Monday, May 5, 2008

RV Lifestyle Trumps High Gas Prices at RV Rally

According to an article in USA Today, one topic that isn't getting much focus - is the rise in gas prices. Hard-core RVers, which include many of the 8,000 attendees at The Rally that ended Monday (March 17) at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, will tell you an RV isn't just a vehicle. It's a lifestyle. And a little thing like $4-a-gallon gas isn't going to put the brakes on a way of life.

Fuel efficiency wasn't a hot topic among the 300 vendors here, either. Over at the Born Free Motorcoach exhibit, for instance, the spec sheet inside a spanking new 32-foot $174,015 President model offers details on cabinet finish (cherry), toilet type (porcelain) and upholstery (leather) but is mum about what it costs to actually drive the thing. "It's something that gets talked about enough without you pointin' it out," said sales manager Jerry Ehrhardt.

Wholesale shipments of RVs, which run the gamut from humble folding camping trailers to luxury motorhomes, peaked at 400,000 in 2006. The industry attributes the subsequent drop to 354,000 last year to the overall economic slump rather than rising fuel costs. But with the first wave of 79 million Baby Boomers poised for retirement, industry experts are betting that boom times are on the horizon.

According to USA Today, the 1,000 or so factory-fresh rigs on display at the fairgrounds, with names such as Renegade, Conquest and Dynasty, speak to the notion that you can take it with you. Super-deluxe models can cost in the seven figures, and even more modest rigs (starting, say, in the $250,000 range) sport 42-inch-screen TVs, surround-sound systems and granite countertops.

"As Baby Boomers age, they clearly want more than their parents had," said Mike Schneider, president of Affinity Group Inc., sponsor of The Rally and owner of RV-related clubs and publications including RVBusiness. "Their parents were do-it-yourselfers. They're the do-it-for-me generation." Buyers "have made their money, and they're going to enjoy it," he said.

While the RV industry struggles in this economic downturn it's clear many consumers have their minds set on owning an RV and are not distracted by high gas prices or a possible recessions. As one RV attended put it, "Recessions come and go its cyclical just like anything else. I have been planning on purchasing and RV for eight years and I am not going stop living my dream of owning an RV just because of high gas prices or a slowing economy".

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