much they’re expanding.
“We’re twice as big this year as we were one year ago, so we’ve doubled the size of our property, we continue to sell lots as well as rent lots, both parts of our business are doing outstanding,” said Rose.
And with the growth, that means more employment opportunities. Hearthside Grove has hired five additional employees this year, making their workforce a total of 21 people.