Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), returned Tuesday (March 16) from speaking to the annual meeting of the National Caravan Council Ltd. (NCC) in England, an 800-member organization of RV manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds.
”They have been suffering through the same thing we have,” Coon told RVBUSINESS.com. ”Their (retail RV) sales are down a little more than half and they hear about us coming out of the economic downturn and they are wondering what we have done as an industry to help that along.”
”They are a little behind as far as recovering. The banks there did the same thing that the U.S. banks did, restrict floorplan and retail financing.”
The meeting March 11-12 at the Forest Pine Country Club in Brigg in North Lincolnshire about two hours north of London, was in the area where most RV/caravan factories are located — England’s Elkhart County, Ind., so to speak.
While noting that the U.S. has had three major recessions since the late 1970s and early 1980s, Coon explaimed that the current downturn hasn’t been nearly as severe as 1980 when fuel availability and high interest rates buffeted the U.S.
”Fuel allocations back then were worse that the ‘Great Recession’ that we’ve been going through now,” Coon said.
Each time, he told U.K. executives, the North American RV industry rebounded — including a run of 15 years when sales topped 200,000 units a year. “My whole point was telling them that we tend to forget about the past,” said Coon.
As far as countering the downturn, Coon outlined RVIA’s lobbying efforts to stabilize RV sales with federal tax breaks for consumers and to make low-interest loans available to RV dealers through the Small Business Administration. He also explained the production of a DVD about the U.S. RV industry that was distributed to dealers seeking floorplan financing to take to local banks and credit unions.
For all the similarities between the English and U.S. manufacturers, there are basic differences, Coons said.
”They see the two as completely different markets,” said Coon, noting that few fifth-wheels are built in England. ”They don’t have any pickup trucks.”
Coon will repeat his presentation to a broader audience May 6-9 at the European Leisure Vehicle Industry Association in Stockholm, Sweden.