Despite a general sense that the RV industry as a whole has struggled through 2006, that is far from the case, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Chairman Bruce Hertzke said as he convened his second and last RVIA Annual Meeting Sept. 21-23 at St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif.
“2005 was a strong year that saw shipments hit a 27-year high at more than 384,000 units,” said Hertzke, chairman and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc. “(Predictions are that 2006) will be nearly identical to the record shipments of last year despite rising fuel prices and interest rates.”
Additionally, he said, an updated demographic study by economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan provided continuing optimism for the long-term in part because of the Go RVing market expansion program. “That those under age 35 posted the largest gain in owners’ rates over the past four years is testimony to the industry’s promotional efforts bringing in more young families,” Hertzke said. “And, demand for RVs will continue to grow during the next decade due to favorable population trends and purchase intentions. In fact, by 2010, RVs will be owned by 8.5 million households – an additional 8% increase over today’s numbers.”
At the Chairman’s Dinner that concluded the meeting, Hertzke was praised by incoming Chairman Carl Pfalzgraf, executive vice president of Atwood Mobile Products, for leading RVIA’s search for a new president for the first time in more than 30 years following the retirement of David J. Humphreys in January, and for fostering initiatives and programs “to ensure that the industry continued on its path of growth and success.”
“With his calm, pragmatic manner, he shepherded a smooth transition that maintained balance and stability as RVIA continued to operate in a business-as-usual mode,” Pfalzgraf said.
In his report to members, RVIA President Richard A. Coon, who succeeded Humphreys in January, reinforced Hertzke’s proclamation that 2006 actually will turn out to be a banner year for the RV industry, although business through the end of the year is expected to decline – a trend that will continue through the first part of 2007.
“Keep in mind that we are ahead of last year right now by about 12%,” Coon said.
Coon noted that even though Curtin predicts a 42,000-unit decline in 2007 shipments led by travel trailers and fifth-wheels, the year’s 342,000-unit production would still amount to the “fourth best year in 25 years, volume-wise.”
In his comments at the Sept. 23 membership meeting, Coon explained changes approved by the board in a Sept. 21 session that increased from eight to 12 the number of manufacturer seats and from four to seven the number of supplier seats on the board while reducing the at-large representation from seven to two members and conversion vehicle seats from two to one.
Coon acknowledged that the board’s new makeup puts more control in the hands of manufacturer representatives. “This is an association of manufacturers, and we wanted to make sure the board reflected that,” Coon said. “The changes on the board are absolutely appropriate and will lead us into the future.”
Additionally, the board decided that if a member takes a job with another company, his or her seat may be filled by the company the board member previously worked for. “You can’t take it with you when you go,” Coon said.
The board, in turn, rejected a plan that would have had manufacturers, suppliers and conversion companies vote only for those candidates from their specific segments running for seats on the board.
RVIA’s board also decided to return the annual meeting to a February/March time frame – where it was until last year – beginning in 2008 in Hawaii. “The September time frame is very difficult,” Coon said. “We only have these (specific) dates (because) there is stuff in front of us and stuff behind us. So, when we go out looking for hotels, we are very limited. And it’s also a very busy time for us with the Louisville and Pomona (shows).”
In 2007 an abbreviated annual membership meeting with an accompanying board meeting will be held in Las Vegas either right before or right after the Sept. 25-28 Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) convention/expo.
In other action the board decided that, starting with the 2007 National RV Trade Show Nov. 28-30 in Louisville, Emergency Living Units (ELUs) sold to the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not be used in the allocation formula for exhibit space.