In what has become a tradition for national recreational vehicle rallies in general, rain plagued the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 76th International Convention as some 3,100 coaches gathered Aug. 14-17 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte/Concord, N.C.
Five inches fell over three hours during the second night of the convention just as entertainment was about to begin. “Otherwise, the convention went well,” Jerry Yeatts, FMCA’s director of conventions and commercial services, reports.
Rising fuel prices, rather than rain, likely hampered convention attendance, Yeatts said. “Our numbers weren’t what we expected them to be,” Yeatts told RV Business. “We had a little over 3,100 families. We were really hoping for 5,000. However, three weeks into our registration period is when fuel prices began to spike.”
In addition to registered coaches, some 600 commercial units were on display plus another 230 were on hand for demonstration purposes.
“Even though the numbers were a little lower, from speaking to both our coach and supplier exhibitors, they all thought it was a very good show,” Yeatts said. “One manufacturer in particular said it was the best show in three years, and others were very happy with what happened.”
Product-wise, some manufacturers and retailers said they are seeing a steady move toward smaller coaches. “Two years ago, everybody was going bigger and wanted 45-foot quad slides,” said Eddie Marshall of Tom Johnson’s Camping Center, Marion, N.C. “Now, you’re starting to see more and more of the smaller stuff.”
Among the smaller coaches drawing attention at Charlotte was the new Sprinter Roadtrek RS-Adventurous van camper by Home and Park Motorhomes Inc., Kitchener, Ont. “People gravitate towards us because of the simplicity that we offer and, over and above that, there is the trade-down market,” said Paul Cassidy, Home and Park sales director. “There is a lot of downsizing going on. And a lot of people don’t think the big machines suit them.”
By the same token, Scott Lucas, district sales manager for Winnebago Industries Inc. stood next to an Winnebago View minimotorhome built on an imported DaimlerChrysler Sprinter cutaway chassis that has been drawing a lot of consumer attention lately. “Downsizing has been a big topic this year,” Lucas offered. “Gas mileage is real important to a lot of people. As soon as we launched this product, it became very popular.”
That’s not to suggest that only small motorhomes were on display during the FMCA convention. For instance, National RV Inc., Perris, Calif., introduced a new mid-priced Pacifica diesel pusher, while its sister company, Country Coach Inc., Junction City, Ore., debuted a Tribute as its new entry level A-body series with a price tag topping $260,000.
Meanwhile, Fleetwood Industries Inc., Riverside, Calif., added a full-wall slideout to the luxury American Eagle and American Heritage diesel pushers, while unveiling a revamp of the Discovery Class A pusher, also with a full-wall slideout. And Coachmen Industries Inc.introduced a new, bright yellow, diesel-powered Sportscoach Pathfinder at the Charlotte race track.