RVIA: National Media Honing In On The RV Arena

December 5, 2017 by   - () Leave a Comment

After working at last week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), found himself in northern Indiana today (Dec. 4) shepherding a crew from CBS Evening News.

The television crew was to visit Jayco Inc. in Middlebury, Ind., for a “feel-good” segment to close out the network’s evening newscast either Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

RVIA Director of Media Relations Kevin Broom

“Basically, we pitched them to come to the RV show. It made it across the desk of a producer who did a story in 2009 for CBS about how bad the economy was. This is when unemployment was about 20% in Elkhart County. When he saw that story, he thought it would be great to come back and do a different kind of story about how great the RV industry is doing, just to sort of bookend that story from 2009,” Broom told

The pending report by “CBS Evening News” is only the most recent example of what has been a slate of positive national media coverage lately. The RV industry is on a roll and the national press – prompted by some well-placed pitches by Broom and partners – has taken notice.

The coverage by CBS as well as the Associated PressReutersThe Wall Street Journal, “CNN Money,” Entrepreneur Magazine,CNBC and Fox Business coincided with the Louisville Show, which just completed its week-long run at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

“The message that we went to them with was that the industry is setting records. We set a shipments record last year. We’re breaking it this year. We’re probably going to break it next year. We’ve been growing ever since 2009. Now, we’re at record levels,” Broom said.

“The enticement was come to the show or talk to our executives and learn why this industry is growing so fast,” he added.

The media coverage has taken on a similar tone. Fueled by strong demand among buyers young and old as well as a host of other favorable economic factors, the RV industry is set to hit 505,600 wholesale shipments in 2017, a 17.4% jump from last year and its eighth straight year of growth. Furthermore, the industry is projecting 520,700 shipments in 2018. 

As quoted by Timothy Aeppel of Reuters, RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer said “each and every month this year was the best on comparable record for that month.”

This is in stark contrast to 2009, noted Bruce Schreiner in his piece for The Associated Press, when shipments plummeted to 165,700 – the lowest level in nearly two decades.

“Manufacturers and dealers … are pointing to solid fundamentals including favorable fuel prices, strong consumer demand and available credit as key factors behind the unprecedented growth,” Schreiner wrote. “They’re also starting to see more adults in their late 20s and 30s browsing showrooms and dealer lots alongside more traditional customers — older couples looking ahead to retirement.”

“Now the aisles are full of baby strollers,” Dan Pearson, owner of PleasureLand RV Center in Minnesota, told Schreiner.

In a television interview from the Louisville Show floor with Stuart Varney of “Varney & Co.” on Fox Business, Winnebago CEO Michael Happe explained why RV sales are skyrocketing.

“There are a lot of factors that contributed to the growth of RVs here in the U.S. Certainly the economic conditions we are experiencing right now are strong and steady. Our customers have access to financing, so it’s definitely part of the equation that’s leading to record shipments in the RV industry,” Happe said.

When asked by Jim Cramer, host of “Mad Money” on CNBC, whether there’s a “lifestyle change” contributing to the success of the RV industry, Thor Industries President and CEO Bob Martin said consumer sentiment is “a huge part of it.”

“And it’s a younger demographic,” added Martin, who also was interviewed on the Louisville Show floor. “The industry is really reaching this younger buyer. We are probably still ahead of the Millennial, but we are reaching the Gen X and Gen Y demographic and we’re starting to talk to the Millennial. But it is this change in lifestyle; that you can use an RV not to just to go to a campground but to a kids game – whether it’s baseball, soccer or lacrosse or concerts.”

While economic factors were certainly a major part of the RVIA’s pitch and the media’s coverage, Broom pointed out that another message was that “you’re seeing some really innovative products, some new building materials, new designs, new floorplans that are mix of the kinds of amenities and size and styling that consumers are looking for today from an RV.”

Perhaps as a sign of the times in print and broadcast media, none of the national press actually attended the show. Instead, they relied on information and resources provided by Broom and two RVIA partners, Boyle Public Affairs, which include Jim Boyle and Karen Baratz, as well as Diane McNamara and Christy Hamilton from Fire It Up PR.

“None of those national reporters actually came to the RV show. They did it all based on what we pitched them, or we’ve worked with them in the past, and they were interested to do the story. Then they basically took our interviews. They took our phone calls. They took our information, and they ran the stories,” Broom said, adding that the television interviews were done with local personnel rather than the networks sending their own crews.


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