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The slowing economy has led a handful of RV manufacturers to try to boost sales by getting model year 2002 off to an early start.

Monaco Coach Corp. and Newell Coach Corp. introduced model year 2002 units at the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Winter Convention in Oklahoma City earlier this month.

Meanwhile, National RV Holdings Inc. will introduce the 2002 Sea View gas Class A motorhome in May.

Newmar Corp. also began model 2002 before the traditional July 1 start date, but President Virgil Miller was not enthusiastic about it. “Competition forced us to pull the trigger,” he said.

Starting the model year early is “a sensitive issue” because “dealers are in their peak selling season and are torn between the need for product to sell now, and the desire not to get ‘caught by surprise’ with too much ‘old inventory,’ ” said Joe McDermott, National RV’s manager of motorized sales and service. “While manufacturers also are torn between the desire to maintain predictable new model year introductions and the need to maintain production volume to preserve jobs.”

The need for manufacturers to push product through the pipeline is evident because it appears the industry’s recovery will have a “U” shape, not the “V” shape that many had hoped, Miller said.

“We’ll tread water in 2001 and then there will be a pick-up in 2002,” Miller added.