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Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann  at the Power Breakfast

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann at the Power Breakfast (Photo by Shawn Spence)

As recreational vehicle shipments surge higher than pre-recession levels, industry leaders are starting to look for new types of customers.

The Elkhart Truth reported that about 750 representatives from RV companies, suppliers, dealers and government officials gathered Thursday morning (May 14) for the 3rd Annual RV Industry Power Breakfast at the RV/MH Hall of Fame. They discussed the state of the industry, the challenges they’ll face in the upcoming year and customers they hope to reach.

Political representatives for the area, including Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, Rep. Jackie Walorski, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, also spoke, either in person or via video, about the industry’s importance for the region and Indiana.

In his introductory remarks, Gregg Fore, president of Elkhart-based Dicor Corp. said shipments for 2015 are projected at about 380,000 units.

It looks like this positive trend will continue for the next few years, said Richard Coon, president of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), a trade organization representing many RV manufacturers and companies that supply RV parts.

Economic factors used to predict RV sales, such as interest rates on loans, fuel prices and home sales, are the strongest they’ve been in years, he said.

Looking forward, the industry is trying to figure out how to market to millennials and tent campers, its two biggest pools of potential customers.

As of earlier this week, millennials — people born from the early ’80s to the late ’90s — surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest segment of the United States workforce, Coon said.

“We’ve done a great job figuring out the baby boomers and what they like doing when they go RVing,” Coon said. “The millennials are the next challenge. We need to pay attention to what they want and need.”

Baby boomers buy RVs to spend quality time with their families, said James Ashurst, vice president of communications and marketing for the RVIA. Millennials, on the other hand, are looking for personal fulfillment and an authentic experience.

“What’s more authentic than spending time outdoors with your family and friends?” Ashurst said.

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