Baird: Dealers Conservative Heading Into Winter

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter to investors following the towable sales report for August by Statistical Surveys Inc. The following offers a summary of the results.

U.S. towable retail up modestly. Dealer towable sales increased 3% in August, according to Statistical Surveys (data is frequently revised upward), generally in line with results from our recent dealer survey. Results improved sequentially, but growth has been slow on weak consumer confidence and an uncertain economy. While retail remains weak, lean dealer inventories and incentives at recent manufacturer open houses could support orders heading into winter.

Towable demand up 3%. U.S. towable sales improved 3% in August, and are up 7% YTD. Travel trailer registrations improved 4% (+8% YTD), offsetting fifth wheel sales down 2% (+3% YTD). Keep in mind, data is frequently revised upward.

Inventory. Dealers restocked units throughout the winter and spring as shipments exceeded retail sales, but dealers in our recent survey confirmed inventory is still relatively lean. We expect dealers to remain conservative heading into winter, but do not expect destocking, despite weaker retail.

Retail U.S. SAAR. We calculate a seasonally adjusted rate of retail registrations. The SAAR of U.S. towable demand (including fifth-wheels and travel trailers) increased to 168K units in August, from 157K units in July. Just over 150K units were sold in the U.S. in 2010.

Important note. The data excludes or is incomplete with respect to Minnesota and Maine. We caution against attaching undue significance to data from a single month. The data tend to fluctuate from month to month, and are frequently revised upward.

This summary of a Baird research report is not intended as investment advice. To participate in Baird surveys and receive research reports, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, at

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RVIA’S Pomona Show is West’s Largest Venue

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

More than 800 new recreational vehicles built by 40 manufacturers have filled Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., as part of the 59th annual California RV Show.

The show, which opened Friday (Oct. 14) and runs until Oct. 23, gives visitors a chance to see the latest recreational vehicles on the market, said Jeanne Sleeper, spokeswoman for the Pomona event.

“This is the largest RV show in the West and the only RV show put on by the RV manufacturers,” Tom Gaither, director of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Western Show, said in a statement.

“It is the one place where consumers can see all the new 2012 models from manufacturers across America and Canada,” Gaither said.

The show offers something for just about everyone, the San Bernardino County Sun reported.

Those thinking about purchasing a new vehicle can drive their RV to the show, have it appraised and then speak with dealers about acquiring a new one, said Sleeper.

Several credit unions and banks that offer RV loans have representatives available to talk and arrange financing for a new vehicle, she said.

“You could literally do the whole deal in one stop,” Sleeper said.

Sixteen local dealers have provided the RVs along with 150 vehicles that are available for test drives.

The tests include driving the vehicles on local streets, Sleeper said.

Those toying with the idea of purchasing a recreational vehicle can visit the show and see what type and size of RV would best meet their needs or attend workshops related to the ins and outs of maintaining them, she said.

Visitors will find RVs ranging in price from $10,000 for a small trailer to vehicles with large living spaces for $625,000, Sleeper said.

But there is also a great deal in between.

“The vast majority (of RVs) are things that are affordable,” Sleeper said.

Interest in recreational vehicles is on the rise after a drop that came at about the same time the economy went south, Sleeper said.

Some of the interest is linked to people finding they can use their RV for a long weekend trip to the beach or the mountains and for longer vacation trips to spots such as the Grand Canyon, she said.

Such family trips can be more economical using an RV and cutting out hotels and air travel, she said.

The 59th annual California RV Show is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission is $10 for adults, which includes a wristband good for free admission for the remainder of this year’s show.

Children and teens under 17 are admitted for free if accompanied by an adult.

Parking for automobiles is $9 but those traveling in their RV can park for free.

Additional information on the event along with information on admission discounts, seminars and other show activities is available by going to




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Keystone RV Co. Launches Dealer ‘Webinars’

May 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Expanding upon successive RVDA Quality Circle Awards, Keystone RV Co. Inc. is launching a series of webinar-based workshops for dealer technical and customer service personnel. The initial workshop kicks off today (May 4) and is booked solid with 97 participants representing 90 Keystone dealerships, according to a news release.

According to Randy Mast, Keystone vice president of customer service, the webinar format was the overwhelming choice of Keystone’s dealer partners. Says Mast, “This is truly a collaborative process designed to help Keystone dealers improve their backend business operations and profitability. The webinar format will enable us to deliver relevant content in a timely manner through a medium that best fits our dealers’ busy schedules.”

Keystones customer service webinars will be held several times each month or as needed to meet dealer demand. Planned topics include technical service training related to Keystone products, managing your Keystone service requirements, utilizing the KeyExpress web portal for greater efficiency and other subjects as requested by Keystone dealers.

Webinar length will be approximately 30 minutes, allowing time for questions and answers.

In addition to the webinar workshops, Keystone dealers can also utilize the most comprehensive library of “visual” parts catalogs online.

Ninety-five percent of all Keystone part numbers are identified with photos for greater order accuracy.

For more information about Keystone service webinars, Keystone dealers can log in to KeyExpress. Or email Kim Dooley at:

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Good Turnout at Idaho Good Sam Club Rally

May 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Click here to watch a brief video on the following story, courtesy of KMVT-TV, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The Jerome County fairgrounds in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was packed with recreational vehicles this past weekend.

KMVT-TV reported that RVs of all shapes and sizes started filling the fairgrounds a week ago. The campers are members of the Good Sam organization.

It meets a couple times a year at various places in Idaho.

Despite the price of fuel climbing up and up, about 110 RVs showed up to the organizers surprise. They expected around 80 RVs.

As well as conducting business, group members played games and socialize. Pretty much all the designated RV sites were taken up at the fairgrounds.

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RVIA: Spring RV Media Coverage is Blooming

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

RVs are continuing to grab media attention with the weather warming and the summer travel season approaching.

Coverage reflects messages promoted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) that RVing is a cost-effective way for families to get away from the stresses of every day life, enjoy the great outdoors, and form lasting memories together, according to a report in the current issue of RVIA Today Express.

AAA World, which reaches more than 2 million subscribers, featured a writer taking his first family RV trip in April. The avid tent camper told readers his RV experience changed him. “So if in my youthful arrogance I’d thought RVs not worthy of inclusion in an honest outdoor experience, I was now truly (and remarkably easily) among the converted.” Click here to watch a video on RVs from AAA World’s website.

The May issue of Parents magazine shared with readers the experiences of a mom who took her children on the road for a year. “The history and beauty of America came alive for us.” According to the article, the camping life was a fun way to enjoy “less frenzied” family time. “Instead of running constantly to after-school activities, we read, attended ranger presentations, and ate more than our fair share of s’mores.”

The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., says gas prices won’t stop campers this summer. Despite the high prices at the pump, consumers are still visiting dealerships and buying. “I’ve never seen gas prices alone really affect the consumer,” Jeff Dailey, general manager of Pacific Coachworks, told the newspaper. “They still want to camp.” explored the reasons why RVs are so popular and asked “Is an RV Right for You?” CNN reported that the RV industry is recovering because, “Whatever their age, owners say it’s all about freedom. RVers go where and when they want, bypass airport security, avoid luggage fees and restrictions, tow the family car, and have room for kids and pets.”

More coverage is expected in coming weeks with stories slated for Ser Padres (a Spanish-language magazine for parents), Living Magazine, Where to Retire, Florida Travel & Life and AAA’s VIA magazine.

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Motorcoach Erupts in Flames at RV Dealership

April 28, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

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.

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Gas Price Hikes Affect Recovering RV Industry

April 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

tiara_rv_logo_fullWith 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.

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Wichita RV Expands to Meet Customer Demand

April 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

header 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.”

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Valley Screen Process Finding New Markets

April 12, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

valley-screen-big-logoKaren 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.”

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VIDEO #2: Newmar’s Canyon Star Toy Hauler

April 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Today’s Video #2 comes from Newmar and features their Canyon Star toy hauler.
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