The largest RV show on the West Coast has shrunk in size, but the builders of trailers, toy haulers and motor homes who remain in business parked their homes-on-wheels in Pomona, Calif., optimistic that the worst may be in their rear view mirrors, according to the Riverside, Calif. Press-Enterprise.
On display until Oct. 25 during the California RV Show at the Fairplex in Pomona sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) are rows of recreational vehicles from towable trailers for $30,000 to veritable tour buses equipped with fold-out balconies and slide-out flat-screen TVs. Those, joked 61-year-old Jerry Presson of Fullerton, were for an RVer’s wife who wanted a hotel room, not a camping trip.
He takes two trips a month in his 1991 Winnebago motor home and plans to journey “a lot more” now that he’s retired. He was shopping for a Class A diesel motor home on Friday.
”I was going to buy one last year, but then the economy turned,” he said, so he stayed with his job as a technician for an aerospace firm until he was forced to retire this year.
The recession severely curtailed motor home sales as banks were skittish to lend to customers and RV dealers alike. Manufacturers went under; dealers closed.
Nonetheless, Bill Gibson, president of Jag Mobile Solutions based in Howe, Ind., decided to get into the RV business. With his first Galileo trailer model — a solitary vehicle parked next to the fence across from a wall of RVs — Gibson sees it as the perfect time to come into the RV market with something new. His 5,000-pound trailer starting at $30,000 has room for four adults to sleep, stereo surround-sound and a solar panel on the roof.
His company still makes custom-ordered portable restrooms, showers and trailers for films. As for RVs, “I only need a very small number of people to buy,” he said. “I have time to wait.”
Dick Graham, regional sales manager for Forest River Inc., Elkhart, Ind., sat surrounded by his company’s 2010 model motor homes.
“We’re eternal optimists,” he said. The economy that felled RV giants, most recently Riverside-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. (now owned by a New York equity firm and renamed Fleetwood RV Inc.), Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. and National RV Inc., has left the market open to those remaining, Graham said.
Tom Powell, chief executive officer of Riverside-based Pacific Coachworks Inc., showed off his company’s use of plywood instead of particle board inside its brand of Tango trailers. After stopping production and laying off most of his workforce, Powell ramped up production again earlier this year.
He said his firm has an advantage being one of the few RV makers left in the Inland region — others include Skyline in Hemet and Eclipse Recreational Vehicles in Riverside — since local buyers can rest easy with a factory nearby if a fix is needed.
John Collins, 34, a feature film art director from La Crescenta, has been to the Pomona RV show before but hadn’t made a purchase.
This year he said he was willing to spend $75,000 to $125,000 for a motor home for his family that had bunk beds for his 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, and anything but easy-to-stain white carpeting.
“We have to find one we absolutely love to spend that much money,” he said.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is now offering manufacturer exhibit space for the 2009 California RV Trade Show, scheduled for Oct. 16 to 25 in Pomona, Calif.
The California RV Show is one of the most important retail shows in the country, providing exhibitors unparalleled access to buyers in one of the top RV markets in the country, the RVIA noted in a release. The event draws approximately 30,000 potential customers with 90% between the ages of 23-65 with an average household income of $60,000.
“Exhibitors can talk to more people face to face during the course of the 10-day show than they may see in months on their dealer lots,” said Mike Hutya, RVIA vice president of meetings and shows. “And, these are solid prospects who have an interest in owning an RV, have buying power and plan to spend money.”
Hutya added that the association is hard at work to ensure the event continues to be a must-attend event for both exhibitors and attendees. “This year’s show will have an updated look and feel that will energize our exhibitors while targeting consumers who might be new to RVing,” she said.
She also said the promotional messages are being re-tooled in light of the uncertain economic times. “Our advertising messages will focus on how RV travel and camping provides economical, quality family time in a healthy, wholesome environment,” Hutya reported.
The California RV Show will have a comprehensive promotional plan targeting consumers, including commercials on network and cable television and radio; advertising in top newspapers and magazines; an aggressive public relations outreach; and a targeted direct mail campaign.
Members interested in exhibiting at the California RV Show should contact RVIA’s Western Region Office at (951) 274-0696.