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Attendance has been strong at recent RV retail shows but consumers, because they are worried about the U.S. possibly going to war, are reluctant to buy right now, according to the heads of several RV manufacturing companies who were interviewed recently.
Some manufacturers have responded to the slowing retail demand by reducing their production schedules to four-day work weeks. Monaco Coach Corp. and the Keystone RV Co. subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc. reportedly are among that group.
However, the RV company executives also believe that the retail market will quickly rebound, as occurred shortly after the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.
The healthy attendance levels at recent shows is a sign that the retail market will bounce back once the uncertainty fades, many in the industry believe.
At the Georgie Boy Manufacturing subsidiary of Coachmen Industries Inc., President Pat Terveer said the number of motorhomes Georgie Boy is shipping to its dealers currently exceeds the number of units its dealers are selling. However, Terveer said, he is not concerned right now because Georgie Boy’s dealer inventories were too low the last 18 months.
“We remain cautiously optimistic, knowing that if war breaks out there will be some impact. The question is the duration and what the price of gas would be,” Terveer said. “Because we went a year and a half with our inventory down, we’ve been protected a little.”
At Forest River Inc., President and CEO Pete Liegl said, “Production is extremely steady. Last year was a damn good year. I’m keeping my finger on the pulse, and everything is basically OK.”
If the cost of gasoline continues to rise, Liegl said, there could be some additional problems.
“I think the customer will tolerate $2 a gallon,” he said. “But after $2, it will begin to start some problems. There will be a resurgence in smaller, light-weight units if gas prices become a problem. There may be a shift.”
If the war proves more difficult than many now believe it will be , Liegl reasoned, “Things might change,”
Because Operation Desert Storm was brief, he said, “It caused us (the RV industry) a glitch for a few weeks.”
All things considered, he said, “I’m not concerned at all.”