Fifteen months after the RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) board of directors canceled its traditional, 54-year-old National RV Trade Show held each winter in Louisville, Ky., the Virginia-based trade group unveiled a completely reimagined trade event last week (March 12-14) in Salt Lake City, Utah, unlike anything the industry has seen before: “RVX: The RV Experience.”

Borrowing some subtle elements from auto shows, RVX drew loads of positive reviews from the 3,000-plus attendees and exhibitors representing 50 manufacturers and 269 suppliers at the industry-only event held in the modern, 515,000-square-foot Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City – the first western venue for a national RV trade show ever.

A media-centric “Reveal” of novel new RV’s – and the presence of national consumer-facing media in general – seemed to have most impressed veteran industry observers on hand in Salt Lake. Thanks to the efforts of RVIA, led foremostly in this case by President Frank Hugelmeyer and Senior Vice President of Trade Shows & Events Liz Crawford, exhibitors found themselves at times interfacing with national-scale consumer titles like Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Outside, O-The Oprah Magazine, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Wired and MotorTrend TV.

    Next comes a whole new public relations initiative on conventional and social media, the Go RVing Coalition’s “Kick Off To Camping Season,” developed to promote the industry’s message. So, while RVBusiness plans on following up at every turn in the weeks ahead, we thought we’d showcase some of the initial reactions of industry people to what is surely one of the most pivotal moments in modern industry affairs:

Crestview RV Center President and RVDA Chairman Mike Regan: For what they (RVIA) wanted to accomplish, I think they knocked it out of the park with the media and the Reveal and the networking. What’s missing is dealer participation. That’s a disappointment and something they need to look at, but I’m not sure you’re going to get a lot of dealers with a lot of (staff) people here because this is a busy time of the year for every dealer. It’s right in the middle of our show season and we’re trying to kick off our main selling season. Otherwise, some of the manufacturers hit it out of the park by embracing new technologies and new products. They certainly didn’t come to sell anything, but to showcase new ideas and we need to get all of the manufacturers on that same page. 

Grand Design RV President & CEO Don Clark: The new RVX Show was a good platform in that it created a lot of excitement and reached out to non-traditional RV outlets and news media that we haven’t really been successful reaching before. But I also think everyone, manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, RVIA, RVDA, has learned from the show. Anything new needs tweaking and it’s simply a matter of fine-tuning things here and there. My hat’s off to Frank Hugelmeyer and the show committee for pulling it off. 

Thetford Corp. Vice President of Sales & Marketing Mary Pouliot, a member of RVIA’s Trade Show & Events Committee: The show was awesome. The layout was wonderful; very intimate. I was telling folks that I talked to more people at this show than I ever did in a week at the Louisville Show. The amount of media that was here, and the exposure for all of us has been fantastic. What we’ll see now is how that media coverage carries forward so we can get more dealers here next year.

Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. Assistant General Manager Andy Baer: It’s a paradigm shift for a maturing industry. While we’re all trying to handle our day-to-day business, RVX gives us an opportunity to think a little bit more about our longer-term outlook and maybe not be so reactive all the time. We didn’t expect to come here to take a boatload of orders. We came here to see our dealers and vendors, too. And I’ve got to tell you, having the vendors sharing the same space as us has been a great environment and a chance to communicate.

Forest River Inc., GM Doug Gaeddert a former RVIA chairman: RVX was a great industry effort to shift paradigms and shake things up from 50-plus years of tradition — first class as to overall planning and execution on RVIA’s part. Obviously, though, we had feedback that varied greatly and from a pure cost-versus-benefit analysis, it’s probably tough to justify at this point as an OEM without any changes as it was in the same ballpark as a “Louisville” from a cost standpoint, and the benefits are mostly intangibles. As to the future, I’m sure there will be countless conversations around the industry over the next few weeks. It will be interesting as to what the results are, and how we continue to improve as an industry together.

Stromberg-Carlson Products Inc. President Bob Brammer, an RVIA Trade Show & Events Committee member: This is a great and different look for the industry, and it’s still important to bring everyone together once in a while just for a chance to talk to each other, have a little community and then bust out and go back to work. I love the location. Getting out of Louisville was important for breaking bad habits. They’ve (RVIA) done a great job of branding the show, and I like the innovative thinking I’m seeing here. We’ve got to work on dealer attendance obviously, but we have to create a show first so the dealers will come to it and feel productive while they’re here.

Newmar Corp. Director of Sales Jay Kinney: With the expectations we had coming in, we knew this would not be an order-writing show. We didn’t come here with that intention. We came here in the spirit of the RVX, which was to showcase the industry and our company to have more of an auto-show type of theme. I think our display, which only included four pieces, showed that. We had Fox national and local news in our display. We had the RV Geeks in our display for a half an hour on a webinar that was pre-registered for over 7,000 people, and I think they said that there were over a thousand people that were there for the full half hour, which, they say, is kind of unheard of. So, from what our expectations were, I think we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw – all things considered.”