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RV show opens with some heart

Category: RV
Source: The Goshen News, IN
Publish Date: Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Summary: An early and eager crowd of hungry RV executives, dealers and manufacturers gathered for the annual pre-show breakfast at the massive Kentucky Exposition Center.

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By ROGER SCHNEIDER
roger.schneider@goshennews.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With plain talk about the lousy year the RV industry is experiencing, followed by optimistic outlooks, the RVIA trade show got under way this morning.

An early and eager crowd of hungry RV executives, dealers and manufacturers gathered for the annual pre-show breakfast at the massive Kentucky Exposition Center.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association leadership pumped up the crowd by combining humor with statistics and even through an appearance by Emily Cox, Miss Kentucky and the R&B group, The Drifters.

RVIA board chairman Jim Sheldon of Monaco Corp. welcomed the crowd. He said this year’s trade show theme, “We’ve Got Heart” is central to the industry’s optimistic outlook during good times and bad. He said the show “will celebrate the optimism that has been the hallmark of our industry through good times and bad.”

Richard Coon, RVIA president, said a couple of years ago the RV industry was doing well and the outlook was for more of the same prosperity.

Then things changed.

He cited the current economic woes — the lack of consumer confidence and a tight credit market — as hitting the industry hard. He then outlined how the industry bounced back from similar whammies of the oil embargoes in the early 1970s, high interest rates in the late 1970s and other downturns in the 1980s and 1990s.

Worst to come?

While some people in the industry have told him this downturn is the worst yet, he countered, “I am not sure this is the worst we have seen.”

Coon spoke optimistically of how the RV industry has always come back strong. He said after the 2001 stock market meltdown, the industry bounced back and produced 1.8 million RVs in the following five years. And that number did not include trailers produced for Hurricane Katrina relief.

History has shown that after a downturn, the RV industry “comes back stronger than ever,” Coon said.

But the industry cannot sit around and wait for consumers to do all the work, Coon said.

“It is up to us,” he said, “to stimulate the demand and the marketplace.”

Coon added that three good signs for the industry are that gas prices have fallen, mortgage rates fell last week and the prolonged presidential election is over.

Credit needed

Still, a challenge for the industry is the freeing up of credit for RV buyers, he said.

To that end, the RVIA membership was given packets of information to use as background to lobby their congressional representatives.

The RVIA would like to have RVs added to the recently announced Term Asset-Backed Security Loan Facility by the Treasury Department. The RVIA believes that equity-backed loans for RVs, boats and other recreational items should be on an equal basis with loans for automobiles, education expenses and purchases with credit cards initially targeted by the new Treasury facility.

The RVIA is also addressing the credit issue in-house. Coon said the RVIA is working with the dealers to bring more lenders into the RV market. He said many dealers have been successful in developing new lending markets with their local banks.

Also, the RVIA is working closely with the boating and motorcycle industries to strengthen their positions when dealing with the incoming Obama presidential administration.

Marketing push

The recreational vehicle industry has an overall marketing program known as Go RVing. The program is funded through its membership and Coon urged the membership to keep up contributions to that program.

“I believe it is critically important to fund Go RVing,” Coon said, “This has worked well to communicate to America that this (RVing) is the path to happiness.”

But in 2009 the Go RVing campaign will be curtailed because of the downturn in the industry.

The advertising campaign will have a budget of $8 million, down half from the $16 million budgeted for 2008. Because of the heavy falloff in the industry this year, just $11 million of the $16 million will be spent.

That $11 million bought TV commercial spots on a variety of shows, including the Super Bowl and the Beijing Olympics.

Other media buys included magazines and Internet sites.

And the effort to reach consumers on the Internet will be doubled in 2009.

Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president said the Go Rving campaign is the industry’s first line of defense against the downturn.

“Experts agree,” LaBella said, “that those who continue advertising during downturns recover quicker than those who don’t.”



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