The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 2013 Annual Meeting, March 4-7 in Orlando, Fla., provided a fast-paced look at the national trade association’s affairs and at the industry the Reston, Va.-based association represents. And the picture as presented this past week was a positive one in most every respect, as Chairman Doug Gaeddert, a general manager for Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., pointed out in his Tuesday (March 5) Membership Meeting remarks.
“Last year, when we were together in Palm Springs, the RV market was continuing its ascent out of the abyss of 2008 and 2009,” Gaeddert told the members at the outset of his comments. “2011 year-end shipments had grown by 4% over 2010 totals. Shipments in early 2012 were running about 10% over the previous year, and projections put shipments at 265,000 units by the end of 2012.
“As we continued through 2012, the RV market built even greater momentum, ending the year at 285,750 units – a gain of 13% over 2011 and 20,000 units higher than the spring forecast,” added Gaeddert. “And the momentum keeps building. Through the early months of 2013, shipments are continuing to rise and there are outstanding reports from shows and dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada of elevated attendance, exceptional sales results and high overall consumer interest in RV ownership.”
Current forecasts are calling for shipments exceeding 307,000 units by year’s end, added Gaeddert, noting that would be the highest annual total since 2007 and one of the best “storm adjusted” years in recent history.
Behind the upswing, Gaeddert surmised, are continued gains in household wealth due to an improving stock market and rising home values plus modest gains in income and employment. Another factor is improved credit availability and terms, as the number of companies participating in the wholesale and retail RV credit markets rises.
In other Annual Meeting business:
• RVIA President Richard Coon presented a detailed glimpse of membership and shipment trends over the past few years, while RVIA’s Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan provided a detailed look at the association’s finances indicating that the trade group, along with most of its members, has taken a big step forward from the brink of the recession.
• RVIA Vice President of Public Relations and Advertising James Ashurst offered an update on the association’s PR program as well as the Go RVing Coalition’s initial 2013 campaign.
• American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall touched on the latest issues with regard to outdoor recreation on federal lands.
• Seminars included “A Campground Outlook” from Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers; “An Economic Outlook” with Lowell Catlett, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University; and a panel discussion on “Succeeding in Today’s RV Market” with Mark Beecher, Bank of the West, Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), Bob Martin, Thor Industries Inc., Bill Osborne, Navistar RV and Martin Street, Stag-Parkway Inc.
• A dinner crowd saluted Past Chairman Gregg Fore, president of Dicor Corp., an Elkhart, Ind.-based RV industry supplier, at a Chairman’s Reception and Dinner.
• The association’s executive committee met prior to the week’s general agenda, while the association’s Strategic Planning Committee also sat down prior to the kickoff of the Annual Meeting.
Rogers, meanwhile, urged the recreational vehicle sector to work more closely in the future with the accommodations component of the industry, the RV parks and campgrounds. Focusing on “mutual objectives,” he pointed out, could go a long way toward “nurturing this industry in ways it has not been” in the past.
“Just being invited today by Richard to participate with you has reminded me that I’ve been back at KOA for 13 years and this is the first time that I’ve actually had the opportunity to talk to RVIA,” said Rogers, a former Harrah’s executive from Reno in his address during the Membership Meeting. “It’s a pleasure to be here and to see so many familiar faces.”
The bottom line from Rogers: There’s a big market out there in North America’s campgrounds, many of whom are camping in tents, to which a marketing-minded RV industry ought to look for growth.
“Well, we have an audience out there that are already staying outdoors, and they’re at my campgrounds,” said Rogers. “And they’re your prospects — the people that probably have a greater livelihood of buying an RV because they’re already in the outdoor lifestyle.”