‘RV Power Breakfast’ Serves Up Positive News

May 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly speak at the Power Breakfast via Skype

A crowd of about 400 manufacturers and suppliers showed up bright and early Thursday (May 9) for the RV Power Breakfast at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind, to learn more about the industry’s future, according to a report by the South Bend Tribune.

On the heels of an excellent first quarter and projections for the fourth straight year of increased shipments, they received more good news.

From north of our borders to the Far East, the short- and long-range forecasts look promising for the industry, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

In the case of China, it will take 10 years, Coon said, but the potential is huge. “China has tremendous potential for the manufacturers here,” he said. “It’s just barely starting to come about.”

“Go back and take a look at the auto industry in China,” Coon said in an interview after his talk. “The U.S. manufacturers have been working 10 years to bring that to fruition.

“China last year took over as the world’s leading producer of automobiles. What’s interesting about that is most of those are partnerships with U.S. manufacturers.”

That’s what the RV industry is hoping to have, too, he said.

“Everybody is worrying about them copying and coming back here,” he added, before again citing the automobile industry. “They’ve been doing it for 10 years. Somebody name me a Chinese-built car in the United States today. No such thing. There’s so much market there they can’t meet the market demand in their own country. They’re not going to come over here for quite a while.”

To read the entire article click here.

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RVIA Unveils Scheduling for Committee Week

April 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has unveiled the schedule for Committee Week 2013, set for June 2-6 at the historic Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. According to a press release, the association’s standing committees, Executive Committee and board will meet to develop strategies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year at this annual event.

The Go RVing Coalition will also meet during Committee Week on June 3.

In addition to the full slate of committee meetings, other key events on the schedule include:

2014 RV Market Outlook – Economist Richard Curtin, director of consumer research at the University of Michigan, will provide the first forecast for the RV market in 2014 and examine the current economic climate at the Joint Committee Luncheon on June 3.

RVIA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day – RVIA members will visit Capitol Hill on June 5 to meet with legislators and their staff to discuss key issues critical to the RV industry.

Networking Events – Several joint-committee luncheons and receptions, including the opening reception the evening of June 3 at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, will give Committee Week participants the opportunity to establish, renew and build upon the relationships critical to business success.

The Mayflower Renaissance Washington is a luxury hotel and historic landmark. Proclaimed by President Truman to be Washington, D.C.’s “Second Best Address” after the White House, the hotel is on the National Registry of Historic Places and a Historic Hotel of America. Located just blocks from the White House, metro stops and dining and cultural hot spots, the 4-diamond property offers a splendid center for exploring the city.

For more information about Committee Week, contact Doreen Cashion in the Meetings and Shows Division at (703) 620-6003 (ext. 324) or

The complete schedule appears below:


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Hesselbart’s Book on RV Industry Goes Digital

April 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Al Hesselbart

The RV industry history book by RV/MH Hall of Fame historian Al Hesselbart has been accepted for digital publication and is now available for Amazon Kindle readers.

“The Dumb Things Sold…Just Like That” features stories of the evolution of each different type of recreational vehicle and short biographies of many of the early pioneers and visionaries that have led the growth and development of the RV industry.

It is now available from the Amazon Kindle store or, in print version, from the RV/MH Hall of Fame, the RV Bookstore on line, or from Amazon.

Hesselbart is the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian. Besides his duties at the Hall of Fame, Hesselbart is a frequent speaker at RV rallies and events across the United States. Last September, he also served as one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Show in Beijing.

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KOA CEO Joins RV Sector at Power Breakfast

April 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

KOA CEO Jim Rogers

When Jim Rogers speaks at the inaugural RV Industry Power Breakfast next month at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., he plans to share good news for the Elkhart-based RV industry.

As reported by The Elkhart Truth, the CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) sees a huge potential for growth in the RV market.

“What’s important for us all to realize is we have just scratched the surface. When you go through a capacity reduction that’s happened in the last five years, when you have to let people go … I think we’re stronger together than apart, and by bringing the three sectors of the manufacturer, the dealer and the campground together we can optimize the potential that exists within the north American marketplace,” said Rogers in a phone interview.

“It’s bigger than the assembly line. You have a community there that needs to see some hope and some opportunity for the future,” and Rogers believes Elkhart County has that hope and opportunity in the RV industry.

Rogers is chairman and chief executive officer of KOA, which owns 26 campgrounds and works with franchisees who run another 461 campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada.

When he got the invitation to speak at the power breakfast, he jumped at the opportunity, and he credits Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of industry publication RVBusiness magazine, with a great idea.“It’s quite the accomplishment because Sherman to me kind of represents the United Nations of the RV world. He brings all the different components together, which I think is one of the things exciting to us,” said Rogers. “The campground sector hasn’t had a lot of engagement with the manufacturers or the dealers,” even though the campgrounds end up as the proving ground for many of the RVs made in the Elkhart County area.

To read the entire article click here.

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Agenda in Place for Hall Induction Celebration

April 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

RV/MH Hall of Fame

The celebration of the Class of 2013 being inducted into RV/MH Hall of Fame will be held Aug. 5 at the Hall of Fame’s Event Center in Elkhart, Ind., according to a press release.

“Our newest board member and chairman of the 2013 Induction Dinner committee, Mark Wasson (Bluelinx Corp.), has some exciting new venues for this year’s program and I encourage all the friends of this year’s inductees and industry members to make their reservations early,” said Darryl Searer, Hall president.

Wasson said that one of the new features this year’s program is a private cocktail party honoring all the past inductees, board members and the Class of 2013 inductees and their families.  This event begins at 4:30 p.m. and is being hosted by the RV/MH Heritage Foundation board.

Those being inducted in the Class of 2013 include: Craig M. Bollman, a housing community developer/operator from Mobile Home Communities in Littleton, Colo.; Theresa M. Desfosses, a housing industry veteran of retail, communities, and manufacturing from State Manufactured Homes in Old Orchard Beach, Maine; Kirwan Elmers, an RV bus converter from Custom Coach in Columbus, Ohio: C.M. Fore (deceased), an RV manufacturer from Foretravel Inc. in Nacadoches, Texas; Lawrence C. Lippert, an RV and MH industry supplier from Lippert Components Inc. in Goshen, Ind.; Thomas P. Meyers, a housing manufacturer from Guerdon Industries in Louisville, Ky.; Claude N. Palmer (deceased), a housing retailer from Palmer Homes in Waverly, N.Y.; Mathew Perlot (deceased), an RV manufacturer from Safari Motorhomes in Harrisburg, Ore.; and Thomas Walworth, an RV and manufactured housing industry consultant and statistician from Statistical Surveys Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich..

Following the cocktail party for Hall of Fame members, a cocktail reception for everyone attending the Induction Dinner ceremonies begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by a gala dinner and induction ceremony at 7 p.m.  All day Monday, the attendees will be able to tour the Hall’s many attractions, including the antique unit collection in the museum, library and the GoRVing Hall.

Wasson said, “Among the other activates planned is a 50-50 raffle at the door and a vacation package raffle valued at $5,000.”  In addition, Wasson is negotiating with a nationally-known speaker to deliver the event’s keynote address (name to be announced later).

In addition to the induction ceremony, Art Wyatt, this year’s golf chairman, says the 2013 Golf Classic fundraiser will start at 7 a.m. with a full breakfast followed by a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. followed by an awards presentation.  This year, the event will again be hosted by The Bent Oak Golf Club in Elkhart. Wyatt promises this year’s competition to be fun-packed, and he is recruiting sponsors to help make that happen.

Searer said, “We expect this year’s events to be the best ever, thanks to the hard work of Mark Wasson for the dinner and Art Wyatt for the golf tourney and their respective committee’s as well as the Hall’s staff and volunteers. You’ll not want to miss this exciting annual event.”  He added the Hall is seeking sponsors for the various Induction Dinner events as well as the golf tournament.

A tradition started last year, Searer will deliver his short annual State of the Hall address reviewing the Hall’s successes over the past year.

To sign up online for either or both the Induction Dinner and Golf Tournament visit

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Crean Foundation Gives 60K to Hall Campaign

April 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Crean Foundation recently contributed $60,000 toward the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s “Burn the Bank Note” Challenge.  According to a press release, the donation was earmarked to honor the memory of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. founder John C. Crean.

According to Hall President Darryl Searer, the goal of the “Burn the Bank Note” challenge is to raise $150,000 in voluntary contributions by April 30 in order to qualify for the Robert “Boots” Ingram family’s $50,000 challenge grant that would pay off the Hall’s bank note to 1st Source Bank.

The Crean Foundation’s donation along with other contributions brings the total raised in excess of $120,000 leaving just under $30,000 to be raised before the deadline.

Other recent contributions include a $10,000 donation by Lyle D. & Nellie R. Reed Charitable Foundation to honor the memory of Clarence Fore, founder of Foretravel; $2,000 by Ace Fogdall RV to honor the memory of its founders Ace and Florence Fogdall; $1,000 by Michael A. Schneider, MAS Associates; and numerous other contribution of less than $1,000.

While Searer is pleased by the generosity of those who continue to support the Hall, he emphasized the urgency of raising the additional $30,000 by April 30.

“Time is running out for us to qualify for the Ingram Family’s $50.000 challenge grant,” he said. “It would be a shame to leave that amount on the table and miss the opportunity to pay off our bank note. I urge everyone who enjoys the benefits of working in the RV/MH industries, as well as those who participate in the lifestyle, to step up to the plate and contribute whatever amount they can.

Searer said that the Hall’s bank loan to 1st Source Bank has been reduced from $840,000 in early 2012 to less than $80,000 now, adding, “If we reach our goal and receive the Ingram Family’s challenge grant, we’ll be able to pay off the bank loan on May 1.”

Since the RV/MH Heritage Foundation is a 501-c3 not-for-profit corporation, all donations are tax deductible. Donors can use our federal ID#: verify that we are a 501-c3 not-for-profit corporation in good standing with the IRS.

Gifts may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at (800) 378-8694, or through the Hall’s secure web site at

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Feb. Shipments Rise In Line with Expectations

March 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

For the 14th consecutive month, recreational vehicle shipments are above what they were the same month the previous year. Not only that but February shipments of 26,120 units are the highest February total since 2008, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the RVIA of Reston, Va., told the South Bend Tribune that the organization is not surprised by the continued rise in shipments. Wholesale RV shipments are expected to rise to 307,300 units in 2013, according to the latest forecast by University of Michigan professor Richard Curtin, representing a 7.5% increase over 2012.

“We knew throughout the downturn that there was still interest in RVs,” Broom said. “What we’re seeing is the return to long-term interest in RVs, people buying RVs and people wanting RVs. We expect we’re going to see continued growth throughout the year.”

A stabilized economy is one factor, Broom said. So is pent-up demand.

“It’s kind of like the downturn,” he said of the rebound. “There were so many factors that caused RV sales to dip. It’s kind of the same thing. There is pent-up demand and also the economy has stabilized. So people aren’t as concerned about losing their job.

“Home prices have largely stabilized throughout the country. So as the economy has gotten more stable, people have gotten more comfortable about stepping out and making an RV purchase.”

The continued rise in shipments is a very good thing for northern Indiana, where more than 82% of all of the nation’s RVs are produced. The industry employs 24,000 people in northern Indiana in both the manufacturing and supply sector.


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1st ‘RV Industry Power Breakfast’ Slated May 9

March 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A first-ever “RV Industry Power Breakfast” featuring a prestigious slate of local and national speakers is scheduled to bring together key elements of the U.S. recreational vehicle industry with an array of area industry people and civic leaders on the morning of May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center and RV/MH Hall of Fame in the RV manufacturing hub of Elkhart, Ind., according to an RVBusiness press release.

The inaugural Power Breakfast, kicking off with a 7 a.m. sunrise buffet and 7:45 a.m. program, is facilitated by Elkhart-based RVBusiness magazine and sponsored by Dicor Corp., Dometic Corp., the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, Forest River Inc., GE Capital, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Spartan Motors Inc. and Thor Industries Inc.

This new event comes at a time when RV builders and suppliers are doing fairly well in terms of national retail sales and wholesale shipments during a post-recessionary era in which about 85% of national shipments are now centered around northern Indiana’s Elkhart and LaGrange counties and an array of smaller area communities like Goshen, LaGrange, Middlebury, Bristol, Wakarusa and Nappanee, the release states.

“Officials from these towns are being personally invited to the event, as are representatives of relevant trade associations like the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Fairfax, Va.-based RV Dealers Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) in Indianapolis,” reports BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates in Elkhart and chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee who is in charge of the inaugural Power Breakfast on behalf of RVBusiness.

“There was, speaking on behalf of the RVB staff, a sense that we could all do a better job at times of working together as a cohesive force here in Elkhart to showcase the power and job-building potential of the U.S. RV industry and, at the same time, bring to Elkhart some of the general and industry-specific intelligence that exists in the current economic climate for area industry people to absorb,” stated RVB Publisher Sherm Goldenberg.

Dicor President Gregg Fore and Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert, immediate past chairman and current chair of RVIA, respectively, will share emcee duties at the morning event at which there will be a fast-paced slate of speakers, including a short teleconference with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), if, in fact, the first-term senator is available with Congress in session.

Two anchor presentations are planned: In the first half, RVIA President Richard Coon, RVIA Vice President of Public Relations & Advertising James Ashurst and RVIA Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan will provide an overview of the industry’s 2012 status and a quick look at 2013’s opportunities and challenges.

In the second half, KOA CEO Jim Rogers, fresh off his January appearance on the CBS hit series “Undercover Boss,” will present some in-your-face feedback from campers who annually visit Montana-based KOA’s 489 U.S. and Canadian parks.

Tickets for the May 9 event are $25 each with tables of eight available for $175. Look for a notice shortly for online registration.

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‘Motley Fool’: RV Sector Positioned for Growth

March 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is a blog authored by Robert Hanley of the Motley Fool looking at prospects for the RV industry and some of the major publicly traded companies.

The great American pastime of hitting the open road with family and friends hit a speed bump during the financial crisis, as discretionary incomes fell sharply. The leading manufacturers of RVs, like Winnebago Industries Inc. and Thor Industries Inc., were also hit hard and many of their smaller competitors made the lonely trip to bankruptcy court. Fortunately, the federal government’s stimulus programs have helped the industry prosper again and post a 14% increase in unit sales during 2012, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). So, which players are now worth a look from investors?

The pride of Forest City, Iowa

Founded in 1958, Winnebago sells its iconic recreational vehicles through a network of over 460 dealers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Winnebago controls approximately 20% of the traditional motor coach market and it moved into the towable coach segment with its 2010 purchase of competitor Sunnybrook. The company’s very conservative balance sheet enabled it to survive the industry’s deep recession relatively unscathed, while allowing it to continue investing in new product development.

In its latest fiscal year, Winnebago posted mixed results, with a 17% increase in revenues and a 16% decline in operating income. The company’s sales benefited from a sharp increase in unit volume, as well as improved pricing as its customers opted for more expensive models. However, Winnebago’s razor-thin operating margin, 1.6% in FY2012, was negatively impacted by higher commodity costs and aggressive discounting of its products in the first half of the year.

Looking ahead, Winnebago’s prospects are strong as the industry currently expects an 8% unit sales increase in 2013. In addition, the company has improved its competitive position by expanding into the lower-priced, towable coach market. With a year-over-year doubling in the value of its backlog as of August 2012, Winnebago should be able to earn solid future gains in profitability as it leverages its manufacturing operations.

The pride of Jackson Center, Ohio

Founded in 1980, Thor has become the country’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles primarily due to a long string of acquisitions, including purchases of competitors Dutchmen in 1991 and Keystone in 2001. The company has also become the leading manufacturer of small and mid-sized buses for the municipal market, a segment that accounted for roughly 16% of Thor’s total sales in 2012. Similar to Winnebago, Thor maintained a conservative balance sheet through the financial crisis, allowing it to acquire weaker competitors and gain market share.

In FY2013, Thor has reported solid financial results, with increases in revenues and operating income of 27.3% and 31.0%, respectively, compared to the prior-year period. The company’s operating margin gained slightly, as it was able to offset rising commodity costs with operating efficiencies in its manufacturing network. Despite a weak operating margin in its bus segment, due to difficult funding challenges for its municipal customers, Thor sees the segment as a growth market as people continue to gravitate toward public transit.

Looking ahead, Thor should also benefit from the improved industry sales environment in 2013 and beyond. In addition, its shareholder-friendly management team has continued to look for complementary segments to add to Thor’s core recreational vehicle business. With a strong current sales backlog, the company should post solid increases in income this year as it adds acquired brands to its overall manufacturing base.

Another option

Investors looking for an investment in the recreational vehicle space might also want to consider leading suppliers to the industry, like Patrick Industries Inc. Founded in 1959 as a distributor of paneling to motor coach manufacturers, Patrick Industries now manufactures a range of products that includes hardwood doors, cabinets, and wall panels through a network of 12 U.S. plants. The company has successfully used the acquisition channel to diversify its product offerings, including purchases of lighting and hardwood door manufacturers in 2012.

In FY2012, Patrick Industries reported strong financial results, with increases in revenues and operating income of 42.1% and 100.7%, respectively, versus the prior year. The company’s sales growth benefited from four acquisitions in 2012, as well as a 20% organic increase in its legacy business. In addition, Patrick Industries’ operating margin increased due to an improved price environment for its product portfolio. Looking ahead, the company should be able to ride the industry’s sales momentum and continue to pick up market share in the fragmented RV supplier industry.

The bottom line

Despite high prices for its products, the RV industry is well positioned for future sales growth with large expected increases in its retirement-age, core customer base. The industry is also trying to reduce its cyclical nature by offering lower-priced products that would appeal to younger seasonal users. While these companies aren’t for the buy-and-hold crowd, the industry’s current upswing could lead to gains for investors willing to take the volatility.

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Tancredi Played Vital Role in Industry’s Growth

March 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Jon Tancredi

Jon Tancredi, who served the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for the past 20 years as a public relations professional with Barton Gilanelli & Associates and more recently as president of Tancredi Public Relations, passed away Tuesday (March 12).

Tancredi, 46, was a member of the Association of Marketing Professionals, Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) , International Association of Business Communicators and adjunct professor, upper level PR courses, Temple University. He served on the boards of various community and youth organizations in Haverford, Pa., including youth football and cheerleading.

“Jon played a crucial role in our industry’s successful public relations effort for two decades,” said RVIA President Richard Coon in a press release. “He was a consummate professional who worked diligently and creatively behind the scenes to engineer high-level media coverage and publicity that transformed the image of RVing. But more than that, he was a great friend who was beloved and respected by our staff, our members, and his many, many friends in the RV industry.  We will miss Jon and offer our prayers and condolences to his family and friends.”

“Jon was incredibly dedicated to serving the RV industry, and his tireless effort and professionalism in espousing the virtues of the RV lifestyle earned him the respect of numerous writers and producers across all forms of media,” said James Ashurst, vice president of public relations and advertising, RVIA and Go RVing.  “His passion and spirit extended well beyond our industry, as he was equally dedicated to his family, friends and community.  His energy, professionalism and friendship will be truly missed by everyone here, and our deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones.”

BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates and chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee, added,  “In leading the PR Committee for more than 25 years, I had the pleasure of working with Jon and seeing first-hand the incredible impact he had in moving the RV industry forward. Jon was not only an accomplished media relations expert, but a trusted friend that I and many manufacturers and suppliers had the pleasure of working with over the years.  The industry has lost a true champion, and my heartfelt sympathies go out to his family.”

“Over the years, Jon got to know many dealers and worked hard to put the national and local media spotlight on RVs and RV travel,” said Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia. “We are deeply saddened by his passing. We will miss his enthusiasm and dedication to working on behalf of everyone in the RV business.”

Tancredi is survived by his wife, Katherine B. (nee Beck) Tancredi, son, Jack Owen Tancredi, daughter, Jenna Grace Tancredi and a new baby due April 4.; parents Lou and Maureen Tancredi, Katherine’s parents, Barbara and Jeff Morgan, and John L. Beck and Donald Longhurst; siblings Tony Tancredi of Texas, Louis Tancredi of Florida, Maria (John) Zerr of Texas, Steve Tancredi of Maryland, Anne (Alex) Lenicky of Furlong, Pa., Michael Tancredi of Media, Susan (Dale) Waters of Maryland, Shaun Miller of Westtown, Michael (Carolyn) Miller of East Goshen and many adoring nieces and nephews.

Callings are scheduled at the Carr Funeral Home, 935 S. Providence Rd. (Rt. 320) in Wallingford, Pa., on March 15 from 6-8 p.m. and March 16 at Grace Chapel 1, West Eagle Rd., Havertown, from 9-10 a.m. Service is at 10 a.m. Private contributions to The Tancredi Baby Fund c/o TD Bank 120 W. Eagle Rd. Havertown, PA 19083 would be appreciated.

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Bowersox: Sequester Won’t Derail RV Industry

March 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The name of the game in the world of recreational vehicle sales is consumer confidence.

As reported by the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, things appear to be heading consistently in the right direction there, based on the latest numbers from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

January numbers — 24,379 shipments — are up by 30.5% over January of 2012. And that comes on the heels of a 2012 that saw each and every month beat the corresponding month in 2011 when it comes to shipments.

In fact, 2012 RV shipments were up 13.2% over 2011, totaling 285,749. And 2011 was 4.1% higher than 2010.

Mark Bowersox, the executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC), was pleased with the January shipment news while also offering a unique perspective on the sequester and how it could affect consumer confidence and spending.

Bowersox thinks the sequester that’s poised to cut $85 billion in federal spending from March through September and with it thousands of government jobs might have very little effect.

“I think on March 2 the sun is still going to rise,” Bowersox said. “The interesting thing to me over the last couple years as the country has grown out of this recession is the fact that the American public seems to be getting more and more comfortable with the idea that they’re not going to be totally comfortable anymore.

“It used to be any little blip in the stock market, fuel prices or unemployment numbers … or whatever, it would have people stop and tighten the screws a little bit and wait until everything settled down.

“Those kinds of things that would have gotten an emotional reaction are more easily accepted these days.”

To read the entire story click here.


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Motorhomes See A Revival as Buyers Step Up

March 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Bill and Jill Phipps shuttle between homes around the country to keep in touch with grandchildren. But, according to a report by USA Today, they got tired of crating up Rockne, their Irish Wolfhound mutt, for seven-hour plane rides.

So, with some trepidation, the Tucson couple recently became first-time RVers.

They took delivery of a new 24-foot motorhome a couple of months ago, contributing to a wave of sales that are lifting an industry rebounding from the depths of recession.

Deliveries of motorhomes from manufacturers to dealers rose 13.6% last year and are expected to climb by almost the same amount this year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports. Last year marked the third year of increases from a recessionary bottom that that saw sales fall to the lowest levels since at least the 1970s.

With the spring RV-buying season approaching, there’s a growing optimism in the business that affluent families and retirees such as the Phipps are ready to take the plunge. After a round of consolidation, including bankruptcy filings by a couple of the industry’s big names, motorhome makers are starting to hit the road again.

That’s good not only for the RV industry but for the economy in general. Purpose-built motorhomes typically retail for more than $100,000 and because they’re used for vacations, they’re the ultimate discretionary purchase. The pickup in sales is an early indicator that people might be willing to start spending again — and not just on big-ticket items they can’t do without.

But it’s also an American comeback story: Almost all RV rigs are U.S.-made, many in Indiana. Unlike the auto industry, motorhome makers have few foreign competitors, although some are starting to knock at the door.

“People are tired of waiting for things to turn around,” says Sheila Davis, spokeswoman for Winnebago Industries Inc. Some customers “who could have bought a motorhome during the downturn … chose to wait. Now, they are feeling more confident.”

That confidence is bolstered by waves of retiring Baby Boomers, their 401(k)s fattened by the stock market’s recent rally, who always dreamed of roaming the hinterlands. Working against motorhome makers, however, is the painfully slow pace of the recovery and persistently high and unpredictable fuel prices.

To read the entire article in USA Today click here.

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RVs, Elkhart Co. Foster Longtime Partnership

March 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

While the RV industry is more than just Indiana’s Elkhart County area and Elkhart County is more than just RVs, the two are inextricably intertwined.

“If you mention to anybody throughout the United States or Canada, you mention you’re from Elkhart, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh, that’s the RV capital,’” said Darryl Searer, head of the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

As reported by The Elkhart Truth, while the recession hit this area hard because of the discretionary nature of RVs, even as it shrank the industry shored up its position in Elkhart. Today, 83% of RVs made in North America are made in this area, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Elkhart’s a very important area, as you know,” Coon said.

The share of production of RVs on the West Coast dropped off significantly in favor of production here, where the industry really grew over the decades.

“I wasn’t around when it started, but from what I understand it’s mainly centered around that area because of the Amish population which brings a strong amount of craftsmanship. It was a good place to be,” Coon said.

Jayco Inc., a home-grown RV success story, started in Middlebury and is still there.

“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be than right here in Middlebury, Ind., Elkhart County, Ind., for home,” said Derald Bontrager, CEO of the company his father started.

“I think one of the more important things for us and the reason we stay put here is the workforce is second to none, in my mind, anywhere in the country. Just loyal, hardworking, consistent, honest. I could go on and on. They’re just a great work force we’ve been blessed with,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

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Elkhart Chamber Celebrates Region’s Recovery

February 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

There really were plenty of smiles Thursday (Feb. 7) at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in the crowded Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre.

And keynote speaker David C. Chavern, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agreed those smiles were there for good reason.

The South Bend Tribune reported that Chavern toured two Elkhart companies, RV maker Thor Industries Inc. and CTS Corp., before the luncheon. He cited Elkhart as a positive example of the nation’s slow recovery from the recession.

But he added, as has been seen in recent months with numerous job additions in the recreational vehicle sector, it has an advantage.

“They are ahead of the curve,” he said in an interview prior to his speech. “One of the big advantages Elkhart has is a really strong manufacturing base.

“And you are seeing a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S., and I think Elkhart is benefiting from it.”

To view the entire article click here.



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Consumer Confidence Fortifies 2012 RV Market

February 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The final numbers are in. And officially, as expected, it was a good year in the RV business in 2012.

The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported that a strong December fortified earlier monthly totals, all of which were higher than the corresponding month in 2011.

Shipments for December were up 11.6% over December of 2011. But more importantly, the strong finish resulted in the year’s total reaching 285,749, a 13.2% increase over 2011.

It is the third straight year annual numbers have been up over the previous year.

The strong showing is an indication that the American economy is stabilizing, said Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC).

“That’s a positive sign. The RV business is by and large a consumer confidence business,” Bowersox said. “When you see continual stabilization and even slight growth in the market, that’s a real good thing for our business.

“The other piece of it, is the continued stabilization is bringing back that pent-up demand.”

Bowersox believes the drastic drop in RV demand from 2006 to 2009 had nothing to do with whether people wanted RVs or not.

“It was because they were uncomfortable with their personal economic situation,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

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