By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Happy New Year! While we really enjoyed the several-week break, I’m excited to be back at work and am prepared for what I expect to be a year of change for the RV industry — as if 2016 didn’t see enough change.
First of all, I know I promised a follow-up story on the RV recalls today, but I really need to speak with some folks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first. We’ve been playing phone tag since I was on my Caribbean cruise, but I haven’t been able to connect with anyone at NHTSA or the Department of Transportation’s public affairs office.
Hopefully, I can have a follow-up story later this week or early next. It’s an important issue facing the RV industry and we’d like to relate the most up-to-date information from the best resources possible.
While on my cruise, I reported that Forest River had threatened legal action against RV Daily Report for tying recalls with product quality. Others have since told me its not so much a product quality issue as a product safety issue, which is why I really want to talk with someone in authority at NHTSA.
However, during our break, a major RV manufacturer was successful in intimidating several of our advertisers to withdraw their financial support in 2017, despite having previously committed to an ad schedule. It will cause a short-term disruption, but should not pose a long-term issue.
One of the flaws in our business model is that we only have a very limited amount of ad space available in our newsletter and on our website. Demand for space usually outpaces supply, so we expect to replace those advertisers shortly. If you want details on advertising, email Pam Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know this, those advertisers that remain are truly dedicated to supporting an independent media not controlled by corporations. Plus, they are steadfastly committed to product quality and improving the customer experience for everyone who owns recreation vehicles. They deserve the support of RV dealers and consumers alike.
After the Forest River story was published, I will say that I was deeply humbled by the numerous offers I had from people to fund a legal defense fund should legal action come to be.
I even spoke with an elected official from Indiana last week who read the story and relayed his own story about buying two defect-ridden RVs from Elkhart manufacturers and about how an RV dealer hired to fix his motorhome actually took the RV to a Notre Dame football game and burned out the slideout motor in the process. You can’t make this stuff up.
Still, we will make several changes to RV Daily Report to improve our cash flow for expected legal challenges from Forest River, an RV dealer upset that we linked to a story about a customer filing a lawsuit, and other firms that have threatened us in recent months. Ahh, the joys of owning a media company.
The first big change I’m announcing today is that I will be coming off the road and selling my motorhome. In 2016, it cost me $3,210 per month to keep the RV on the road. The annual costs included:
- $7,200 for motorhome payments
- $10,011 for repairs
- $4,247 for fuel
- $3,238 for insurance
- $2,220 for cellular internet service
- $11,611 for campground fees
To put it in perspective, for the same amount of money I spend each month to stay in an RV, I could have a home in Wisconsin and a home in Texas, take a 7-day Caribbean cruise each month and have enough money left over to enjoy an In-N-Out Double Double or Chipotle burrito every evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed traveling the country for the past three years interviewing dealers, suppliers, manufacturers, campground owners and RV owners. But, by coming off the road I am hoping to regain some semblance of objectivity. Being too close to the frustrations experienced every day by RV owners was taking a toll. In fact, I stopped telling people at campgrounds that I was an industry journalist because I would be subjected to their stories of woe concerning their bad experiences with a manufacturer, dealer or campground.
When all you hear is negative stories, it’s hard to see situations or businesses in a positive light. Coming off the road should provide a much-needed attitude adjustment.
The second change we’re announcing is the discontinuation of our consumer publication Let’s RV. It had been a dream of mine to work in the RV consumer market since I got involved in the RV industry in 2000. But, I estimate that I’ve spent more than $250,000 over the past five years trying to break into that market, but just couldn’t find a niche.
The newsletter enjoyed an open rate and click through rate nearly double that of RV Daily Report, but we just couldn’t develop the audience in a sea of competing voices where nearly everyone who RVs full time has a blog.
Besides, the industry really doesn’t need another website cheerleading about the RV lifestyle when a handful of big corporate CEOs could care less about the quality of that lifestyle experienced by millions of RV owners and wannabees.
Yes, we could become consumer advocates. That was recommended by many people in the past year. But, as has been proven, we would shoot ourselves in the foot by irritating the syndicate of large RV companies that publicly advocate for product quality and better consumer experiences, but work behind the scenes to destroy voices that seek to magnify that message.
In fact, those companies that are hell-bent on sending RV Daily Report limping down the highway might want to see who owns www.rvhorrorstories.com and www.rvmoneypit.com. Silencing one LLC may invite the creation of another. Just saying.
So, I’m ready to tackle another year with even more gusto than I have had in the past few years. I put on 27,000 miles on my motorhome and even more than that on the two towed vehicles I dragged behind me as I traveled the nation in search of news. It was really fascinating to be able to visit RV companies on premises to tour their facilities and meet their staff.
I met some incredible people along the way and learned a great deal about the industry, the market, its buyers and the lifestyle. That type of first-hand knowledge is impossible to duplicate without living the RV dream. The experience also gave me a very unique perspective on RVs and the lifestyle which I hope to relate to the industry so that needed changes can be made.
I serve an awesome and amazing God who blessed me and protected me every mile of that journey. I have often wondered why I was brought into the RV industry and, after leaving for about a year in 2002, was brought back into it. Over the Christmas holiday I reflected on that and came to the conclusion that all these experiences have enabled me to connect the industry to its consumers in a way that no other publication could.
Sure, there have been RV industry publications for half a century, and RV lifestyle publications for even longer. But, I don’t recall a publication that connected RV professionals to the RV lifestyle in the way I’ve been able to do in the past three years. I am hoping the industry is paying attention.
Because the God I serve has heard the cries of his people who for years have dreamed about owning an RV to enjoy his creation, only to spend more time and more money getting their RVs fixed than enjoying their investments. I’ve said it before, the industry has a chance to voluntarily correct its problems before changes are forced upon it either through economic necessity or legal and legislative dictates.
All my travel proved that the RV lifestyle is second-to-none in the ability to experience new things, marvel at some incredible scenery, and meet people from all walks of life. I, for one, would like to see that lifestyle preserved for generations of people to come. I’d like to see this year’s 400,000 new RV owners remain committed RV owners many years from now enjoying their second and third purchases rather than it winding up as a “one-and-done” RV owners as millions have in the past 10 years.
RV Daily Report will continue to do what it has done since its founding April 1, 2009, by reporting all the news that matters to the RV industry — even stories some people wish we would neglect.
This situation goes well beyond Greg Gerber and RV Daily Report. If the RV Industry Association is to be believed, there are 289,852 people employed by the RV industry. A handful of insulated CEOs, who pay lip service to product quality and poor customer experiences, should not be able to threaten the viability of an entire industry — and hundreds of thousands of jobs — so they can simply play golf and and live in isolation of the consumers they claim to serve.
It demonstrates EXACTLY why I despise monopolies for the control they exert on other people and corporations. A literal handful of wealthy people should not be able to dictate the behavior of every supplier, dealer, RV owner or even the media. But, with a few CEOs controlling a wide swath of the entire RV industry today, it is exceptionally easy for them to intimidate others into complying with their whims.
This syndicate of CEOs want to control the rules, manipulate the market, define standards to their liking, and cause long-term damage to an entire industry in favor of improving the bottom line of short-term profit and loss statements. It should not be allowed to happen, and RV Daily Report will see that it does not.