Undeterred by a recession that has battered the RV industry and its presence in the Southern California’s Inland region, a multimillion-dollar Canadian RV dealer is opening its first U.S. dealership in Riverside to be closer to a travel trailer manufacturer that the owner considers his “hidden secret,” according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
The dealership, American All-Star RV at 7207 Indiana Ave. off Highway 91 near Madison Street, will soon be filled with Riverside-based Pacific Coachworks’ line of Tango travel trailers, said Bruce Urban, owner and president of Western RV Country group of companies in Alberta.
Pacific Coachworks trailers, built at a factory in Riverside, have been one of Urban’s biggest sellers in Canada, he said, citing the company’s attention to detail and use of plywood inside the trailers instead of particle board.
And if the trailers can stand up to the Canadian wilderness, “they’ll definitely stand up in California,” Urban said.
When Dane Found and Tom Powell — founders of Thor California in Moreno Valley — started Pacific Coachworks in 2006, Urban was one of their first customers, and he remains the company’s largest dealer “by a long shot,” Found said.
At Thor, Found and Powell began selling Urban their recreational vehicles in 1996.
Urban may not be selling arcade games, but he has them in his dealerships anyway to entertain the children of would-be trailer buyers who may visit the red, white and blue sports-themed dealership once it’s finished. That’s why there’s sometimes a monster truck sitting outside, and perhaps a mini-golf course too.
“Atmosphere can sell,” he said.
For the adults, he plans weekly tours to see Pacific Coachworks trailers being made inside the Riverside factory nearby.
“There aren’t many dealers who have their manufacturing facility 15 minutes away,” Urban said. “When I knew we’d be that close and be able to give weekly tours, I thought this would really, really help people see what they’re buying.”
Urban got his start selling used cars in his mom’s driveway before expanding his dealership to a one-acre gravel lot in 1992, he said.
Today, he has six storefronts and sales of $130 million, he said. The Riverside store will be his seventh.
He thought about opening a dealership in the United States about a year ago, but “the market really cratered down there,” he said.
But he didn’t want to wait for another dealership to seize the chance to sell Pacific Coachworks trailers to the degree he wants to in Southern California.
“I wanted to have that product in that market,” he said. “History shows it’s a great RV market.”
The site of his new Riverside dealership has an RV past, having been home to Country Time R.V. Center and later Richardson’s RV, which has a few Inland locations.
An RV dealer industry group points to Census data that there were 3,129 RV sales locations nationwide in 2007, and about 160 have closed since January.
Dan Merkowsky, executive vice president of the RV Dealers Association of Alberta, called Urban, a member of the group, one of the smartest marketers he knows.
The number of RVs sold in Canada had fallen by about 50% to 50,000 vehicles this year because of the global recession, he said.
Urban said his sales have suffered a 15% decline this year.
He said he’s confident, however, that the travel trailer market will continue to fare better than sales of other RVs, such as Class A motorhomes, since they generally don’t cost as much.
“It’s not cool for grandpa to show up in a $200,000 motorhome when other people are struggling (financially),” he said. “The days of bigger-are-better is behind us.”