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Media Cast Helpful Spotlight on Industry

With 441 stories on TV alone about President Obama’s first trip outside the White House to what he called the “RV Capital of America,” the RV industry has been in the spotlight this week.


Coverage of Obama’s Elkhart town hall meeting Feb. 9 and his first press conference later that evening attributed the industry’s downturn and job losses to the inability of customers to get financing even if they’ve got good credit, as the President stated. 


Several members in the audience at the town hall meeting were themselves interviewed afterwards, resulting in positive exposure for the industry.  Ron Fenech, Keystone, told the South Bend Tribune that he’s seen some optimistic signs for January sales.  Dicky Riegel of Thor Industries pointed out that “the demand is there,” but money needs to be freed up for dealer business loans as well as consumer financing.


Political commentator Bill O’Reilly came away from the town meeting and press conference with his own, clearcut understanding of how the stimulus package should work, described in a Feb. 9 discussion of the bill on FOX’s O’Reilly Factor. “Saving money in 2025 is not what the stimulus is supposed to do.  It’s supposed to sell RVs in Elkhart.  [Obama] was right about the RVs.  That was good.”


Derald Bontrager of Jayco was tapped for stories focused on the painful job losses in the industry that ran in USA Today and on CBS Evening News. On South Bend local television, Bontrager and Evergreen RV President Doug Lantz were interviewed. Said Lantz, “The demand is there, the American buyer is there wanting to buy and purchase the RVs; that’s not the problem.”


National Public Radio interviewed RV dealer Rob Reid, Great Lakes RV Center, Elkhart, who noted that in spite of downsizing and layoffs, “We here in Elkhart like to feel the glass is still half full.  We’re still trying to sell every RV we can.”  Echoing the President he added, “I’ve seen good traffic on my e-commerce site that’s turning into sales, but people who want to buy can’t get credit.”


On local radio station WNDU, Indiana Second District Representative Joe Donnelly said, “ Elkhart may be struggling now but Elkhart’s no different than the rest of this country.  The industry we’re in has been hit hard. Other industries will be hit hard as well if we let this continue.”


Keystone’s Fenech, also interviewed by WDNU, maintained, “The RV industry is not down and out. We're just down. We're far from out.  I feel real confident about our future."


RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella said, "Media coverage this week has benefited the industry by depicting RVs as an American product built by Americans working in an industry that contributes to the economy and is deserving of help.  As the President said, no one in our industry is asking for a handout, just effective policy to solve the credit crisis which is crippling many businesses along with ours."


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