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Accelerating gas prices combined with rising interest rates are causing some Minnesota consumers to downsize when purchasing a new recreational vehicle.
According to the Pioneer Press, St. Paul, smaller motorhomes are currently tripping the hot button with consumers.
At Imperial Camper Sales in Newport, a strong seller is the fuel efficient Class B Roadtrek. The unit, produced by Home and Park Motorhomes Ltd. of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, is capable of getting around 15-16 miles per gallon.
The Winnebago View and Itasca Navion, diesel Class C motorhomes based on a Sprinter chassis that get 17 to 19 miles per gallon, are also bucking the industry’s downward trend.
“They’re pretty much selling them as fast as they can make them,” said Ed Aaron, an RBC Capital Markets analyst in Denver who follows the RV industry.
At Brambilla’s in Shakopee, Jack Brambilla said he’s making up for a dip in sales with more service revenue as people repair older RVs. He’s also having a record-setting year for rentals, which run $1,000 to $2,300 a week.
But some RV owners see no point in compromise.
Mike Hackler, a 33-year-old framing contractor, and his wife just dropped $89,000 at Imperial for a new 35-foot Fleetwood Bounder motorhome complete with a washer and dryer. His friends told him he was “nuts” when they saw it, he said. Hackler called the decision a no-brainer.
“I bought it so I could spend time with my family. We’re going somewhere once a month, regardless,” said Hackler, who has two children. “You’re only young once.”
Sure, he said, you can stay at hotels, but there’s no freedom. “You don’t have to sleep in someone else’s bunk, either,” Hackler said.
Others don’t flinch at paying a dollar more for gas than they paid 18 months ago.
As another Fleetwood Bounder owner, Sandra Hoogenakker, 62, of Spring Park, put it, what’s $500 extra to get to Florida when the alternative is a Minnesota winter?
People between 55 and 64 are the peak motorhome ownership bracket, although buyers are increasingly younger, said RBC’s Aaron.
Demographics may be buffering the industry from the double whammy of higher fuel costs and interest rates. The swell of well-heeled baby boomers heading toward retirement has already buoyed demand for RVs, said Tom Walworth, general manager of Statistical Surveys Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich., market-research firm.
“If we had had this same run-up in gas prices five years ago, this industry would be in a lot worse shape,” he said.