The RV industry’s recovery from the Great Recession has picked up speed.
Recreational vehicle makers are churning out higher numbers of travel trailers bound for dealers’ lots and, ultimately, campgrounds, Businessweek reported.
Overall shipments from manufacturers to dealers — a key measure of consumer demand — are expected to rise 10% in 2012 and could gain another 4.5% next year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said Tuesday (Nov. 27).
Through September, shipments were up nearly 11% from the same period last year, the group said. The higher-than-expected number had dealers, manufacturers and suppliers feeling more optimistic as they gathered this week for an annual industry trade show.
“We made up a lot of ground this year,” said Jeffrey Pastore, owner of Hartville RV Center in northeastern Ohio. “We’re seeing a lot more buyers walking in the door, and we’re seeing those buyers with more money in hand.”
“It was dreadful,” said Tom Stinnett, an RV dealer in southern Indiana. “There were a lot of us wondering if we were going to make it.”
Shipments to dealers slumped to 165,700 units in 2009 from 353,400 in 2007. Weak demand and evaporated credit left dealer lots clogged with RVs and forced the industry to lay off tens of thousands of workers. This year’s shipments are expected to be better — hitting 277,300.
Jobs are coming back, too. The industry’s workforce has risen to 375,000 from less than 250,000 in 2008, according to RVIA. It’s still below the 530,000 from 2007.
Driving the industry’s gradual comeback have been less-expensive towable RVs attached to pickups or hitched to other vehicles.
Towables, which now account for about 90% of the new RV market, cost between $8,000 and $100,000, with an average price of $32,000, according to RVIA. Before the recession hit, towables represented eight out of every 10 new RVs shipped.
By contrast, stand-alone motorhomes range in price from $55,000 to $1.5 million for top-of-the-line, bus-like vehicles. The average price is $100,000 for the amenity-filled moving homes.
“It’s a given that consumers love to do this, or there would be no market at all because they don’t have to have it,” Stinnett said. “But they’re simply not willing to commit as much money.”
KZ RV, based in Shipshewana, Ind., has regained about three-fourths of its pre-recessionary business, but the manufacturer has seen the shift in consumer demand toward towables. Its most popular products cost between $10,000 and $35,000 — well off its top-of-the-line RVs, which run about $90,000, said Andy Baer, the company’s vice president of sales.
“Seven years ago they didn’t give a thought to buying a top-of-the-line product, kind of similar to the housing industry,” Baer said. “People are more in tuned with what the reality is that they can comfortably afford today.”
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford Corp., which supplies toilets and sinks to RV makers, saw its business plunge by 70% during the recession. It survived the downturn because RV owners upgraded existing models, said Executive Vice President Kevin Phillips. Now, the company is having a good year as existing RV owners purchase upgrades and entry-level buyers enter the market, he said.
Winnebago Industries Inc., best known for its premium products, also has adjusted to the new market.
The company, headquartered in Forest City, Iowa, is rolling out towable products again after a decades-long absence from that market.
And Winnebago has stepped up its presence in the market for entry-level motorhomes priced in the $60,000 to $70,000 range. Those vehicles offer fewer features and amenities than their pricier counterparts.
“That’s where we see a lot of the movement in the industry,” said Scott Degnan, the company’s vice president of sales.
Winnebago’s profits soared in its last fiscal year, which ended Aug. 25. Winnebago earned $45 million over those 12 months, up from $11.8 million in the prior year. Revenue rose 17 percent to $581.7 million.
The RV industry today (Nov. 27) launched the 50th National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., at “Outlook 2013: A Golden Opportunity” an informative, entertaining program that provided details of the industry’s prospects for 2013 and an update on advertising and public relations initiatives.
The event began at 7:30 a.m. and was attended by approximately 1,000 RV manufacturers, dealers and industry representatives. Go RVing Co-Chairs Bob Olson and Tom Stinnett partnered with RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and RVIA Vice President of Public Relations and Advertising James Ashurst for a multimedia presentation recapping 2012 accomplishments in the advertising and public relations arenas, according to a news release.
“We have a strong public relations team at RVIA,” Thompson told the audience. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done to promote the RV lifestyle, combat misperceptions and position the industry as growing, vibrant and innovative.”
Thompson discussed a few of the industry’s media relations successes, including coverage on TV networks such as ABC News, FOX News Channel and HGTV. He also highlighted digital media placements and detailed RVIA’s plans to commit more resources to online outlets in the future.
“It used to be that people only got news from print publications, television or radio,” Thompson said. “Times have changed. More than a third of adult Americans own a tablet or smart phone to read news stories or watch video clips.”
This year, RV coverage appeared in several major digital outlets, including Yahoo! News, SheKnows.com and MadeMan.com.
Stinnett and Olson reported on strong results from the new “AWAY” Go RVing advertising campaign. The pair emphasized the campaign’s strategic shift to focus on media brands that provide the opportunity to build cross-platform partnerships.
“Consumers are really engaging with our message,” Stinnett said. “We’ve experienced great success in our first year of targeting brand-building partnerships. Our co-branded initiatives with Great American Country and Outdoor Channel drew 46,000 new leads.”
The new ads, which debuted in early 2012, resonated with consumers, Olson told attendees.
“Our research demonstrates that consumers look favorably on what our industry is selling,” Olson said. “Our messaging about RVs allowing consumers to spend more time doing the things they want to do with the people they want to do them with — works. It reinforces the need to keep getting our industry’s message out to as many consumers as possible.”
Ashurst closed the presentation by discussing some of the plans for Go RVing in 2013.
“Next year you will see a return of some of our best performing partners, as well as several new offerings,” Ashurst said. “One such deal is a sizeable partnership with Discovery Networks’ newest lifestyle cable network, Destination America, which will explore the people, places and stories of the United States while celebrating the tenacity, hard work and humor that characterizes our great nation.”
In addition, Go RVing will partner with Travel Channel and will expand its outreach to the Hispanic market.
The RV industry recovery from the economic downturn will continue to build strength in 2013, as shipments are expected to rise to 289,900 — a 4.5% increase over the projected 2012 total of 277,300 units, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Vice President James Ashurst, standing in for President Richard Coon, told attendees today (Nov. 27) at “Outlook 2013: A Golden Opportunity,” the kick-off event to the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show.
Addressing approximately 1,000 RV manufacturers, dealers and industry representatives on, Ashurst presented a positive outlook for the industry’s future, based on new projections from Dr. Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, in RVIA’s quarterly forecasting newsletter RV Roadsigns.
The rise in shipments to 277,300 units by year-end 2012 would be a nearly 10% gain (9.9%) over the 2010 total of 252,300 and include double digit gains in conventional travel trailers and Class A motorhomes. The expected increase in 2013 would mark three consecutive years of RV market growth.
“RV shipments are trending up,” Ashurst said. “We’ve had good crowds and strong business at fall shows, and demographics are in our favor. It is time to shine for the RV industry.”
According to the new forecast, most of the 2013 gain will come in conventional and fifth-wheel trailers and by type A motorhomes. Conventional and fifth-wheel trailers are expected to account for 86% of all RV shipments in 2013 — which would be an all-time high.
The continued strength in 2013 RV shipments is due to rising consumer confidence and improved economic conditions; however, a failure by America’s political leaders to bridge the “fiscal cliff” could significantly alter the industry’s fortunes in 2013, Ashurst cautioned.
“Our forecasts are affected by volatility in the economy,” Ashurst said. “If Congress and the President don’t act on the fiscal cliff before the end of the year, federal tax rates will rise, mandatory cuts in government spending go into effect, and the economy could go into recession.”
During his presentation, Ashurst walked the audience through RVIA’s 2013 projection for each of the major RV product types:
- Travel trailers: up 5% to 180,200 units.
- Fifth-wheel trailers: up 7% to 68,800 units.
- Truck campers: up 3% to 3,500 units.
- Folding camping trailers: down 17% to 9,000 units.
- Class A motorhomes: up 8% to 15,400 units.
- Class B motorhomes: up 10% to 2,300 units.
- Class C motorhomes: down 2% to 10,700 units.
“We’ve had a good year in 2012 in terms of sales and in how we’ve been able to promote RVs to our core markets,” Ashurst said. “There’s a lot of versatility in the RV market — many products, price points and how they’re used. There is strong demand for RVs, and we are optimistic about our industry’s future.”
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) recognized an array of North American RV builders Monday evening (Nov. 26) on the brink of the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., as Quality Circle Award winners for having excelled in the 19th Annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) Survey.
On hand for the festivities at the Crowne Plaza hotel near the Kentucky Exposition Center was a big crowd of dealers and manufacturers.
“Tonight we honored the manufacturers that the dealers in the United States and Canada voted as doing the best job in a number of areas – everything from their manufacturer policies, which include things like territory, to parts and warranty policies to product quality and value,” RVDA President Phil Ingrassia told RV Business. “So, all those areas are measured in the DSI and these are the manufacturers who scored the highest with 15 or more responses from dealers.”
Four hundred and sixty-one dealers responded to the DSI between April and July and provided 2,709 brand ratings, an average of nearly six per dealer. Winners received at least 15 dealer responses and scored 80% or above for overall dealer satisfaction.
Towable RV manufacturers/brands receiving awards were (in alphabetical order): Airstream Inc.; CrossRoads RV (Zinger/Z-1/SE/Hampton); Forest River Inc. (Flagstaff travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Palomino RV travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Rockwood/Roo expandables, Sierra/Sandpiper, Indiana-built Surveyor/r-pod); Heartland RV LLC (Big Country/Elk Ridge, Bighorn/Landmark, Cyclone/Road Warrior/Torque, North Trail/Wilderness, Prowler); Jayco Inc. (Eagle/Super Lite/HT, camping trailers, Jay Feather/Select, Jay Flight/Swift/SLX, Pinnacle, White Hawk); Keystone RV Co. (Bullet/Premier, Cougar/X-lite, Passport, Raptor); KZRV LP (Durango, Sportsmen/Sportsmen Classic, Spree/Spree Escape); Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. (truck campers); and Prime Time Manufacturing Inc. (LaCrosse/Trace, Crusader/Sanibel).
The six motorized RV brands/manufacturers receiving awards: Forest River; Jayco/Entegra; Leisure Travel Vans/Triple E RV; Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd.; Tiffin Motorhomes Inc.; and Winnebago/Itasca/ERA.
When rating the brands/manufacturers, RVDA asks dealers to express, confidentially, their level of satisfaction on eight core issues: Sales support; sales territory; vehicle design; vehicle reliability/quality; competitive price/value; parts support; dealership warranty support and overall dealer communications.
Thousands of RV dealers will meet with thousands of RV manufacturers, suppliers and aftermarket producers in Louisville, Ky., this week for the 50th annual National RV Trade Show put on by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The Elkhart Truth reported that since Elkhart County is the undisputed manufacturing hub of the North American RV industry, with up to 83% of all RVs manufactured here, according to the RVIA, there will be a large local presence at the show.
“Our 50th annual trade show is a testament to both our industry’s strength, as well as evidence of the enduring appeal of the RV lifestyle,” said RVIA President Richard Coon.
There will be 63 manufacturers and 222 suppliers with exhibits at the Kentucky Exposition Center Tuesday (Nov. 27) through Thursday, and they all have a variety of refreshed and new products to display.
The Show’s Changing Role
It’s impossible to have a conversation with RV industry insiders about Louisville without the September RV Open House Week coming up. This year was the fifth year for the impromptu event which has grown to huge proportions for the industry.
With manufacturers showing off new-model-year improvements to dealers for the first time that week, things have changed for the Louisville show.
“It used to be the Super Bowl of all shows, Louisville. It’s no longer that,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t want to minimize it.”
“It’s hard to say, as open house continues to grow, what part does Louisville play,” said Zimmerman. It used to be that “Louisville cleaned up your fall. We don’t need Louisville to do that anymore.”
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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 revamped its series of textbooks to help candidates prepare for the industry’s new RV Service Technician Certification program.
According to a press release, the textbooks were thoroughly reviewed and revised by the industry’s leading RV service experts to help technicians increase their knowledge and understanding of the various RV components and operating systems found in today’s RVs. the textbooks also prepares them for the new testing requirements of the RV Service Technician Career Ladder.
The complete set consists of 14 textbooks covering: Electricity Demystified; Introduction to RV Service; RV Pre-Delivery Inspection; RV Preventative Maintenance; RV Electrical Systems; RV Propane Systems; RV Plumbing Systems; RV Water Heaters; RV Ranges & Cooktops; RV Refrigerators; RV Air Conditioning; RV Heating Appliances; RV Generators; RV Brake, Suspensions & Towing Systems; and, RV Hydraulics.
Two other textbooks – RV Body and RV Slideouts – are under development.
The textbooks are available in hard-copy or CD-ROM formats with prices range in price from $14.95 to $19.95 for members and $14.95 to $39.95 for non-members. A complete set is available for $208/member and $382/non-member.
For more information about the RV service technician textbook series, visit www.rvia.org or contact Nancy Jo Bell-London in the association’s education department at (703) 620-6003, ext. 355 or email@example.com.
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.”
Increased attendance and encouraging sales reports marked the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 60th California RV Show, held Oct. 12–21 at the Fairplex in Pomona.
Total attendance for the 10-day event was 20,756, a rise of better than 6% over last year, according to RVIA Western Show Director Tom Gaither. Those numbers were kick-started by a strong opening weekend that saw attendance up by nearly 15% over 2011.
“We started quickly with a strong opening weekend that saw attendance really jump on Friday and Saturday before falling back a little on Sunday due to the extreme heat that day,” said RVIA’s Western Show Director Tom Gaither. “Overall, I’m really pleased with the attendance, business activity and the optimistic attitude of exhibitors and attendees.”
In addition to the higher attendance, RV dealers at the show reported a more robust sales environment. “We were very pleased with the results at this year’s show,” said Mark Rosenbaum of Mike Thompson’s RV. “We sold 248 units and hit $21 million in sales, which is a 67% jump over last year. We’re in a great business, selling fun, family and vacation time, and that is one thing that you will never be able to take away from the American public no matter what’s going on in the world.”
“We had one of our best shows in several years,” added Beau Brixey, general manager of Camping World of Valencia. “The crowds coming through the aisles were exciting to see and sales were good. We were busy everyday with test drives and writing deals for some of everything – small trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes.”
“Sales were definitely up this year,” said Frankie Barouti, vice president of Giant RV, which has locations throughout southern California. “We were close to our 2011 totals midway through the show.”
Exhibitors were also impressed with a number of enhancements made to improve the show experience. This included a new show layout that featured a central entry point through a mock campground; an app for Apple and smartphone users; an RV test drive area; and the RV Factory showcase.
“We really liked the new floorplan design and the new entrance to the show, which really put attendees in an RV and camping mood” said Barouti. “The test drive area worked great for our customers too.”
The California RV Show is the largest consumer show on the West Coast with exhibits spanning 572,100 square feet and more than 925 RVs on display.
The 61st California RV Show is scheduled to take place at the Fairplex in Pomona from Oct. 11–20, 2013. For more information , visit www.TheBestRVShow.com.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) partnered with MadeMan.com to produce an online article and an accompanying satellite media tour from the California RV Show in Pomona, which delivered messages about the benefits of RVing to media markets nationwide.
RVIA and MadeMan’s managing editor Steve Mazzuchi collaborated on a photo-based feature that detailed the best RV type for 10 different vacation “styles.” RVIA member manufacturers provided photos and product information for the story.
In interviews with morning shows in mid-sized media markets, as well as national outlets, Mazzuchi used the online feature as a springboard to discuss various ways of RVing, including tailgating, romantic getaways, family travel, outdoor adventures, luxury travel, and more.
He appeared live in San Diego, Portland, Ore., and Birmingham, Ala. Mazzuchi was also interviewed by stations in Fort Myers, Fla.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Roanoke, Va.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Tampa, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz. to be aired a later date. National placements included Newswatch, Get Connected with Conn Jackson, The Daily Buzz, FoxNews.com, and the national radio program This Week in America.