It’s a buyer’s market for the would-be RV owner, with sales down, inventory up and many dealers and manufacturers struggling.
But, according to a report in the Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore., the dark cloud over the recreational vehicle industry kept a low profile during last weekend’s RV Show and Sale at Guaranty Family RV Center in Junction City. Traffic was steady with many shoppers intent on purchasing.
“It’s been a great two days,” Sales Manager Gary Hoffman said of the show, a joint event with next-door Camping World that runs through Jan. 11. “We’ve seen more traffic in the last two days than we’ve probably seen in the last two weeks.”
By Saturday afternoon, his crew had closed a half-dozen motorhome sales, Hoffman said.
The strong start to 2009 fuels Hoffman’s optimism that the industry – battered by a combination of record-high fuel costs this summer, tight credit and flagging consumer confidence – will soon rebound.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “People have been looking for a reason to go look at the new models, maybe they’re looking at the lifestyle.”
The likelihood of a great deal lured David and Melissa Huber of Springfield. Ore., to the show, and they found it: a used, 1996 Leprechaun Class C motorhome by Coachmen. The listed price was about $19,000, and they paid $11,000.
“We just figured they were wiling to actually deal on the prices of them a little bit better, because everybody knows the industry’s down,” said David Huber, an avid hunter and fisherman who wanted something he could tow his boat with on the family’s frequent weekend getaways.
Among the more casual shoppers last weekend were Bernie and Ginger Bjornstad of Eugene, who are thinking about trading in their 39-foot Jayco travel trailer for a small motorhome – something self-contained and easier to maneuver.
“We’re retired and we take a lot of trips to the coast, up and down the West Coast, usually one to two weeks at a time,” said Bernie Bjornstad, who spent most of his career as a business manager for a large insurance agency.
They checked out a 2009 Itasca Navion iQ on the showroom floor, which has a suggested price of about $100,000 and gets 17 to 18 miles to the gallon. But they weren’t close to being ready to take the plunge.
“When we do buy, the odds are we’ll probably buy used to keep the cost down,” Bernie Bjornstad said.
Hoffman acknowledged 2008 was a difficult year for dealers and RV makers alike. Last week, on the heels of a series of layoffs and a longer-than-usual holiday furlough, Junction City-based Country Coach told employees it will have to shut down for good in two months if it can’t obtain new financing.
Coburg-based Monaco, meanwhile, has also laid off workers and extended the holiday furlough, and has seen the price of its publicly traded stock tumble over the last year.
But Hoffman said he’s convinced the recreational vehicle lifestyle will not just endure but thrive.
“The biggest thing I’d tell you is we’re optimistic and we have reason to be,” he said. “No one is going to take vacation away from the United States of America.”