RVB_GE_LogoThe vast majority of North American RV dealerships — 94.8%  – were profitable in 2014, according to a nonscientific “2015 RVB/GE Dealer Survey” of RV retailers co-sponsored in February by RVBusiness magazine and GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF).

The survey, designed to provide a look back at 2014 and a speculative glance forward at 2015, showed that of those profitable dealers responding, a total of 23% posted growth of more than 20% while 29.7% reported gains of between 10% and 15% while another 21.6% experienced hikes of up to 5%.

“Of course, these results come as no real surprise to most industry observers inasmuch as the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) year-end reports indicated that total wholesale shipments to retailers of all RVs last year reached an eight-year high of 356,735 units,” noted RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.

“However, the first-ever RVB/GE Dealer Survey tends to give us a little clearer picture as to the nature and extent of the recent upsurge,” he added, pointing out that 62.7% of profitable dealers surveyed posted their “greatest incremental gains” in new RV sales. Dealers also registered solid improvement in F&I (41.3%), service (41.3%), used sales (40%) and parts and accessories (33%).

Looking ahead, the survey indicated, a substantial majority of those 77 responding dealers — 81.8% — are anticipating a good year in 2015 when combining the 67.5% who are expecting a “better” 2015 with the 14.3% who are looking for a “much better” business environment this year.

Consequently, in one of the survey’s more interesting twists, an impressive 44.6% are planning to expand their operations this year “either organically or by acquisition.” And 75% are likely to add staff in 2015, especially in service and parts.

“This optimistic outlook is consistent with everything we’re hearing around the industry from the first quarter of 2015,” stated GE CDF RV Group President Tim Hyland. “With shipments up almost 12% in January, 2015 has started out well with traffic and sales reports from U.S. and Canada showing strong results.”

Among the top-line survey highlights:

• Nearly 24% of the responding retailers expect a change of ownership at their stores within the next five years.

• Roughly a third (35.5%) say they have a succession plan in place while another third (35.5%) have “somewhat” of a succession plan in hand and the rest (29%) have no plans for handing their dealerships over to the next generation.

• More than half (55.3%) are not “content with the current state of RV industry trade shows,” while the rest (44.7%) are OK with the status quo.

• A majority (56.6%) report that Internet sales “contribute significantly” to their annual revenues while 36.8% don’t garner an appreciable amount of trade from the World Wide Web and 6.6% do no virtual business.

Check out the March/April issue of RVBusiness for more survey details.