By Jeff Jefcoat, F118344
Each year during the week after Thanksgiving, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) stages a trade show for the RV business community. It features a large display of recreation vehicles, from 10-foot pop-up trailers to 45-foot motorhomes. The 2002 National RV Trade Show took place in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 3, 4, and 5.
Approximately 80 manufacturers unveiled their 2003-model chassis, trailers, fifth wheels, small motorhomes, medium-sized motorhomes, large motorhomes, and super-sized motorhomes. Companies that sell RV-related items, such as parts, accessories, and services, also set up shop to show others what they can provide. The latest RV models and accessories filled 749,400 square feet of exhibit space at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Since this is a trade show, it is not open to the general public.
RV dealers from across North America take advantage of this annual event to select the makes and models of vehicles they plan to display and sell the following year. The show is also for the manufacturers themselves, as they have the opportunity to see the newest innovations in the products they use to build their recreation vehicles.
This year’s show was very upbeat, with smiles and enthusiasm prevalent. RVIA president Dave Humphreys was very pleased with the attendance. Usually, the number of attendees increases from the first day of the show to the last. This year, the first day’s attendance figures exceeded the last and best day of 2001.
Final 2002 sales figures have not yet been released as I write this, but 2002 appears to have been a very good year for most RV manufacturers and dealers. The RV industry is one of the few that saw an increase in business after September 11, 2001. More people bought or rented a recreation vehicle for their vacations and travel plans. The decline in air travel fueled an interest in RVs, as did the baby boomers’ interest in and need for a better mode of leisure transportation. It’s likely that these will continue to be positive factors for the RV industry.
We often wonder what other enhancements can be made when we view the new models. Many innovative design ideas and accessories still are being introduced to enhance this great lifestyle. Some appear to be practical and others seem a bit “out there,” but who knows how the purchaser of the future might respond?
One chassis manufacturer featured a motorhome foundation with a 330-horsepower diesel engine mounted between the frame rails, centered between the front and rear wheels. At least one motorhome was shown utilizing this chassis; designers had taken advantage of the free space by installing a rear cap that could be lowered as a ramp, and a small automobile could be driven inside for transporting. I was so fascinated with the rear of this unit that I forgot to check out its living area.
Another manufacturer displayed a motorhome with a staircase in the living room that led to a patio on the roof, with a railing around the edge that folded down for travel. It was a perfect sun deck and could prove to be popular among auto racing fans.
At least one chassis builder had developed a new air suspension system, with larger-than-usual air bags on the rear and a reserve auxiliary air tank. The tank permits air to flow to and fro as needed, making the traditional shock absorber practically unnecessary “” and creating a softer and smoother ride. This unit also featured an independent front end suspension system for better ride and handling.
FMCA is always well represented at the RVIA trade show with a large multiple-booth display. National office staff who work in the Communications and Convention departments greet and meet the manufacturers, dealers, and industry leaders who attend this event “” many of whom they regularly deal with for FMCA business.
On Wednesday evening, December 4, FMCA sponsored a reception for magazine advertisers and convention exhibitors. Although 7 inches of snow fell that day, it was a well-attended affair. FMCA hosts this get-together as a way to show our appreciation to the recreation vehicle industry for its support.
One final note. As we visited with the heads of major RV manufacturing companies, I was very encouraged by the steps that some of them have taken to improve motorhome quality. One CEO stated that they have placed a person at the end of each of the factory’s four assembly lines; each individual’s sole responsibility is to assure that every facet of the unit he or she allows to leave that line is in complete working order. This doesn’t simply mean making the unit ready for the dealer, but ready for the consumer. This news truly is encouraging.