Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 4, 2013

RV dealers positive about upswing in industry

By ROGER SCHNEIDER roger.schneider@goshennews.com
Goshen News

---- — LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Everyone is smiling at the RV show.

During a year in which recreational vehicle shipments to manufacturers are expected to be 10 percent higher than 2012 and knowing the industry expects a 6 percent increase next year, dealers, manufacturers and suppliers at the National RV Trade Show are totally positive about their industry and the economy.

“It’s our biggest display we have ever had in Louisville,” said Derald Bontrager as he stood on the lush carpet inside the Jayco Inc. display.

Bontrager is the chief executive officer of the Middlebury, Ind., company that is owned by his family. The company also includes Starcraft and Entegra Coach.

“We have had a positive response to the product and a lot of optimism from dealers going forward for the market next year,” Bontrager said between his chats with visiting dealers. “It’s been a very busy morning. It has been non-stop. I am very pleased.”

He said the rise of the RV industry has been across the board, from $500,000 motorhomes to inexpensive pop-up campers.

“We are seeing good sales in all segments right now,” Bontrager said. “There are buyers for every segment of the market right now. I think that is just a sign of the improving economy and consumer confidence. Consumers are willing to spend more money now then they were just two years ago.”

One factor in increased sales, according to Bontrager, is a rebound in the vehicle finance industry.

“Retail financing is just much better,” Bontrager said. “It’s easier for the consumer to get financing. A lot of buyers for our products are payment buyers, they need finances and banks are willing to finance the product in the last two years.”

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association is forecasting a 6 percent increase in RV shipments to retailers next year, which Bontrager said is an achievable gain.

“It would be really, really good for our community back home and employment,” Bontrager said.

Jayco will produce about 30,000 RVs this year.

“We are pretty excited about the future of our company,” Bontrager said.

Nearby at Jayco’s Starcraft display, John and Stephanie Thomson were looking for units to put on their sales lot at Flint Hills RV Center in St. George, Kan.

“It’s been a very good year — sales, service and accessories,” John said. “... I think one reason for that is people who have been shying away from the market for four or five years are tired of waiting and decided to jump in.”

John said the family dealership now specializes in smaller travel trailers, as that seems to be what their local market wants.

“They want something their SUV can pull,” John said.

Owners of Open Range RVs will need a bit bigger vehicle, as the company sells a lot of mid-size and larger fifth wheels and travel trailers.

“It’s actually been a very busy day for us, “ said Josh Streich, sales representative.

Open Range products are manufactured in Shipshewana, Ind.

Streich said some of the company’s dealers attended the Elkhart County open house in September and many will be at this show. A few dealers attend both events.

“The biggest thing is to get them down here and see what we are doing and talk to the right people,” Streich said.

Like most other manufacturers, Open Range has enjoyed a good sales year, according to Streich.

“It’s been a phenomenal year,” he said.