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Gas price concerns certainly aren’t what they used to be in the RV business. That’s appears to be the only conclusion one can draw from the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll.
Slightly more than 6% of those responding by e-mail in late April felt rising fuel prices posed a serious risk for the RV sector this year.
Although surging gasoline prices continue to make headlines across the nation, nearly 57% believe that price hikes will have little effect on their business.
A closer look:
• 7.3% foresee a “negligible” impact.
• 49.6% expect a “minimal” impact.
• 36.1% anticipate a “moderate” impact.
• 6.2% expect a “serious” impact.
• 0.8% foresee a “severe” impact.
The recent survey of registered visitors to RVBUSINESS.com, the RV industry’s only daily news site, underscored the upbeat assessments of RV industry insiders just days after the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced worldwide production cuts.
Respondents offered a variety of reasons for their optimism. While some blamed the rising fuel costs on the growing instability in the Middle East, others speculate that worldwide terrorist activity will underscore the value of staying home and seeing America in the safety and comfort of an RV, a trend that has been widely documented since 9/11.
“Due to overseas unrest, traveling and vacationing in the USA will be strong for many years to come,” said one survey respondent. “Gas prices will not affect travel much, unless we have low reserves and rationing.”
“As in the past,” added another respondent, “as long as fuel is readily available, the price probably won’t have much effect. Families are still going to take vacations and use their RVs. Possibly they won’t travel as far as they have in the past, but they will still travel.”
Another respondent offered three explanations as to why current spikes in gas prices are not having the same impact as the dramatic increases that took place in the 1970s. For starters, he said, Americans have a stronger desire to travel within the U.S. than during previous price increases. In addition, he maintained, the widespread use of SUVs has “anesthetized” the public somewhat to the difference in fuel efficiency between the family car and the family RV. The affect of rising gas prices also is being offset by the entry of  Baby Boomers into the RV market.
Some survey respondents expressed concerns, however, both about the impact of rising fuel costs and the strength of the economy.
“The economy is not yet as strong as it should be,” one respondent asserted. “Younger consumers may still be nervous over job security. This situation, coupled with the cost of gasoline, could cause hesitation in the purchasing decision.”
Another respondent said his motorhome sales have been hurt by “the combination of war, soft economy and rising fuel prices,” although his towable sales were up.
But most survey respondents were upbeat in their analyses.
“It seems to me that the gas price situation is being overrated by the media,” one individual wrote. “We in the USA still have the best situation with supply and price in the world. I believe that it is a shame to complain when we as a country have it so good.”