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Fuel prices don't deter RV fans

Category: UNSPECIFIED
Source: Westchester Journal News
Publish Date: Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Summary: While the recreational-vehicle industry still caters to the gray-haired crowd, niche products were prominent among thousands of vehicles on display at the recent annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association show in Louisville.

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JERE DOWNSGANNETT NEWS SERVICE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While the recreational-vehicle industry still caters to the gray-haired crowd, niche products were prominent among thousands of vehicles on display at the recent annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association show in Louisville.

Dealers touring the show could see top-of-the-line, granite-tiled motor coaches featuring DVD players on every bunk.

They could also check out the burgeoning toy-hauler or sport-utility category. These products, popular with motor-sport fans in Southern California, won't be found in your grandpa's driveway. Some, like the Weekend Warrior vehicles, come decorated in black leather. Others feature a giant, studded-dog-collar motif splashed across the side of the vehicle.

But even as RV fans diversify, the theme remains the same. An RV lets you get away and still take your home with you.

"It has got to be good on gas mileage," Bowling Green resident Jamie Gregory, 26, said as she peered inside the Lil Traveler, a 960-pound, Amish-built teardrop at the Kentucky Exposition Center. "I have not outgrown tent camping yet, but this would be a nice step up."

High gas prices are dampening RV purchases, but only a little, RVIA President Richard Coon said. In 2006, the RV industry posted a record $14.7 billion in revenue, after five years of rising sales, he said. This year, the Virginia-based trade association predicted that figure would slip only by about 5 percent.

"We sell happiness," said Fran Connors, association spokesman.

The largest market for RV travel remains buyers age 49 and up, Coon said. Travel trailers and fifth-wheel campers between $15,000 and $45,000 are among the most popular models. While some diesel-powered camper vans yield as much as 22 miles per gallon, most motor homes still average between 7 and 10 mpg, Coon said.

Banking on bigness, Ford Motor Co. unveiled its new motor-home chassis, upgraded from a towing capacity of 22,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds. The company sells the chassis to RV manufacturers, which attach their cabins.

"People with disposable income are still out there and they are still buying big," Ford spokesman Peter Syvertsen said.

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