Hansel RV logoHansel RV in Petaluma, Calif., is closing after 35 years in business, the latest victim of an economic slump that has consumers shunning big-ticket toys, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The dealership, which employs 18 people, hopes to liquidate inventory by the end of the month, said Henry Hansel, owner of the Hansel Auto Group, the county’s largest car dealer.

“It’s just been very, very challenging and we just sort of came to the conclusion that it’s going to be quite some time before the market returns to a level where it can be profitable,” Hansel said Wednesday (Nov. 11).

During the boom times of the late 1990s through mid-2000s when home values surged and credit flowed freely, the dealership was selling 60 to 70 RVs a month, Hansel said.

But as the housing market tanked and gas prices rose, consumers dramatically pulled back on their spending and RV sales tumbled.

“The high-dollar discretionary items such as RVs really took a big hit,” Hansel said.

The liquidation sale is the latest in a string of RV dealership closures in Sonoma County. Dan Gamel RV Center shuttered in February 2008 and Santa Rosa RV Center follow suit over the summer.

Hansel is the last of the large RV dealers in the county to pull the plug.

“My hope was kind of that being the last guys standing, so to speak, maybe that would propel us through this,” Hansel said.

But that hasn’t happened. Even though economists believe the recession has ended nationwide, there are few signs that consumers’ appetites for $200,000 motorhomes are going to return anytime soon.

“It could be a very long time,” Hansel said.