Recreational vehicle dealers accounting for about 70% of California’s RV sales attended the California Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (CalRVDA) annual meeting in late February to discuss the industry’s continuing surge as well as a potential ballot initiative to repeal controversial gas and vehicle taxes that took effect late last year under SB-1.

The Feb. 22 meeting, held at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, attracted more than 70 dealers, including top representatives from All Season’s RV Center; Giant RV; Happy Daze RV; La Mesa RV; Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores; and Richardson’s RV Centers Inc.

SB-1 would invest $5.4 billion a year for the next 10 years to address a backlog of road and bridge repairs, and urgently needed congestion relief across California. The bill would use additional gas and vehicle tax revenue to repair 500 bridges, 17,000 miles of pavement and 55,000 culverts or drains, with the money being split between state and local projects.

While CalRVDA has not taken a formal position on SB-1, it does support California Proposition 69 on the June 5 ballot, which would require transportation taxes and fees to be used exclusively for transportation projects, said Terry McHale, CalRVDA’s executive director.

At the time of this writing, SB-1 opponents were gathering signatures in an effort to put a gas tax repeal initiative on the November ballot. But Bill Craven, chief consultant to the California Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee, told dealers at CalRVDA’s annual meeting that he couldn’t predict if opponents of the gas and vehicle tax increases would be successful.

“Even if (the ballot initiative) does qualify, it’s going to be a hell of a fight,” he said.

Bill Craven, chief consultant to the California Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee

Craven noted that the supporters of SB-1 include state and local governments, state and local transportation authorities, transit districts as well as the thousands of workers who would be employed by transportation projects across the state. He added that advocates will likely raise significant funding to defeat attempts to repeal the legislation.

On other topics, Craven noted that California has eliminated the structural deficit in its state park system during the past couple of years and also installed credit card readers so people no longer have to pay park fees with cash.

CalRVDA’s annual meeting included a presentation by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia who talked about the continuing strength of the RV industry heading into 2018, citing statistics from the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Statistical Surveys Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich.

RVIA tracked a record 504,600 RV shipments in 2017 and anticipates 520,500 shipments this year, based on the latest estimates by Richard Curtin, the University of Michigan economist who produces the association’s closely watched shipment forecasts.

Statistical Surveys, for its part, reported that the motorized secctor showed a 20.5% increase in Class C motorhome retail sales in 2017, with Class B vehicle sales up 26.5%. Class A motorhome sales were up 0.2%. On the towable side of the business, travel trailer sales were up 12% in 2017, fifth-wheels increased 9.7% while folding camping trailer sales were down 5.6%, Ingrassia stated.

McHale told RVBUSINESS.com he fully expects strong RV sales to continue this year, based on feedback he’s receiving from dealers across California. He added that dealer backlogs remain very healthy.

“I think there’s a certain optimism,” McHale said, basing his comments on feedback from CalRVDA meeting attendees. “Business looks good in California. The product is moving. Millennials like the idea of being on the open road. It’s a good time to be in this business.”

“We’re very optimistic about our future,” said Darrell Friesen, a past chairman of RVDA who owns All Seasons RV in Yuba City, Calif. “Business is going great.”

Steve Claude, vice president of customer service for Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc., said he is optimistic about his company’s 2018 sales prospects as well.

“We’re growing, we’re expanding, and we’re looking for new opportunities,” Claude said, adding that he traveled to California to attend the CalRVDA meeting to support Jayco dealers across the state.

CalRVDA’s annual meeting included welcoming remarks by CalRVDA President Steve Richardson of Richardson’s RV Centers as well as a 90-minute session on strategies to help dealers avoid Lemon Law disputes by Richard L. Stuhlbarg and Amanda Heitz of Bowman and Brooke LLP, a Minneapolis-based law firm that specializes in product liability cases. CalRVDA’s annual meeting was preceded by a golf tournament and dinner on Feb. 21.