Editor’s Note: Without mentioning company names, including Camping World Inc./Good Sam Enterprises LLC, Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., Escapees RV Club CEO Shawn Loring and the Escapees board of directors published the following statement as part of “A Message from the Board” column in the Livingston, Texas-based club’s most recent September/October issue of Escapees magazine. The privately held Escapees, along with the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and the Good Sam Club, are among the nation’s leading independent RV consumer groups.
More Volume to Your Voices: The RV industry changed substantially in the weeks prior to this writing. A major company comprised of a chain of RV stores, dealerships and an RV consumer club announced its plan to raise money by going public and selling their stock to engage in growth.
Also in recent news, one of the largest RV manufacturers announced its acquisition of one of its competitors. The result of the consolidation among RV manufacturers is that two companies now control approximately 83% of the production in the United States. This will result in a handful of companies now controlling a significant amount of the production and distribution of RV’s.
We grow concerned about industry consolidation as we ask the question: to whom are these companies responding? Whose voices matter most? Large companies can have values and act in the best interest of their customers and many do. For instance, Escapees RV Club holds its values as sacred ground. We feel your voices should matter most.
When companies have shareholders, the people controlling those companies have an obligation to protect and promote their interests. In some cases, protecting and promoting the interests of the shareholders translates to profit maximization. It’s realistic to foresee a situation where the goals of the shareholders would be out-of-sync with the goals of their customers. Competition is what compels shareholders’ goals to remain synced with their consumers and it forces companies to respond to their wants and needs or they risk losing market share. However, when a few companies dominate an industry, less competitive pressure exists. If there are only a few RV manufacturers and few distributors, then consumers have a limited number of choices as to where they can buy RVs and which RVs are available for purchase. Essentially, consumers may find themselves in a take-it-or-leave-it situation.
Oligopoly of the RV Industry: The RV industry, especially from the standpoint of RV manufacturing, is an oligopoly — a state of limited competition where a small number of producers or sellers share the entire market. Some people distrust oligopolies because of the potential for abuse of consumers. The potential for abuse results when companies choose profit maximization over their consumers’ best interests. The result is consumers having no alternatives and they must choose from a limited selection of RVs, or don’t buy. However, one argument for industry consolidation is that, to affect industry-wide change, one merely needs to appeal to a few companies. This is with the assumption that the aforementioned companies are truly receptive to the voices of their consumers. The bottom line is that the companies’ values matter and your voices need volume.