Along with the omelets and pork sausages in the buffet line, Doug Gaeddert, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a general manager of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., served up some straight-shooting opinions in his remarks during the RV Power Breakfast, May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center, a part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Here’s a few highlights from Gaeddert, who served with Dicor President Gregg Fore as a co-emcee:
Current shipment vitality: “Total shipments for the first three months of 2009 were approximately 30,500 units compared with 79,422 units for the January through March period of this year. That’s a whopping 160% jump. So, if you feel like you’ve been running faster and working harder – you have been and that’s great for all of us. It’s also great for the local communities in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We’re all somewhat joined at the hip and the positive ripple effect has been felt by nearly everyone – even the local, state and federal governments who seem to be constantly complaining about revenue.”
Hershey Show & the Open House: “Not as RVIA chairman or a long-term Forest River-Pete Liegl guy, but as an industry guy, I think the Open House Week, as it has come to be known, has been a positive for the industry and hits at a perfect time. While negatively impacting the Dealer Days of Hershey, whose wholesale value has steadily declined anyhow over the years, it has more than made up for it by further enhancing the retail portion of the show. With the Open Houses immediately following Hershey, the number of dealers attending the Pennsylvania Show from outside the market who don’t show product has declined, but most, if not all of the products being displayed at Hershey, are now what’s ‘new’ for the upcoming year. This gives retail customers the opportunity to get the first look and actually purchase new industry offerings. This is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in North America.
“Becky Lenington and the folks at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA) have done an awesome job of developing Hershey into one of the most outstanding retail shows on the continent. They draw people from a wider geographic area and in larger numbers than ever before, and dealers sell a ton of product. This has become, in my opinion, a destination show of the highest quality. I’m not going to get drawn into a comparison though of it versus Tampa or Pomona. They’re all tremendous shows!
“Hershey kicks off the fall schedule and Louisville effectively closes it. Post-Louisville surveys over the last couple of years have shown that the majority of dealers participating will continue to go to the Open Houses and will continue to attend Louisville – and don’t want to change the time frames of either. Seems pretty simple: They like both of the events as well as the timing. Obviously it’s not unanimous, but it’s an overwhelming majority. With that being said, I predict a certain degree of consolidation will occur among these other fall events, just as it has occurred in other sectors of the industry over the last few years. Nature will take its course over time, but nobody will successfully force it.”
RVIA’s Louisville Show: “Although industry shipments have been rising rapidly over the last few years, the number of OEMs, suppliers and dealer/owners has shrunk by around a third. With an approximate 33% reduction of players in these key categories, not even taking the campground ownership consolidation into consideration, why in the world would you expect attendance at this show to have grown? In my opinion, Louisville has hit the leveling-out point, and with possible further industry consolidation ahead, I don’t see it growing significantly, but I do see it remaining steady and continuing to grow in value.”
RV-Specific Legislation: “Cars and RVs shouldn’t operate according to the same rules. As our industry continues to grow, mature and consolidate, I believe it will become even more important that we see RV-specific legislation replace automotive legislation in those states in which we as an industry are governed by car laws. Oklahoma is an excellent recent example of a win/win/win for our industry by everyone working successfully together to get RV-specific law into place. RV manufacturers, RV dealers and RV suppliers deserve to play by rules specific to our industry. We are the RV industry, not the car industry – and proud of it.”
RV Transportation Issues: “One challenge which the industry seems to face every year in the spring is a shortage of finished goods transportation availability. As many of you are aware, this sector is currently struggling to keep up and will be until at least the first week of July. We are attempting a new and different approach by utilizing RVIA’s resources to see if we can’t help smooth it out for the long haul.
“RVIA is exploring several possible strategies in hopes of being able to positively impact the RV transportation sector for both the United States and Canada. No promises at this point, other than we are diligently working on it. If successful, however, it will be too late to affect spring and summer of 2013. We hope to be able to help the industry improve the peak shipping periods of 2014.”
Credit Availability: “I think it is crucial our industry — which includes all of us — remains disciplined in our approach to credit. Solid practices are one of the keys to our growth remaining real and sustainable. If we slip back into the same lax practices the industry utilized in 2008, we’ll end up with the same result. 2009 reminded me of a fastball I once threw that was hit back at me a hell of a lot faster than I threw it, resulting in my second broken nose and a busted tooth! Let’s not throw that same fastball as an industry again!”
Industry Relationships: “Probably the single coolest thing to me about being involved in the RV Industry for all of these years is the people. Take a minute to look around the room. Most of us compete with each other, sell to each other, buy from each other, finance each other, represent each other, write about each other and, yeah, probably even cuss at each other sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re also basically good friends. It’s a close-knit industry that, while growing rapidly, is also getting smaller at the same time.”
The good times are coming back for the recreational vehicle industry.
As reported by the Goshen News, speakers at the RV Power Breakfast Thursday (May 9) morning contended that while the industry is still far below its output of the pre-recession years, growth has occurred in the past two years and is expected to continue through the end of 2013.
“We had some good times back in the 70s,” said Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) vice president of administration while he stood in front of a screen full of numbers recounting the historic ups and downs of the industry. But all the recent numbers are moving upwards.
RV shipments from manufacturers were 353,400 units in pre-recession 2007, then dropped to 165,700 units by 2009. Since then the industry has had steady growth, with gains each year through 2012. When 2012 ended, 285,900 units had been shipped. The RVIA forecast for this year’s shipments is 307,300 units.
The North American demographics favor the RV industry, Bryan said. Based on historical data there are 8.9 million RVs in use now and there should be about 11 million RVs in use by the end of the decade. To reach that milestone the industry will have to produce about 350,000 units on average each year, he said.
Reflection on hard times
“With creativity and imagination, there is no limits to the amount of RVs that can be sold in the next decade,” he told the industry leaders. “And I see no lack of either in this room.”
But there most likely were fewer RV members at the breakfast than would have been attending in the past. Richard Coon, RVIA president, said that in 2008 the trade organization had 555 member companies. Membership was 410 members in 2013.
That decline of 26% is due to the recession and the resulting consolidation and winnowing that occurred.
“Since 2008, 53 companies have gone away,” Coon said of the industry. Eight of those RV companies were absorbed by others. He said only one company quit the organization during the recession and has not rejoined.
A positive trend is that there have been 23 new RV-related companies created in recent years, Coon said.
Always a preacher of the RV gospel, Coon was a strong advocate before, during and now after the recession for the RV lifestyle and the quality of products produced.
Even during the height of the recession, the travel trailer segment of the industry remained strong, according to Coon and in 2012 that segment was still solid.
And, consumers can find a travel trailer bargain.
“The price of a conventional trailer is almost the same as it was 15 years ago, but the product is better,” Coon said. “That is a real tribute to the people in the room.”
To read the entire article in the Goshen News click here.
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.