Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Chairman Bruce Hertzke, chairman and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City, Iowa, gave an upbeat briefing to those attending the association’s Annual Meeting Sept. 22-25 at the Kingsmill Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, Va. Hertzke’s message: Contrary to appearances, the future looks good from where he sits.
“Despite economic issues affecting virtually all segments of society,” he said, “the RV industry continues to do well. The future looks bright as younger buyers enter the market and favorable forecasts suggest the next decade will offer prosperity.
“Let us remind each other that if we continue to put aside our differences, we can succeed no matter how difficult the issues might be,” said Hertzke, pointing out that 2004 RV shipments were the strongest in 26 years – about 370,000 units with retail values of more than $14 billion. “As other industries suffer through another lean year, the RV industry continues to build toward the future.”
Hertzke then reminded the audience that economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center predicted during RVIA Committee Week in June that annual wholesale shipments could top 500,000 units annually within the next decade.
“It’s that kind of forecast that underscores the importance of working together in order to maximize the potential that lies ahead for the RV industry,” he said.
Go RVing Coalition Co-Chairman Don Walter, president of Starcraft RV Inc., Topeka, Ind., reported that consumer leads generated by the Go RVing market expansion campaign were up 22% through September compared to 2004 – and that the Go RVing Internet site alone had generated more than 115,000 leads. The coalition –- which will replace the “Pursue Your Passions” theme in print and TV ads after the first of the year with “What will you Discover? Go RVing?” – will spend $68.8 million, up $8.4 million from the 2002-2005 campaign, over the next three years.
New print and TV ads are to be reviewed by industry members on Nov. 29 at the 2006 Outlook Breakfast preceding the 43rd Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.  “We as an industry have discovered that the Go RVing advertising campaign is having a substantial impact on people,” said Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president of advertising and public relations.  “It is benefiting the industry by introducing the lifestyle to a whole new group of buyers. And we are getting a record number of consumer responses, thanks to a growing media budget.
“Most importantly, we have discovered that industry unity is the glue that holds this all together.”
Among the awards presented during the Annual Meeting: National Service Award: Mitch Shatzen, director of marketing for E*Trade Financial and a member of the RVIA Public Relations Committee and Go RVing Coalition; National Legislative Award: U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who was instrumental in securing passage of a new law allowing RV transport companies to use larger carriers so they can haul more trailers per trip. DeFazio also worked to insert pro-consumer language in the 2005 transportation authorization law that supported the RV Friendly logo program on Interstate highways; National Scholastic Award: Don Bray, director of automotive technology, Northampton Community College; National Education Award: Gary Motley, president of Motley RV Repair, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Special Award: Donald J. Walters, president of Starcraft RV Inc., and co-chairman of the Go RVing Coalition; Distinguished Service to the RV Industry Award: Claire Skinner, chairman, president and CEO of Coachmen Industries Inc., Elkhart, Ind., and RVIA’s immediate past chairman.