A motorhome valued at $450,000 went up in flames and was destroyed at a Florida RV dealership Wednesday afternoon (April 27), Pinellas Park, Fla., firefighters said.
It happened at Parliament Coach in the High Point area of Largo, the St. Petersburg Times reported. The driver of the 38-foot Blue Bird motorhome was traveling from Naples to New York when the coach started running rough north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, officials said. He took the motorhome to the dealership at 3 p.m., where it started smoking, officials said.
Firefighters responded and were investigating the source of the smoke when flames erupted from the coach’s exhaust, officials said. The vehicle was reportedly a total loss. No one was injured.
With gas prices up to $4 a gallon in some places, we’re all feeling the pain at the pump. For the RV industry, that’s just getting back on it’s feet, it couldn’t come at a worse time, WSJV-TV, South Bend, Ind., reported.
Brian Calhoun has been the sales manager at Tiara RV Sales and Service in Elkhart for seven years. He’s happy the industry is finally looking up, but these gas prices have him only cautiously optimistic.
“We see gas prices, and we know they’re going to have an impact, but we just don’t know how big of an impact,” said Calhoun.
Prices may hurt, but aren’t keeping the RV enthusiasts from buying. “Campers camp,” Calhoun said. “They might not camp in Colorado, like they normally would, but they’re going to camp.”
Linda Hapner says that’s true. She and her husband have owned a camper for more than 15 years.
“Last weekend we camped up at Elkhart Campgrounds up on County Road 4,” Hapner said. “And when you’re away from home, whether it’s two miles or 200 miles, you’re away from home.”
Hapner is a part of an RV club. She says her fellow club members are still travelling, but they say people aren’t buying the motorized RVs much anymore. She says they’re not as popular as the towable RVs, because they cost more to operate.
High gas prices and a slow economy haven’t stopped Wichita RV in Wichita, Kan., from growing.
The recreation vehicle dealership has opened a west-side lot at 10810 W. Kellogg, west of Maize Road, the Wichita Eagle reported.
Stuart Atherton and Dan Garczynski, Wichita RV general manager and general sales manager, respectively, opened the lot because of anticipated growth and customer demand.
The company previously operated from a single location, at 12828 SW Highway 54.
In the past 18 months Wichita RV has hired seven new employees, bringing its total to 18. And the company recently expanded its service building from three bays to seven, including an enclosed paint booth that allows the company to repaint RVs up to 45 feet long.
“We’re still selling. We’re still doing good,” Garczynski said.
The company’s growth has been deliberate and is recently stimulated by an expansion of its service capabilities, including the addition of the paint booth, Garczynski and Atherton said.
The west-side location will help Wichita RV expand its service business even more, they said, because they are letting their west-side customers drop off their RVs and campers, and then staff shuttles them to the east-side location. West-side customers can also pick up their RVs there once service work is completed.
They said some people don’t want to drive the 21 miles to Wichita RV’s east-side location and will look for alternative places to get service.
“We’re trying to expand not just on the sales, but the service,” Atherton, who also has ownership in the business.
The new location, which shares space with Hino Trucks of Wichita, includes lot space for up to 45 RVs.
Wichita RV currently has 37 units at the west location, ranging in price from $25,000 to $300,000.
The new location also has an 1,800-square-foot parts and accessories store.
Garczynski and Atherton insisted that higher gas prices have not affected sales and that people are still buying RVs.
According to their trade group, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in Reston, Va., dealers across the country began ordering more RVs starting last year.
RVIA spokesman Kevin Broom said RV shipments were up 46% in 2010, mainly from dealers replenishing inventory.
“What happened in 2008, 2009, they sold off a lot of what they had on hand,” Broom said. “Consumer demand was down.”
In those years, he said credit availability was tough, as were favorable financing terms. That has changed.
The association expects RV shipments to increase another 8.6% in 2011, he said.
As for gas prices, they may have some effect on first-time buyers, Broom said.
But “one of the things we’ve learned is when fuel prices go up, (RV owners) adjust,” he said. “They still go on vacation. They still use their RVs.
“They just go fewer miles.”
Karen Barnett acknowledges that for decades her Mishawaka, Ind., decorative graphics business centered largely on the RV and marine industries.
As RV sales trended upward over the years, Valley Screen Process Co. Inc. secured more work in the design and production of decals for motor homes and boats, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The company expanded four times after opening in South Bend in 1967, adding not only physical space but also employees to keep up with demand in the prospering business sectors.
Then the recession hit.
Discretionary spending came to a screeching halt and RV sales plummeted. Following a record year of sales for Valley Screen in 2007, Barnett, like many business owners, faced an extremely difficult business climate in spring 2008.
But she refused defeat.
Her employees also rejected the notion of putting their company on hold until the economy recovered.
“We could have rolled up in a little ball and kind of hoped it would pass over, but we didn’t want to do that because we knew it would be giving up,” said Barnett, company president.
Survival meant branching out in new directions.
Granted, there were pay cuts, reductions in benefits, and some people were laid off indefinitely. Other employees, however, were asked to participate in rolling layoffs so the creative and design processes could continue without interruption.
“We had key people we couldn’t lose, so we shared the burden. And we looked at things we could produce but never had time to explore,” Barnett said. “We reinvented ourselves.”
Some even worked more hours for less pay to brainstorm and launch new efforts in new directions.
Valley Screen Process entered the fleet industry and began designing architectural graphics, despite there being no extra money in the business budget. It secured an order for more than 400 window graphics for the new Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, among other sales and clients, in this new niche.
Employees, who embraced a “can-do” attitude, also came up with the idea of selling custom graphics for kid’s spaces through an online store, Barnett said.
By 2015, about half of the company’s business will still come from the RV and marine industries, which have started to rebound. But Barnett anticipates the other half will be derived from the new markets Valley Screen Process entered during the recession.
The company, which now employs around 50 people, received recognition from its peers in February for its achievements. Barnett accepted the Small Business of the Year award at the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County’s annual Salute to Business.
In hindsight, while the economic downturn was horrible, Barnett said it was the best thing to happen in the long run to her company.
It forced diversification from a work force that rose to the occasion, she said.
“We did a lot of innovating things to get through. We still do what we’ve always done, but now we can also do so much more,” she said. “It has made us more stable and gives us a better future so we’re not so dependent on the economy.”
Click here to see the first monthly video market update released on April 1, courtesy of Black Book, focusing on the speciality vehicle market, including RVs. The videos are posted on Black Book’s homepage. A transcript of the portion focusing on RVs follows.
The RV market is making a major recovery from the economic crisis from 2008. New and used RV sales plummeted even more than the auto industry during the past few years. The sales at special RV auctions continue to show strength as the one- to four- year-old models are great alternatives to new. As Eric Lawrence, the editor of the quarterly updated, electronic-delivered RV Guide has been tracking the market he commented: “There is a lot of pent up demand out there. For the last several years, consumers have been holding back on big ticket items. Many felt that the economy was too shaky to make a long term financial commitment, but the economy seems to have leveled off and is showing some signs of health, so consumers are starting to break out their checkbooks again and are buying some of the luxury type items that they had been holding off on.”
Wholesale shipments to dealers of all RVs were reported at 19,800 units in February’s survey of manufacturers, down 1.5% from February 2010, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has reported.
Towable shipments totaled 17,700, down 2.2% from a year ago, while motorized shipments totaled 2,100, up 5% from a year ago.
For the first two months of 2011, shipments of all RVs were 37,600 units, a gain of 4.7% compared to the first two months last year. Towable shipments totaled 33,500, up 3.4% from the 2010 pace, while motorized shipments totaled 4,100, up 17.1%.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, all RV shipments in February this year were at an annualized rate of 227,600 units, up slightly from last month.
By segment, February shipments, followed by percentage change from February 2010, were as follows:
- Travel trailers, 11,800, off 1.7%.
- Fifth-wheels, 4,800, up 4.3%.
- Folding camping trailers, 1,000, down 16.7%.
- Truck campers, 100, down 66.7%.
- Class A motorhomes, 1,100, up 10%.
- Class B motorhomes, 200, flat.
- Class C motorhomes, 800, flat.
For the first two months of 2011, shipments, followed by percentage changes from 2010, were as follows:
- Travel trailers, 22,200, up 3.3%.
- Fifth-wheels, 9,100, up 12.3%.
- Folding camping trailers, 1,900, down 17.4%.
- Truck campers, 300, down 40%.
- Class A motorhomes, 2,200, up 15.8%.
- Class B motorhomes, 300, flat.
- Class C motorhomes, 1,600, up 23.1%.
Se chart below for complete data.
RVers in the market for a new model RV are in luck. The new RV Buyers Guide 2011 from Trailer Life and Woodall’s has been published.
The 176-page directory lists more than 400 motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, truck campers, folding camping trailers and sport utility recreational vehicles, according to a news release.
Each RV’s profile includes information about construction features, dimensions, popular options, RV weights and towing capacities, standard features, engines on powered RVs, and available options, all of which help buyers compare models from different manufacturers. Floorplans and warranty information are also included.
The guide costs $7.99 and is available from its publishers, at some newsstands and at RVbookstore.com.
Is the electric car charging station of the future a motorhome?
It could be in some circumstances, speculated Luis Ramirez, CEO of the Industrial Solutions Group at General Electric. Ramirez recently met with some consumers and customer groups in Oregon, and some asked whether it would be possible to use the engine of an RV to charge an electric vehicle (EV), U.S. Solar Market Insight reported. RV drivers often tow cars behind them as they travel on down the road. Coming up with a charging system for RVs would help open a niche market. Technically, it’s not impossible.
Ramirez and other GE executives are in the middle of a road trip to promote products such as the WattStation charging station and to create awareness about some of the issues that will face companies when EVs begin to hit the road in large numbers. It wasn’t your usual Silicon Valley audience. Instead of investors and job seekers, most of the attendees were executives from parking lot companies, some AAA representatives and many electricians — in other words, the people that are actually going to make this happen.
Navistar International Corp. is taking part in the tour.
Theft and security could become a problem for public charging stations. “There is a lot of copper in a charging station. We do have to worry about security,” said Ramirez.
In Europe, security is less of a problem because charging stations will have cables; drivers will be required to carry their own connections. The U.S. took a different approach. It lightens the load in a car, but it creates a potentially attractive target for those out there intent on stealing wire, manhole covers and other metal objects during this current commodity boom.
Speaking of commodity metals, scientists in GE labs are also working on electric motors that don’t require rare earth metals and use nonmetallic heat sinks. This is a significant development because rare earth materials like neodymium oxide have zoomed from $20,000 a ton in 2009 to $165,000 a ton this month according to my own spot check today.
Direct current is going to take off, Ramirez added. While the grid delivers AC power, distributing and using DC power within microgrids, datacenters or office buildings could help conserve energy by reducing the number of conversions power must undergo before it gets used. The conversions occur because most electrical equipment — batteries, motors, computers — actually run on DC. In a typical data center, power might get converted five times before it can be used to run servers; in a DC data center, the conversions can be reduced to one. Fewer conversions, fewer losses.
Back in December, Ramirez oversaw the $520 million acquisition of Lineage Power Holdings , which makes equipment for efficient AC-DC and DC-DC conversions. Other companies in this space include Validus DC Systems and Nextek Power Systems.
“With the right conversion architecture, you can bring efficiency to the 92-95% level,” he said, “DC architectures also use a lot less metal.”
One potential application: mining operations. Many remote mines have been completely automated with robotic trucks hauling dirt from deep inside the earth. Crushing rocks in mining operations alone accounts for 7% of the world’s energy consumption, he said. Switching to DC could help bring that number down.
One area, however, where DC will need some work is in high-speed charging stations. High-speed, or Level 3, charging is far faster than conventional charging and it relies on DC power. High speed charging, however, can accelerate the aging process in batteries. Research in this area is ongoing.
Consumers will likely have to drive the EV market, said Clarence Dunn, CEO of GE Fleet. (GE Fleet oversees its own fleet of 30,000 cars but also finances and manages fleets for others.) While fleet owners are interested in going electric, the price will have to come down through volume manufacturing before many fleet owners budge. And the only way to build volume will be with the consumer market.
Car companies are going to have to pay particular attention to the needs of the fleet buyers. Plug-in hybrids, particularly those retrofitted hybrids with lots of batteries in the trunk, are a difficult sell to companies with sales fleets. The trunk takes up the space the reps need for sample cases and other equipment.
GE, which wants to electrify half of its fleet by 2015, has to plan accordingly, as well. The average GE sales representative drives 85 miles a day. Ergo, a fully electric vehicle may not work for them, although a series hybrid like the Chevy Volt might be sufficient. Similarly, many in GE Health drive vans: not a great combo yet for batteries.
So far, pharmaceutical companies appear to be the first movers when it comes to electrifying fleets.
Battery swapping, the secondary market for batteries and other issues are hurdles the car industry and financing industry are going to have to overcome. “I do not want to finance a battery. That does not work for me,” Dunn said, or at least it doesn’t yet. If car companies can begin to prove that a battery will have an active life in a car for five years and that utilities will in fact buy partially depleted batteries for grid storage, bring on the documents.
The demographics of EV buyers do present some problems for utilities, said Matt Lecar, who oversees smart grid strategy at GE Energy. In California, a lot of the early buyers will live in Berkeley and San Francisco, where the grid is old and the power capacity for individual houses is somewhat low.
“I am sure if PG&E had their druthers, Fresno and Bakersfield would be the early adopters,” he said, because homes there already have mondo circuits to handle air conditioning capacity.
Today’s Video #2 and the story below come courtesy of WALA-TV, Mobile, Ala.
Nearly 200 campers pack RV City in Mobile, Ala. It’s a Mardi Gras tradition that draws in new people each year.
RV City in Mobile is as much a part of Mardi Gras as the beads.
But what is it that keeps people coming back year after year?
Nestled under the Water Street overpass, in the shadow of the city skyline sits RV City.
Rows and rows of vehicles are packed in like sardines for the carnival season.
Rob Vereen has been coming for three-years.
Every Mardi Gras he drives over from Spanish Fort and sets up shop.
“It’s wild, it’s crazy, like a big party. Like Talladega for a month,” said Vereen.
Camping here isn’t cheap. Vereen said he paid about $500 for his spot. And seeing that the lot is nearly full, that is a lot of money. But most agree it is worth the price.
Darrin Oshea said this is the place to be during Mardi Gras.
“Right now everybody is sleeping. Everyone was up into 2:00 a.m. partying it was wild,” said Darrin Oshea. “There is a DJ too.”
Oshea is an RV City rookie so is Diane Neal.
She’s always wanted to experience Mardi Gras here and so she talked her husband into it.
Neal said it has been worth it.
And with Fat Tuesday still to go, the fun is far from over.
Close to 200 campers signed up to move in under the Water Street overpass during Mardi Gras.
Watch today’s Video #2, courtesy of CNN News, about a group of RVers who believe Jesus Christ will return on May 21 and have taken to the road in their RVs to promote the expected event. Click here to read CNN’s story about the subject.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) applauds this week’s relaunch of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Dealer Floor Plan (DFP) Pilot Loan Program for the improvements the new effort includes to increase access to inventory financing for RV dealers.
“The relaunched program includes significant enhancements over the original program that RVIA and the RV industry pushed to have included — the new maximum loan size of $5 million, the ability for RV dealers with a higher net worth of up to $15 million to participate, and the extension of the program to three years,” RVIA President Richard Coon stated in a news release. “We are hopeful these changes will remove key barriers to lender participation, thereby attracting more lending sources and providing RV dealers with additional floorplan opportunities.”
The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 included a provision for relaunching SBA’s Dealer Floor Plan (DFP) Pilot program, which first became available in July 2009. The pilot is part of the SBA’s overall 7(a) loan guaranty program. Key provisions of the relaunched program which RV dealers and lenders may use starting Wednesday (Feb. 9) include:
- A loan amount between $500,000 and $5 million (previously limited to $2 million), for a term of not more than five years.
- A new size standard allowing larger businesses to qualify as a small business under the new DFP, as follows: the maximum tangible net worth of the business cannot exceed $15 million; and, the average net income after federal taxes (excluding carry-over losses) for the two full fiscal years prior to the date of the application for DFP is not more than $5 million.
- An advance rate of up to 100%of the value of the goods to be purchased may be offered by lenders.
- An SBA guaranty of 75% on floorplan lines of credit. In the original DFP, the guaranty for RVs, boats and manufactured homes had been 60%, while autos had the 75% rate. Now, all have the 75% guaranty.
- In addition to the acquisition of titleable inventory for retail sales, loan proceeds can now also be used to refinance existing floorplan lines of credit with another lender or to refinance/replace existing floorplan lines of credit with the same lender.
- An extension of the DFP program to Sept. 30, 2013 (was Sept. 30, 2010).
- A floorplan lender with at least $1 billion in floorplan lines of credit in its current portfolio may qualify for delegated authority under the new DFP Pilot, which will expedite the loan approval process for small business owners and allows more autonomy for lenders. Delegated floorplan lenders can use SBA Express forms and utilize their own policies, procedures, internal controls and documentation.
- “Eligible retail goods” that can be purchased under the new DFP are still automobiles, recreational vehicles, boats, and manufactured homes which can be titled under state law.
“This is the second generation of the SBA DFP Pilot Program,” said Dianne Farrell, RVIA’s vice president of government affairs. “In speaking with SBA staff, they are confident that the enhancements better meet the needs of the banking community and will lead to more floorplan financing options being available to dealerships, which are the cornerstone of many local business communities.”
A coalition of trade associations, including RVIA, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), marine, auto, trailer and manufactured housing dealers and manufacturers worked to ensure the new DFP program contained these improvements.
The rules and regulations for the pilot are now available on the website of The Federal Register, and in print editions. A procedural guide to the program will be posted on the SBA website at: http://www.sba.gov/content/dealer-floor-plan-financing-program-0.
Borrowers interested in obtaining a DFP loan should contact their lender or their nearest SBA field office to get a list of SBA-approved lenders in their area who may be participating in the program. Local district offices and contact information, as well as information on this and other SBA programs and resources, can be found at www.sba.gov or by calling the SBA Answer Desk at (800) U-ASK-SBA or TDD (704) 344-6640.
The numbers are in for the 26th Annual Fort Myers RV Show and both dealer and vendor participants came away smiling as the event drew 12,500 patrons over the show’s four days, according to a news release. The show was sponsored by Region 1 of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
“Just about everyone I spoke with at the show was very pleased with the buying interest the public had,” said FRVTA Region 1 President Nelda Iacono. “In fact, we had several dealers who achieved double-digit sales. All dealers came away with lots of sales leads they can now follow up over the coming weeks.”
While not an attendance record, Show Manager Jack Carver was gratified the public responded so positively, especially following the economic turmoil the industry suffered over the previous years. “We worked hard to put on a quality show that created a buying situation for all participants, and I guess we did that,” he said.
This year’s annual event featured 16 dealers displaying well over 600 new RV units of all types, styles and price ranges. The show also staged 100 vendors selling everything from lots at RV resorts to engine upgrades and other enhancements for the RV lifestyle.
“Everyone seemed to be selling whatever they brought,” exclaimed Show Chairman Chris Morse, “I’m still busy with traffic and additional sales a week after the show.”
This year’s show success continues the Fort Myers RV Show’s distinction as one of the largest RV events in the Southeast, Iacono pointed out. “We are proud to offer dealers, vendors and patrons the best the RV Industry has to offer and look forward to helping spread consumer interest in the RV lifestyle,” she explained.
The near-final National Park Service figures on park visits during 2010 show both positive and negative results.
Visitation at many of the iconic parks increased over 2009, reported Derrick A. Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition. “Yet the system overall, despite fee-free weekends, publicity generated by the rebroadcast of the Ken Burns’ PBS special and the visit to Yosemite by Oprah and a jump in international visitors to the U.S., showed a decline of about 2% in visitations (some 5.8 million fewer visits to a total of about 280 million) and a 2.7% drop in visitor hours,” he said.
The report also showed a 1.5% drop in concessioner lodging use between 2009 and 2010. National Park visitations remain well below levels of the late 1980s, despite a U.S. population increase of over 25%.
On the plus side, RV visits were up about 5% over 2009, and visitation to many of the best-known national parks, most with significant concessioner services, rose in 2010.
Key parks with increases include:
- Yellowstone, 10.5%.
- Yosemite, 4.7%.
- Grand Teton, 4%.
- Grand Canyon, 1%.
- Glen Canyon, 8.4%.
- Acadia, 12.4%.
- Glacier, 9.6%.
Among the most significant declines in units with concessioners were:
- Blue Ridge Parkway, 9%.
- Golden Gate NRA, 7.6%.
- Gateway NRA, 4%.
Meanwhile, RV visits to the nation’s national parks totaled 2,258,903, up 5.06% over the 2,150,170 RVers who visited in 2009..
The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Western Motor Home Association rally at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, Calif., was the backdrop for release of the 11th edition of “Big Rigs Best Bets.”
Both the 498-page spiral bound large print copy and the innovative web-based online version were on display at their booths. According to Ken and Ellie Hamill, co-authors, the 23rd annual Western Area Rally was “the logical choice” because of the heavy concentration of RVs which congregate in the area at this time of year, according to a news release.
As Hamill related, “The rally attendees, coupled with the guests at nearby resorts, are the core of the segment of the RV market which we serve. Not only do these coach owners tend to have the most discretionary income for RV related products, they tend to travel greater distances and for a longer period of time.”
They were particularly delighted to discover the online version is compatible with all computers, tablets and smart phone mobile devices as Hamill demonstrated the easy navigation of the book on the Apple I-Pad, he stated.
“Real time changes in the content of the online version throughout the course of the year is a real bonus for our reader base,” stated Hamill. “An added benefit to our advertisers is they now have a resource to reach out to our online membership base with improvements and changes to their facility throughout the course of the year rather than waiting for the next annual print copy.”
- A blend of 1,200 upscale resorts, overnight stays along the interstate, destination parks and suitable public parks.
- Each park listing includes specific site numbers and the various lengths of these preferred sites along with other park details, including Wi-Fi.
- Detailed ” dead on ” directions from an RVer’s point of view. Physical addresses for GPS users are also noted.
- 532 paved and maneuverable fuel stops. For your convenience the online version has links to gasbuddy.com
- 244 notable restaurant tips.
Big Rigs Best Bets has been serving the RV community since 2001.
Learn more at www.big-rigs-rv.com.