Five-time New York Times/Wall Street Journal best-selling author Larry Winget will be a featured speaker at “Outlook 2013: A Golden Opportunity,” the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) opening breakfast program kicking off the 50th National RV Trade Show on Nov. 27 at 7:30 a.m. in the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) South Wing Ballroom.
According to a press release, Winget is an accomplished author and speaker who believes that hard work and excellence are the keys to success and communicates that in a back-to-basics, common sense approach. With his direct, irreverent, hilarious delivery, he is a frequent and popular guest on Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC MSNBC, and The NBC Today Show.
“We are excited to have Larry join the Outlook program. We think that attendees will really enjoy hearing his advice and insight on achieving business success,” said James Ashurst, RVIA vice president of public relations and advertising. “He challenges you and makes you think by proposing common sense solutions that are almost impossible to argue with. And, he does so in a way that is inspiring, engaging, and humorous.”
Hosted by RVIA Chairman Doug Gaeddert, “Outlook 2013: A Golden Opportunity” will also feature “A Time to Shine” with RVIA President Richard Coon providing his thoughts on the RV market and where it is headed.
In “Mining Media Gold,” Go RVing Co-Chairs Bob Olson and Tom Stinnett will team with RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and Ashurst for a fast-paced multimedia presentation highlighting high-impact advertising and public relations achievements in 2012 and previewing what is on tap for 2013.
The “Outlook 2013: A Golden Opportunity” program and breakfast are free for attendees on a first-come, first-serve basis. All National RV Trade Show attendees are welcome, and no reservations are necessary. Show badge registration will be available in the South Wing Lobby C Entrance prior to the event.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has announced the promotions of staff members in the legal, adminstrative, and standards department.
Craig Kirby has been promoted to vice president of international business and general counsel. “For the past four years, Craig has been instrumental in carrying out the board of directors’ wishes in expanding the U.S. RV industry influence and opportunities internationally,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Beyond strong legal skills, Craig’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Commerce makes him an ideal executive to head the association’s international activities.”
Kirby joined RVIA in 1994 and has served as vice president and general counsel since 1995, heading the association’s legal activities.
Kent Perkins, RVIA’s director of RV standards, has been promoted to senior director of RV standards. “Kent has played a crucial role recently in a wide variety of standards activities such as serving as the lead in the harmonization of the U.S. and Canadian standards, the integration of recreational park trailer standards activities, and the development of standards topics to be presented at the 2nd World RV Conference,” said Coon. Perkins has been with RVIA since 1985.
Alice Wang, RVIA’s human resources manager, has been promoted to director of human resources. Wang has been a dedicated member of the administrative department for more than 11 years, serving in her current position for the past four years.
“Alice’s performance in managing all aspects of our human resources programs has been outstanding,” said Coon. “The quality of her work and the enthusiasm she displays has allowed RVIA to offer its employees an outstanding work environment.”
Amid several presentations by college officials, plenty of conversation and even a major announcement, Ivy Tech Community College recently hosted RV manufacturers and suppliers at Elcona Country Club in Elkhart, Ind.
According to a report by the South Bend Tribune, the informative session was to make sure the lines of communication were open for both sides so the college can better produce skilled workers to fill the needs of RV manufacturers and suppliers and facilitate the movement of students into such positions.
Ivy Tech also announced its plans to build a $14 million advanced manufacturing training center in Elkhart County by the end of 2014. It has already invested $1 million in a recent land purchase of 43 acres just north of the current Ivy Tech Elkhart County campus.
As various executives in the recreational vehicle industry took time to converse after hearing several presentations from the college, Tom Coley, chancellor at Ivy Tech, seemed pleased with the result.
“This is what it’s all about,” Coley said. “We can only be responsive if we have those lines of communication open. This is a very pivotal meeting for us.”
Matt Bunner, vice president of operations at Robert Weed, a supplier to the RV industry, agreed.
“It’s a good start,” said Bunner, whose Bristol company supplies items such as shelves, doors, drawers and laminate finishes to RV manufacturers. “It informed a larger cross-section of the business community, of what’s available at Ivy Tech, a listing of the fast-start accreditations that they’ve got and all the individual classes.
“I think a lot of eyes opened up today that ‘wow, there’s some opportunities out there that can really help my business,’ ” said Bunner, who serves on an industry advisory board at Ivy Tech.
Various classes offering certification were touted by the Ivy Tech staff in areas such as welding and CNC machining, to give but a few examples.
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The market for recreational vehicles hit a ditch a few years ago as the financial crisis and recession reeled in credit and sent consumers on a mad dash away from big-ticket purchases.
Investors Business Daily reported that the industry began to grind its way out in 2010. Today, manufacturers of RVs and RV components are enjoying their strongest growth in years thanks to a combination of better economic conditions, improved lending and new products.
Leading names such as Thor Industries Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc. and Drew Industries Inc. have all seen a recent rise in sales and earnings as the RV industry continues to recover from the beating it took in 2008 and 2009.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) expects overall shipments of RVs to reach 273,600 units this year. That’s up from 252,300 units in 2011 and well above the 165,700 units that were sold during the industry bottom in 2009.
The current rebound is partly due to the natural business cycle. Once an industry hits bottom, there’s no place to go, theoretically, but up. But the RV industry also benefits from other positive trends, says RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom.
“There’s a new product mix out there that is helping drive sales,” he said. “On the motorhome side, there are an increasing number of fuel-efficient vehicles. You have better technology, more and different kinds of products, and different ways of building them.”
The industry has gotten another leg up from an expanded customer base that goes beyond the traditional RV demographic of retirees and empty nesters. Today, about one-third of RV owners have kids at home under the age of 18, Broom says.
Credit markets also have loosened up compared to a few years ago, when the financial crisis caused many banks to tighten up their lending standards for expensive items. This was an especially thorny problem in the RV business, where the average vehicle is priced around $37,000.
“The credit freeze in late 2008 and early 2009 hurt the RV industry two ways,” Broom said. “There was an inability on the part of many consumers to get loans. RV dealers had a hard time getting financing to replace their inventory.”
That issue has improved considerably over the last year or so, he says. More financing options are available to dealers, which means more product is available to consumers at the retail level.
For the ninth straight month, RV shipments were up, posting a 12.7% gain in September. And, according to a report in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, that’s good news for RV workers in Elkhart County.
Terry Slabach, CFO of KZRV LP in Shipshewana, noted, “I think we feel like slow, steady growth is better than really quick, accelerated growth. And that’s what we have seen.We’re happy with where we’re at this year.”
The RV industry, including RV manufacturers and suppliers, employs more than 24,000 people in Elkhart County. Northern Indiana builds 82% of all recreational vehicles in the United States, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Both Slabach and Matt Bunner, vice president of operations for Robert Weed Plywood, an RV supplier, like the way 2013 looks, too.
“We see a fairly stable level of growth for this year into next year,” Bunner said. “About the same level, maybe a little bit higher for next year. Our customers are confident in the next year also. Unless something happens of a world-impact nature, we believe it’s going to be a good, solid year.”
Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing at KZRV, and Slabach do have some concerns with 2013, though.
“There are concerns out there with regard to the fiscal cliff … maybe less concern on the actual election process but what happens after the election process, and that affects the consumer psyche,” said Baer. “We’ve been fortunate as an industry. The consumer’s been extremely resilient and still showing an interest in RVing of any description.”
Wholesale shipments to retailers of all RVs continued to improve in 2012, reporting totals of 18,976 units in RVIA’s September survey of manufacturers – a gain of 12.7% over the same month one year ago. On a seasonally adjusted basis, shipments in September were at an annualized rate of 254,400 units, down 10.6% from the August pace and the lowest annualized total since January of this year. Even so, actual September shipments of all towable RVs were up 10.3% from the same month one year ago while all motorhome shipments were up 34.6%.
Comparing the past nine-month period to the same period one year ago, all RVs were reported at 221,281 units in 2012, a gain of 10.7% year-to-date. Travel trailer shipments have grown by 16,446 units this year and continue to command the largest unit volume of all vehicle types. Fifth-wheel travel trailers have gained 3,986 units while Class A motorhomes were up 719 units and Class C motorhomes improved by 385 units compared to this same period one year ago. Only folding camping trailers were lower in volume through September this year as compared to the corresponding nine-month period in 2011.
Following a four-year hiatus since its inaugural run in Düsseldorf, Germany, the World RV Conference will conduct its second edition on American soil as the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) serves as host for the Jan. 17-20 gathering at the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina in Tampa, Fla.
“The genesis for the conference stemmed from our good relationship with Germany’s industry association,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “We invited them to our annual meetings and vice versa, and at some point we came up with the idea to put together a global forum where the significant players could share ideas about the RV industry. The mission is to provide a better understanding about the sizes of the different markets around the world and the types of products being produced.”
Initially scheduled to run every two years, the conference was canceled in 2010 “when the bottom fell out of the economy,” Coon said, adding, “We hope to get back on that original schedule.”
Coon reported in early October that confirmed attendance for the Tampa conference stood at 150, noting that RVIA was anticipating around 250 people.
“Next to the U.S., China and Europe represent the largest contingencies,” he said. “But we have a nice cross section, including places like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The key thing is that it’s a who’s who of the real players across the globe – primarily upper management from the OEM and dealer sectors along with representatives from the various associations. We are also hoping to see more involvement from the campground community.”
Expanding from the one-day format in Dusseldorf, which attracted around 200 attendees, the Tampa event will feature daily plenary sessions augmented by a full roster of breakout workshops. Marco Annunziata, GE chief economist and executive director of Global Market Insight, will deliver the convention’s keynote address during a lunch on Jan. 18.
“We will be addressing a lot of topical issues in the breakout sessions,” Coon said. “I think one of the more interesting programs will be the World Product Standards seminar. The hope is that we can form a centralized group to improve the accessibility to standards information and how everything works in the various countries. We will also be offering a seminar that looks at the different facets of the Go RVing campaign and why it has been so successful.”
Other workshop topics include: world campground standards; RV/caravan rental business; an RV/caravan CEO-chairman panel discussion; and newest emerging RV/caravan markets.
Capping off the conference on Saturday will be an optional tour of Lazydays RV Center in nearby Seffner, Fla. “We think that will be a big draw,” Coon said. “We’ll tour Lazydays then head to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Florida RV SuperShow where the Florida RV Trade Association will be hosting a barbecue dinner and party. I think it will give people a real hands-on look at how far our industry has progressed.”
After a one-year hiatus and a great deal of speculation over the past year, high-profile RV industry senior managers Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech tell RVBUSINESS.com that the three former Thor Industries Inc. executives are ready to re-enter the RV market.
The three close friends report that they’ll be equal partners in a new travel trailer and fifth-wheel venture in northeastern Elkhart County, Ind., the name of which, along with a lot of other details, are still being kept under wraps. More details on this new venture are anticipated over the next couple of months, as information becomes available.
“We feel that the future looks bright,” they declared in a joint statement, adding that they’re pleased to finally lay to rest the rumors that have been circulating around the industry over the past year.
What is known is that the startup is currently setting up shop in a large 67-acre, 400,000-square-foot manufacturing complex they’ve recently purchased in rural Middlebury, Ind., near the Indiana Toll Road. “We bought this complex with the future in mind,” says Clark. “We have a long-term vision of where we want to take our company and this complex allows us to achieve that vision.”
“We loved what we have accomplished in the past, especially our time together at Keystone RV Co.,” the three note in the joint statement. “However, the market has changed. How we helped build Keystone, and how most of the industry operates today, will be different from how we build our company in terms of branding, clones and ‘sister’ products.”
Plans call for introducing the new company’s first brand in early 2013 for the spring market – not by the Louisville Show, as some in the industry had anticipated. “The show is an important industry event that would have been great to have our product displayed in, but not if it means rushing the product,” said Clark. “We are going to take our time and do this the right way.”
RVs, Amish food, the fair, Notre Dame games and quilt gardens helped bring in visitors spending $273 million with an impact of more than $400 million to Indiana’s Elkhart County last year, according to a study released Oct. 9 by the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
According to a report by The Elkhart Truth, the study by Certec Inc. showed travel and tourism brought in $401.6 million, up $23 million over the previous study, which looked at 2009.
That figure includes the $273.1 million in direct expenditures plus the so-called “ripple effect” of spending by local people employed because of those tourism dollars.
“This growth in visitor spending is significant when you consider Elkhart County was in a deep economic recession in 2009,” said Diana Lawson, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau.
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Like most wide-eyed, wishful Americans, Dennis Soukup daydreams of someday hitting the lottery. Riches beyond compare. Genie-in-a-lamp possibilities.
Well … not quite.
According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the 59-year-old chairman of the applied technology department at the College of Southern Nevada simply wants to hold the key to a new Tiffin Zephyr motorhome.
Forty-five feet long, 8 feet 4 inches wide, 12 feet 10 inches tall, 500-horsepower engine, 150-gallon gas tank, six aluminum wheels plus two steel inner wheels, two-stage compression air brake, six air bags. And that doesn’t include the interior creature comforts, highlighted by a home theater system with Surround Sound.
“Yes, that’s my dream,” Soukup says of the luxurious home-away-from-home with a sticker price of approximately $500,000. “If I hit the lottery, I’m buying a Zephyr. I want to retire full time into one of them.”
Retire, that is, into a senior lifestyle that is remarkably safe, according to a report from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which showed that over a 10-year period from 1999 through 2008 there were only 97 RV fatalities nationally.
Special driving classes are not mandatory for RVers in Nevada. But owners of motorhomes with a minimum 26,000-pound gross rating or tow trailers with a minimum gross rating of 10,000 pounds are required to have a special license endorsement, which comes by passing a Department of Motor Vehicles driving test.
Fourteen other U.S. states, including California, require some form of special license endorsement, according to the website changingears.com.
Soukup and his wife, Linda, are one of 8.9 million U.S. households that owns some form of RV, which includes everything from truck campers and pull trailers to fifth-wheels and those shiny, rock-star-rich motor homes. Soukup currently owns a 2006 Tiffin Phaeton, the kid brother to the Zephyr at an approximate price of $250,000.
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