Along with the omelets and pork sausages in the buffet line, Doug Gaeddert, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a general manager of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., served up some straight-shooting opinions in his remarks during the RV Power Breakfast, May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center, a part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart.
Here’s a few highlights from Gaeddert, who served with Dicor President Gregg Fore as a co-emcee:
Current shipment vitality: “Total shipments for the first three months of 2009 were approximately 30,500 units compared with 79,422 units for the January through March period of this year. That’s a whopping 160% jump. So, if you feel like you’ve been running faster and working harder – you have been and that’s great for all of us. It’s also great for the local communities in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We’re all somewhat joined at the hip and the positive ripple effect has been felt by nearly everyone – even the local, state and federal governments who seem to be constantly complaining about revenue.”
Hershey Show & the Open House:“Not as RVIA chairman or a long-term Forest River-Pete Liegl guy, but as an industry guy, I think the Open House Week, as it has come to be known, has been a positive for the industry and hits at a perfect time. While negatively impacting the Dealer Days of Hershey, whose wholesale value has steadily declined anyhow over the years, it has more than made up for it by further enhancing the retail portion of the show. With the Open Houses immediately following Hershey, the number of dealers attending the Pennsylvania Show from outside the market who don’t show product has declined, but most, if not all of the products being displayed at Hershey, are now what’s ‘new’ for the upcoming year. This gives retail customers the opportunity to get the first look and actually purchase new industry offerings. This is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in North America.
“Becky Lenington and the folks at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA) have done an awesome job of developing Hershey into one of the most outstanding retail shows on the continent. They draw people from a wider geographic area and in larger numbers than ever before, and dealers sell a ton of product. This has become, in my opinion, a destination show of the highest quality. I’m not going to get drawn into a comparison though of it versus Tampa or Pomona. They’re all tremendous shows!
“Hershey kicks off the fall schedule and Louisville effectively closes it. Post-Louisville surveys over the last couple of years have shown that the majority of dealers participating will continue to go to the Open Houses and will continue to attend Louisville – and don’t want to change the time frames of either. Seems pretty simple: They like both of the events as well as the timing. Obviously it’s not unanimous, but it’s an overwhelming majority. With that being said, I predict a certain degree of consolidation will occur among these other fall events, just as it has occurred in other sectors of the industry over the last few years. Nature will take its course over time, but nobody will successfully force it.”
RVIA’s Louisville Show: “Although industry shipments have been rising rapidly over the last few years, the number of OEMs, suppliers and dealer/owners has shrunk by around a third. With an approximate 33% reduction of players in these key categories, not even taking the campground ownership consolidation into consideration, why in the world would you expect attendance at this show to have grown? In my opinion, Louisville has hit the leveling-out point, and with possible further industry consolidation ahead, I don’t see it growing significantly, but I do see it remaining steady and continuing to grow in value.”
RV-Specific Legislation: “Cars and RVs shouldn’t operate according to the same rules. As our industry continues to grow, mature and consolidate, I believe it will become even more important that we see RV-specific legislation replace automotive legislation in those states in which we as an industry are governed by car laws. Oklahoma is an excellent recent example of a win/win/win for our industry by everyone working successfully together to get RV-specific law into place. RV manufacturers, RV dealers and RV suppliers deserve to play by rules specific to our industry. We are the RV industry, not the car industry – and proud of it.”
RV Transportation Issues: “One challenge which the industry seems to face every year in the spring is a shortage of finished goods transportation availability. As many of you are aware, this sector is currently struggling to keep up and will be until at least the first week of July. We are attempting a new and different approach by utilizing RVIA’s resources to see if we can’t help smooth it out for the long haul.
“RVIA is exploring several possible strategies in hopes of being able to positively impact the RV transportation sector for both the United States and Canada. No promises at this point, other than we are diligently working on it. If successful, however, it will be too late to affect spring and summer of 2013. We hope to be able to help the industry improve the peak shipping periods of 2014.”
Credit Availability:“I think it is crucial our industry — which includes all of us — remains disciplined in our approach to credit. Solid practices are one of the keys to our growth remaining real and sustainable. If we slip back into the same lax practices the industry utilized in 2008, we’ll end up with the same result. 2009 reminded me of a fastball I once threw that was hit back at me a hell of a lot faster than I threw it, resulting in my second broken nose and a busted tooth! Let’s not throw that same fastball as an industry again!”
Industry Relationships: “Probably the single coolest thing to me about being involved in the RV Industry for all of these years is the people. Take a minute to look around the room. Most of us compete with each other, sell to each other, buy from each other, finance each other, represent each other, write about each other and, yeah, probably even cuss at each other sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re also basically good friends. It’s a close-knit industry that, while growing rapidly, is also getting smaller at the same time.”
The Power Breakfast was sponsored by RVBusiness magazine, sister publication to Woodall’s Campground Management and www.woodallscm.com.
The Forest River Owners’ Group (FROG) will hold its 2nd Annual FROG International Rally Aug. 4-10 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., according to a press release.
FROG Director Bob Byrne reported that the event will feature six nights of camping, 10 meals, live entertainment, plant tours along with factory service. In addition, participants will have the option of participating in any of five Amish Country tours.
“Last year’s inaugural FROG International Rally was a tremendous success,” Byrne reported. “With over three months to go, registrations are already 25% ahead of last year’s total, and more are arriving every day. We’re looking forward to a wonderful time and a really exciting event again this year.”
FROG has seen strong growth from its inception at the beginning of 2012, and now includes over 16,000 registered member families. Over the past year it has organized and conducted to Washington, D.C.; La Belle, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; Branson, Mo.; Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Tucson, Ariz.; Las Vegas; Grand Canyon, Ariz.; and Albuquerque, N.M.
Still on tap for this year are Niagara Falls, Ontario.; Colorado Springs; Grand Teton National Park; Yellowstone National Park; the Black Hills; and a return to Charleston, W. Va. Locally organized events have also been held or are scheduled in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas.
Byrne noted there are still spaces available for vendors at the FROG rally. Interested vendors can contact him for information at (574) 825-8532, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information and registration forms for the FROG Rally are available on the group’s website, www.forestriverfrog.com. Visitors to the site can either click on the “FROG Rally” button, or go to the “FROG Rallies and Trips” page.
Editor’s Note: The final portion of the park model, cabin and yurt presentation in the February issue of Woodall’s Campground Management appears below.
Athens Park Homes LLC
2013 Focus: Athens Park Homes is ramping up its park model construction across the country following its July 2012 acquisition by Troy, Mich.-based Champion Home Builders, which operates park model manufacturing facilities in Chandler, Ariz.; Weiser, Idaho; York, Neb.; Athens, Texas; Sangerfield, N.Y.; Lillington, N.C.; and Lake City, Fla. “Right now, pretty much all of the plants have built one or two models,” said Dick Grymonprez, Athens’ director of national park model sales. He said the variety of manufacturing plants across the country will help Athens offer more competitive prices to private park operators and consumers. “We had shipped to 37 states before the Champion acquisition,” he said. “But now we’re able to build the Athens Park brand closer to where the user is. We’re also able to buy materials at better prices because of Champion’s buying power, so we can build park models for less money.”
Background: Athens Park Homes was founded in September 2004 by a group of investors spearheaded by manufactured housing veteran Phil Surles, who was a former COO of Troy, Mich.-based Champion Enterprises, the parent company of Champion Home Builders.
Management: Phil Surles, president
Contact Information:3401 Corsicana St., Athens, TX 75751; (903) 677-0108; fax (903) 677-0118; www.athensparkhomes.com
Dutch Park Homes Inc.
2013 Focus: Dutch Park signed up several new dealers at the Louisville show and is expanding its reach across the country. “We think we have the best fit and finish and quality in the park model industry,” said sales manager Larry Weaver, adding that the company is continuing to make “fit and finish and quality” its focus areas in 2013 along with a stepped up marketing of its rental products to campgrounds.
Background: Dutch Park Homes was founded in 1999. Omer Kropf purchased the company in October 2003. The company recently relocated to a different manufacturing facility in Goshen, about a half-mile from its original plant.
Management: Kermit Kropf, president
Contact Information: 2249 Lincolnway East, Goshen, IN 46526; (574) 533-8090; fax (574) 533-8210; www.dutchpark.com
2013 Focus: Breckenridge is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry. “We’ve been a partner of KOA (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) and LSI (Leisure Systems, Inc.) and we’ve sold our share of rental products to those companies. We also do quite a bit of business with independent campgrounds,” said Bob Phillips, Breckenridge’s general manager. He said production of rental units for campgrounds is a good way to help private parks broaden their business base, while also introducing consumers to park models. “If we can get folks interested in going to campgrounds and spending time in rental units, some may make an investment in park models as a second home,” Phillips said. With this in mind, Breckenridge is continuing to develop even more luxurious interiors.
Background: Tim Howard founded Breckenridge on Sept. 23, 1991, as a stand-alone division of Damon Corp. with about eight to 10 employees, several of whom had worked with Howard at Mallard Coach Corp., another Nappanee park model company. Breckenridge continued to operate as a Damon division until Thor Industries acquired Damon in 2003. Howard retired Feb. 1, 2012. Bob Phillips, whom Howard hired as his first employee, now manages the company. “I was his director of engineering for 19 years,” Phillips said.
Management: Bob Phillips, general manager
Contact Information: 656 North Delaware, Nappanee, IN 46550; (574) 773-5353; fax (574) 773-2124; www.breckenridgefinerliving.com
Cavco Industries Inc.
2013 Focus: Cavco is continuing to position its product innovations with several soon-to-be-announced park model products that will be industry firsts. “I think innovation is what has kept Cavco in the game,” said Tim Gage, Cavco’s national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products. “We’re being really innovative on working with the new developers of campgrounds or resorts, whether it’s on the East Coast or West Coast. We’re creating some awesome exteriors and concepts that keep us one step ahead. The interest continues from developers and campground owners with requests for larger volume weekend getaway cabins and cottages. People seem to be staying close to home and want above-average accommodations.”
Background: Cavco started producing park models in the early 1990s and began offering cabins and cottages in 2001. Cavco continues to be an industry leader and has continued to grow its market share and competitive edge by acquiring other companies, including Palm Harbor Homes, Fleetwood and Nationwide Homes, which provide Cavco with the ability to produce park models in every region of the country. Cavco currently produces park models in Phoenix and Goodyear, Ariz.; Seguin, Texas; Nampa, Idaho; Woodburn, Ore; Rocky Mount, Va.; Martinsville, Va.; Riverside, Calif.; Millersburg, Ore.; and Plant City, Fla.
Management: Tim Gage, national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products
Contact Information: 1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004; Phone: 602-763-5488; fax (623) 882-2845; www.parkmodels.com, www.cavco.com and www.fleetwoodparkhomes.com
Chariot Eagle Inc.
2013 Focus: Chariot Eagle has introduced a series of 8½-foot-wide park models with slides that have proven to be very popular as rental models, said Joe Follman, the company’s sales manager. Chariot Eagle has also included even more optional items in their models as standard equipment, including marble windowsills, night stands with overhead cabinets above the bed, new extended drawer guides and space saver microwaves. Chariot Eagle has also expanded its usage of tape and textured residential finishes at new competitive prices in their 2013 models.
Background: Robert Holliday founded Chariot Eagle in June 1984 with five employees and subsequently built it into one of the larger park model manufacturers in the country, with manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Ocala, Fla., and at its sister plant, Chariot Eagle West, in Phoenix, Ariz., which it opened in 1995 to service the West Coast market. Both plants build the same types of products, although their floor plans vary and architectural styles vary to reflect regional architectural tastes in exterior design. Chariot Eagle specializes in customized park models and has developed more than 650 different floorplans.
Management: Robert Holliday, president
Contact Information: 931 NW 37th Ave., Ocala, FL 34475; (352) 629-7007; fax (352) 732-0026; www.charioteagle.com. For Chariot Eagle West, 8100 W. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85043; (623) 936-7545; fax (623) 936-7012; www.charioteaglewest.com
Fairmont Park Trailers
2013 Focus: Fairmont Homes’ Park Trailer division is stepping up its involvement in the park model rental business, having introduced a new rental unit at the ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in November, which generated significant interest from private park operators. “This is our first concerted effort to get into the rental market,” said John Soard, Fairmont Homes’ general manager. “We’ve got the ability to do higher volume building so we can be more efficient for dealers and campgrounds with rental products.”
Background: John Soard spent 20 years with Breckenridge and Woodland Park before joining Fairmont Homes in 2005 to run the company’s park trailer division. Fairmont Homes had been in the park model business back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and exited the market in 1994 to focus mainly on housing. But the company re-entered the park model market in 2005 when Soard joined the company as general manager. He said Fairmont Homes uses its housing expertise to build more durable and livable park models. The company has been expanding its market share in recent years.
Management: John Soard, general manager
Contact Information: 502 S. Oakland Ave., Nappanee, IN 46550; (800) 777-8787; fax (800) 865-2294; www.fairmontparktrailers.com
Forest River Inc.
2013 Focus: Forest River is conducting a major overhaul of its park model products. “We are in the midst of the biggest series of product changes in several years,” said account manager Gary Duncan, adding that the company has introduced four new floorplans and expanded its offering of wood colors, cabinet designs and window treatments. New kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans and pull out pantries are now featured in most floorplans. New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture has been updated. Interior doors are also now stained to match the cabinets. On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows. Duncan said the changes have been well received. “We had an extremely good show in Louisville,” he said. “We signed up several new dealers, primarily as a result of the product changes we made.”
Background: Peter J. Liegl founded Forest River in January 1996 with an initial product lineup that included towable RVs and park models. Acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2005, Forest River has continued to expand its product line, which now includes motorized RVs as well as restroom trailers and mobile offices. Its park model products are certified green and are manufactured in the Quail Ridge, Summit, and America’s Park Cabin model lines. A floorplan for the physically challenged is also available.
Management: Jim Foltz, general manager
Contact Information: 28936 Phillips St., Elkhart, IN 46514; (574) 264-7163; fax (574) 264-7364; www.forestriverinc.com
H L Enterprise Inc.
2013 Focus: H L Enterprise is focusing on expanding its dealer network of independent retail dealers including many campground owners. H L offerings provide flexible floorplans rather than the typical “cookie cutter” approach most often seen in the industry, according to Peggy Flager, H L Enterprise president and co-owner. “We are able to give our customers more of what they want and accommodate specific needs, including those involving limited mobility” she said.
Background: With over 100 years of combined RV industry experience, including the establishment of the original Hyline in 1986, owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff started H L Enterprise Inc. with the purchase of assets and the right to manufacture the Hyline product in January 2011. Product lines were broadened with the subsequent purchase of assets of Bridgeview Manufacturing and a portion of Discover Canada. The result is the current line-up of Hyline, Bridgeview, Georgian Bay and Harborview models.
Management: Co-owners Peggy Flager, Charles Ragland and Randy Hoff and General Manager Steve Stone
Contact Information: 21674 Beck Dr., Elkhart, IN 46516; (574) 294-1112; fax (574) 970-1303; www.hlenterpriseinc.com
2013 Focus: Pacific Yurts continues to expand its business in both domestic and international markets. “Our custom-curve window has been quite popular,” said company President Alan Bair. “It has a patent-pending design integrating a thermal pane window and beautiful curved wood frame, making the yurt more energy efficient.” Bair is also seeing growing demand for larger yurts. “Our customers are adding kitchenettes and bathrooms and more interior amenities. The “glamping” trend continues,” he said.
Background: Pacific Yurts was established in 1978 as the original manufacturer of the modern yurt. Pacific Yurts is the largest yurt manufacturer in the world with most of its sales taking place in the U.S. and Canada. However, the company also sells significant numbers of yurts to customers in Europe and Asia. International sales account for about 5% to 10% of Pacific Yurts’ business, but international sales are growing, according to Bair.
Management: Alan Bair, president
Contact Information: 77456 Highway 99 South, Cottage Grove, OR 97424; (541) 942-9435; fax (541) 942-0508; www.pacificyurts.com
Pinnacle Park Homes
2013 Focus: Pinnacle Park Homes is expanding its offering of floorplans for its cabin rental products this year. “We took input from campground owners and are tweaking our floor plans,” said Terri Stewart, co-owner of Pinnacle Park Homes. “Our cabin rental line has done very well for us.” Pinnacle Park Homes has also established new lender relationships, which it shares with campground operators who need financing for their park model purchases. “Financing is still tough, but we keep building relationships with people,” Stewart said.
Background: Founded in 2003, Pinnacle Park Homes offers numerous park model floorplans with vinyl, Hardiboard, cedar or log exteriors. In addition to producing park models with vinyl and rustic exteriors, Pinnacle Park Homes produces the Lighthouse series of floating cabins, which are park models constructed on a floating device. The company also offers ADA compatible and ADA compliant park models based on campground needs and requirements.
Management: Terri Stewart, co-owner
Contact Information: 26488 GA Highway 3, Ochlocknee, GA 31773; (229) 574-5159; fax (229) 574-5184; www.pinnacleparkhomes.com
2013 Focus: Skyline is having market success with new park model designs that include drywall interiors, which can be more easily repaired than damaged wood paneling. This feature is of particular interest to campground operators who use park models as rental accommodations. “This past year and a half we’ve gotten the product where we wanted to get it,” said Terry Decio, Skyline’s vice president of sales and marketing, adding that the company had very successful trade shows in Elkhart, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. Its rental product line, initially launched through a partnership with ARVC, is gaining traction in campground industry.
Background: Skyline is a diversified company that produces travel trailers and fifth-wheels as well as manufactured homes and park models. Its park models include both 8½-foot-wide and 12-foot-wide units. Skyline has been building park models since the early 1980s. It currently manufactures park model rental units in five factories across the country, including Hemet, Calif.; McMinnville, Ore.; Lancaster, Wis.; Ocala, Fla.; and Leola, Pa.
Management: Kevin Garthus, national product manager
Contact Information: 2520 By-Pass Road, Elkhart, IN 46515; (800) 755-6521, fax (574) 294-6521; www.skylinecorp.com and www.skylinepm.com
Editor’s Note: The following story is excerpted from the February issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. Later this week, www.woodallscm.com will report in further detail trends in the park model, cabin and yurt industry and provide comments from the nation’s leading builders of these covered shelter products.
This year might be the year that the recreational park trailer industry snaps out of its multi-year slump.
At least that’s what the major manufacturers are hoping for and telling Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) for its annual park model, cabins and yurts issue. And to what extent the nation’s campgrounds bolster their covered shelter inventory will go far in determining the success these OEMs experience in 2013.
The major campground chains, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), each reported a hearty demand for covered shelter in their parks in 2012, which encouraged the park model OEMs as they begin to fill the pipeline for 2013. KOA said deluxe cabin rentals, a key point of emphasis right now, was up more than 20% in 2012 with registration revenues growing 19.5% higher than in 2011.
LSI reported that rental unit revenue rose 17% in 2012 from 2011. Double-digit growth has been recorded the past three years.
“Some people (parks) are not really taking advantage of this,” LSI President Robert Schutter said late in the year. “This is an area that we can exploit for many years. We have not maxed out.”
Builders are taking a variety of steps to grow their market share in both the campground and retail marketplace.
Industry leader Breckenridge, a division of Thor Industries Inc., the RV industry’s No. 1 manufacturer, is stepping up its production of rental units for the campground industry. The company, which captured more than 25% of the retail park model market in 2012, has taken many steps to broaden the appeal of its 12-wide Extendable and Perfect Cottage series, explained Bob Phillips, general manager of Nappanee, Ind.-based manufacturer, which is a preferred provider for KOA and LSI, two of its two largest customers.
“What we’re trying to do is anchor the market we’re in,” said Phillips. “Breckenridge has always been a leader in the 12-wide market. I don’t think we’re going to venture much outside that.”
In its Extendable Series, the company has adopted a full fiberglass front cap and tried to make a lot of the former options now standard, he explained. Color schemes have been changed.
In the entry-level Fine Line Series, three new floorplans are geared more to families and first-time buyers and are more economical, he said.
A lot of former options are now standard in the Perfect Cottage series. New features include wholehouse vacuums and heavy-duty, pullout kitchen spray faucets and softened interior color schemes.
“A number of campground dealers should be excited about that product (model),” he said.
In the last three years, Breckenridge has become more serious about its campground rental units, Phillips said. He termed that market “a different beast” from the retail market and said the company has attempted to shore up this market.
Breckenridge also offers a rental unit it has “hardened” for the demands of campground users. “For a rental product, it’s very bullet-proof for a campground,” he said.
Phillips said Breckenridge is proud of its No. 1 position in retail registrations and welcomes the competition. He said those builders gaining market share with Breckenridge are doing so in the 8 ½-wide market.
“We want to make sure those nibbling don’t get too close. They have pushed us in what we do,” he said.
Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, the nation’s No. 2 RV builder and among the five largest park model makers, has done a total overhaul of its park model offerings for 2013 in its high line Quail Ridge and entry-level Summit product line.
The company has introduced four new floorplans so far and revamped its interior decors for these 12-wide models. Many formerly optional features are now standard on the Quail Ridge line and may be available on Summit products.
Interior doors are now stained to match the cabinets. New cabinet designs and styles, new kitchen backsplashes and hidden hinges for cabinets were introduced. Cabinets now have pulls instead of handles and ball-bearing glides. Kitchen cabinet and pantry shelves are now adjustable. Countertop choices were expanded. Pullout trash cans are now inside the pantries.
New window treatments feature hard valances and give a more upscale look. Accent furniture was updated.
On the outside, new vinyl siding colors were added. Shutters have been added to entry doors and loft windows.
“Competition was at the heart of the need to change,” said Gary Duncan, account manager for the Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer. “We weren’t gaining market share in recent years. These changes are recognition of competition and where the product needed to be. It was getting stale. Minor changes weren’t going to cut it; we really had to do something dramatic.”
The company also has upgraded its cabin-like park models, which it builds to customer specs. The basic model is a derivative of a KOA floorplan, which is tailored to meet the customer’s needs. Forest River made few changes in its cabin offerings, other than improving its interior paneling and upgrading its wooden cabinets. Cabins are available with vinyl, cedar lap or cedar log siding.
Lead times for Forest River products are about six weeks.
Cavco Industries Inc., a publicly held company, was keeping under wraps several soon-to-be-announced park model products that will be industry firsts.
“I think innovation is what has kept Cavco in the game,” said Tim Gage, national vice president of park models, cabins and specialty products for the Phoenix-based manufacturer.
As reported earlier by WCM, Elkhart, Ind.-based Skyline Corp., another publicly held company and in a solid third place in retail sales among park model builders, has opted to resume park model production at its manufactured housing plants in Wisconsin and Oregon based on the dealer response to Skyline’s park model display at the Louisville Show, said Mike Scheid, division general manager of Skyline’s plant in Leola, Pa.
The Shore Park is built in a manufactured housing plant and uses many of the components used in manufactured housing. For example, it’s one of a few manufacturers who use drywall inside their park models.
“We figured out a way to ship it without cracking,” he said.
He said his plant picked up eight to 10 new dealers at Louisville and business looks to be up 25% to 35% again this year. Canadian business also is growing, he added.
“We’re looking forward to gaining market share and upping our revenues,” he said.
Its plant location in Leola also helps keep freight costs down to customers in the Northeast, compared with the park model builders based in Northern Indiana, he said.
The Canterbury brand name has been in the industry since 1982 and today is manufactured by DNA Enterprises in Goshen, Ind. The company’s core product offering is 12-wide park models which come in three distinct price tiers, noted company spokesman Kevin Wells. The Bayview is the entry-level model, the full-featured Parkvue is for the upscale buyer and the Select is a custom-made product.
RVIA Smiling After Big Louisville Show
As WCM reported in its January issue, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) came away from the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show held in Louisville, Ky., optimistic about the 10 park model manufacturers who exhibited 2013 product there.
For the first time, the builders were allowed to bid on space anywhere within the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Before 2012, the builders were limited to specific areas of the exhibition hall.
This was the first Louisville Show held since the Georgia-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) was shelved and the bulk of its members invited to rejoin RVIA after a hiatus of more than a decade.
“The feeling was very positive. It goes to the whole notion they are part of the overall RVIA family again,” said Matt Wald, the RVIA’s recreational park trailer executive director. “Both psychologically and from the traffic flow, they felt it was a good deal for them.”
Other firms showing at Louisville were: Athens Park Homes/Champion, Breckenridge, Chariot Eagle, DNA Enterprises (Canterbury), Dutch Park Homes, Fairmont Homes, Kropf Industries Inc. and Woodland Park.
20 Park Model OEMs Join RVIA
On July 1, 2012, the RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of recreational park trailers, also known as park models. By year-end, 18 manufacturers, representing upward of 95% of annual park trailer production, had joined the RVIA, with two other applications pending inspection of their facilities.
“We had anticipated having 15 members; we have exceeded our expectations. Everybody is happy about that,” Wald said.
All but two of the new members were members of the RPTIA, which still exists, but in name only.
“A couple of OEMs are still not in the RVIA family, but we would love to have them aboard,” he said. “Some are waiting to see if this ‘marriage’ works before investing in it. We think it is a value proposition they can’t stay away from.”
A new page on the RVIA’s homepage at www.rvia.org pertains to recreational park trailers with a link to annual shipment figures and other information.
The industry is coming off a second straight year of little if any year-over-year growth, but Wald and others see a glimmer of hope in the future.
During the past year, Champion Homes purchased Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas, and has begun to produce Athens Park product in Champion plants across the U.S., which Wald calls “a pretty significant entry into the park model side of the business.” This puts them in the same national markets with industry leaders Breckenridge and Cavco, Wald noted.
Aside from anecdotal evidence and monthly wholesale shipments, which RVIA tracks, Wald said major players told him following the Louisville Show their orders were solid. “With the economy turning the corner, it could be a good year in 2013. I would like to be cautiously optimistic and say I do not expect a drop-off in 2013. I’m expecting a ‘flat’ year but hoping for better,” he said.
Issues such as consumer confidence, the “fiscal cliff” and financing are beyond RVIA’s control, he noted, “but I think it’s fair to say this industry is solid and primed to grow, hopefully this year,” he said.
Forest River Inc. has announced the appointment of Gary Duncan as general manager of Forest Rivers’ Park Model Division effective Feb. 1. Former General Manager Jim Foltz will continue on with the division assuming other responsibilities.
Duncan joined the park model sales team in November 2011 and has been instrumental in the redesign of the entire product line, as well as executing new ideas for product enhancements and the marketing of our products, according to a news release.
Duncan has a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, with 15 years of varied experiences in the RV industry. Prior to the RV Industry, Duncan served in a variety of sales and engineering capacities with Tier 1 automotive suppliers.
Duncan can be reached at (574)-264-2513 (office), or via email at email@example.com.
For more information on the Forest River Inc. Park Model Division, visit www.forestriverinc.com/ParkModels.
RVBusiness magazine, sister publication of Woodall’s Campground Management, today (Jan. 9) announced it has named leading RV builders Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc as co-newsmakers of the year.
Click here to read the story on RVBUSINESS.com.
A perceptible change was afoot Nov. 27-29 at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.: The prevalence of park models set up among the sprawling 730,000 square feet of traditional motorized and towable RV’s.
Not since the mid-1990s when they parted company with RVIA had the park trailer manufacturers been such a serious factor as Louisville Show exhibitors. Now that their Georgia-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) has been shelved and they’ve been welcomed back as RVIA members along with the rest of the U.S. recreational vehicle industry, a total of 10 park trailer builders were displaying 2013 product at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC).
The exhibitors were Skyline Corp., Forest River’s Park Model Division, Athens Park Homes/Champion, Breckenridge, Chariot Eagle, DNA Enterprises (Canterbury), Dutch Park Homes, Fairmont Homes, Kropf Industries Inc. and Woodland Park.
“The feeling was very positive. It goes to the whole notion they are part of the overall RVIA family again,” said Matt Wald, the RVIA’s recreational park trailer executive director. “Both psychologically and from the traffic flow, they felt it was a good deal for them.”
RVIA created a new membership category in July for park trailer builders, and, by year’s end, 18 manufacturers representing about 95% of annual park trailer production had joined the Reston, Va.-based trade association, with two other applications pending at press time. “We had anticipated having 15 members,” said Wald. “We have exceeded our expectations. Everybody is happy about that.”
All but two of the new members were affiliated with RPTIA, which still exists in name only. “A couple of OEMs are still not in the RVIA family, but we would love to have them aboard,” said Wald, noting that there’s a new page on the association’s www.rvia.org website pertaining to park trailers with a link to annual shipment figures and other information. “Some are waiting to see if this ‘marriage’ works before investing in it. We think it is a value proposition they can’t stay away from.”
Skyline’s display was as prominent as any at the 2012 Louisville Show. In fact, Skyline, headquartered in Elkhart, Ind., has opted to resume park model production at its manufactured housing plants in Wisconsin and Oregon based on the dealer response to its Louisville Show park model exhibit, reports Mike Scheid, division general manager of Skyline’s Leola, Pa., plant.
Skyline showed a Shore Park-brand unit built in a manufactured housing plant and using a host of manufactured housing componentry like residential-style drywall, said Scheid, adding that his plant picked up eight to 10 new dealers at Louisville and business looks to be up 25% to 35% again this year. Skyline’s Canadian business also is growing.
The Elkhart-based Forest River Park Model Division showed three new park model floorplans at Louisville. Even though the company’s display was in “an obscure corner of the northwest wing,” dealers came to buy. “Our product changes were well received,” reports account representative Gary Duncan. “Dealers came with a purpose.”
Forest River has targeted its marketing toward campgrounds, a hospitality arena that Wald calls “one of the hottest growth areas” for park models because of the fact that so many campgrounds are buying and leasing these units – many of them with rustic aesthetics — to first-time campers and others without RVs in what amounts to a burgeoning “cabin” style of accommodation.
Nowhere was the pulse of the industry more evident on Tuesday (Sept. 18), the first full day of Elkhart County’s Annual RV Open House Week, than Forest River Inc.’s teeming Dynamax facility on the north side of Elkhart, Ind., where lunch was being served to thousands of dealer personnel as members of the company’s senior management greeted the U.S. and Canadian retailers.
“So far, it’s noon of the first day and it’s packed in here,” Forest River President & CEO Pete Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com, drinking coffee amid the clatter inside the expansive Dynamax plant in which motorhomes are displayed on elevated lifts. “We’ve got a lot of people coming in and, so far, the enthusiasm’s good and the ordering’s good.”
And why shouldn’t there be plenty of enthusiasm around Forest River’s Open House display and northern Indiana’s RV-building hub of Elkhart in general, considering that business is “extremely good right now” and has been all year for RVs and the other markets in which Forest River has a hand, including marine, commercial bus, cargo trailer and manufactured housing?
Pointing out that last week’s Hershey Show in Pennsylvania was a “barn burner” of an event at which Elkhart-based Forest River did “phenomenally well” in selling “virtually hundreds of units,” Liegl anticipates that Forest River, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, will exceed $3 billion in annual gross revenues for the first time in calendar 2012.
Even the first rain to fall in five years on the Open House didn’t seem to dampen spirits around Forest River’s County Road 6 complex where more than 500 towable and motorized recreational vehicles are on display.
“This industry’s doing extremely well – extremely well, and marine’s come back strong, especially in the pontoon area which we’re in,” he added. “Cargo trailers are doing good. Buses are doing extremely well, very profitable with big back orders. RVs are doing good, motorized and towable. You know, there is no problem here. Last year was one of our best years ever, and this year is turning out to be even better. “
Liegl’s comments are particularly interesting, considering this is an election year in which the uncertainties of a presidential campaign are often said to cast doubt and indecision among consumers.
“I know we’re doing OK,” said Liegl, noting that Forest River only saw a serious recessionary impact in part of 2009. “A lot of other people in the area are doing well. I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be, but it’s not as good as it could be, either.”
Meanwhile, Don Gunden, a divisional general manager and another outspoken member of Forest River’s management team, also sees good things in the products he handles such as the Rockwood, Flagstaff, Palomino, Sabre and Columbus towable brands.
“Business has been good,” said Gunden. “I mean, I look at my numbers and consistently, month over month, we’re better than we were a year ago and better than two years ago. So, its been consistently better in the towable brands I handle, which top out in price at about $55,000 retail for a Columbus (fifth-wheel).”
And Gunden is also anticipating another solid growth year in 2013, although he’s clearly keeping an eye on the nation’s political landscape.
“Yes, my outlook is tempered because we have elections that could have consequences,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “You know, the only (negative political) thing that I see, honestly as the industry progresses and grows today is that we’re leaving a segment behind. The population that everybody professes to be trying to bolster is the segment that keeps getting hurt — the first-time buyer. Lower income people are being hammered worse than anybody else. And if we don’t change things politically, they’ll just get worse. We’re not doing anything to enhance their life because we’re taking opportunity away from them.”
Year-over-year motorhome registrations increased 13.8 percent in July while sales rose 4.2 percent for the first seven months, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI).
As reported by RVBUSINESS.COM, Thor Industries Inc. ranked as the motorhome sales leader year-to-date with a 20.7 percent market share, followed by Winnebago Industries Inc. (19.4 percent) and Forest River Inc. (12.1 percent).
In the Class A category, registrations in July gained 10.8 percent compared with 2011, while sales were up 4.5 percent for the seven months. Winnebago led the category year-to-date, posting a 21.5 percent market share, while Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. held a 20.5 percent share and Thor was No. 3 with an 18.1 percent share.
Class C sales grew 17.7 percent in July and 3.9 percent% for the seven months. Thor led the category through July with a 23.6 percent market share, followed by Forest River’s Coachmen division (19.5 percent) and Forest River (17.6 percent).
Rental registrations, primarily Class C sales, fell 12 percent in July.
To subscribe to this or other SSI reports, contact Scott Stropkai, national RV sales manager, at (616) 281-9898 ext 128, or (616) 446-8179 (cell).
No matter how you look at it, things are looking up now and for the foreseeable future in the recreational vehicle industry.
That’s very important to Elkhart County and the state of Indiana, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The RV industry employs more than 24,000 people in Elkhart County, including RV manufacturers and suppliers. Northern Indiana builds 82 percent of all recreational vehicles in the United States, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
And the rebound of the RV industry is reflected in how much the unemployment rate has fallen in Elkhart County since 2009.
The unemployment rate is down to 8.9 percent in Elkhart County in June, a nearly 10 percentage point drop from the 18.3 percent mark it reached in January 2009 when Elkhart County was the poster child of the Great Recession.
But it’s the positive numbers coming out of the RV industry that further tell the story.
Wholesale shipments of all RVs were at 29,079 units in May of this year’s, according to the RVIA. That’s up 4.9 percent compared to May 2011. And for the first five months this year, RV shipments are up 8.6 percent compared to the same period last year.
“The industry is recovering,” said Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the RVIA. “We are not recovered. There is still some distance to go to get back to where the industry was before the recession.”
True, but the 2012 numbers are a far cry from 2008 and 2009. And this year is expected to mark the third straight year of increased shipments.
Steady rise since 2010
In 2009 shipments totaled 165,700 units; down 30.1 percent from 2008. Manufacturers shipped 237,000 units in 2008, which itself was down 32.9 percent from 2007 due to the recession.
Shipments in 2007 totaled 353,400 — the fourth highest total in the past quarter century, according to the RVIA. And 390,500 RVs were shipped in 2006, which was the high water mark for the past 25 years.
Mac Bryan, vice president for administration for the RVIA, believes those type of record numbers can again be achieved some day.
“It’s just how long will it take,” he said. “I think this growth will be steady but slow. You won’t see an all-time record in 2013 or 2014, but it’s moving in the right direction.”
University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin has long studied the RV industry. He predicts totals reaching nearly 270,000 shipments this year, which would be up nearly 7 percent over last year’s total of 252,300.
He believes shipments will reach 280,000 in 2013, up nearly 4 percent over 2012.
“In some difficult economic conditions, RV shipments continue to improve,” said Bryan of the RVIA. “That’s a positive sign in all of this.”
Dealers doing well
Robert Reid, owner of Great Lakes RV, says he’s seen an 18 percent sales increase through the first quarter, and he expects it to be even greater than that for the first six months.
He credits a number of reasons for the increase, including an early spring. “People were out early and we were able to capture some of that,” Reid said.
That kind of weather is not typical, of course, he said. But Reid also believes there are other factors involved in the success of his dealership, including its focus on customer service. Plus many of his former competitors are no longer in business as a result of the recession, he said.
“We sell a lot of fifth-wheels and travel trailers,” he said. “We put our investment into what was moving the best.”
He, too, sees the industry gradually climbing “rather than exploding.”
The willingness of banks to loan money to credit-worthy customers and the reduced volatility of the stock market also have played a factor in the sales increase, he said.
“It’s just basically, the general conception that everything is going to be fine for a while,” he said. “We haven’t had the $6 a gallon gas prices and people have not been losing their jobs.
“People are feeling more comfortable the last two or three years.”
Another factor that could keep those numbers rising is Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, where RV ownership is the highest.
Things looking up
There is evidence, certainly in Elkhart County, that things will continue to get better.
The recent news that RV maker Forest River Inc. plans to hire 440-plus workers by 2015 shows continuing improvement for the industry and the economy. Other RV manufacturers have added hundreds of jobs over the past few years and additional expansions are in the works.
“Consumer confidence has not come back to what it was pre-recession, but it has come back some,” Broom said. “And credit markets are tighter than they were but people can at least get loans today,” Broom said.
Pent-up demand, after years of consumers staying away from major purchases, also has helped, said Bryan.
And in some ways, it comes back to a simple fact — people like the lifestyle.
“They enjoy the freedom and flexibility,” Broom said. “To get away with their family and do it inexpensively.”
According to the RVIA, 8.9 million American households now own an RV.
“This is a good way to vacation,” Bryan said, noting some folding camping trailers go for as little as $3,000. “We want to get out with our families and our friends and do things, and this is an economical way to do it. “It’s all value oriented. Here’s a way of doing a lot of things with one investment.”