By Ronnie Garrett
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While some people were still recovering from the Thanksgiving holiday, those in the RV industry had little time for such matters as they gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, at 7 a.m., Nov. 28, to hear keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche tell them how to be better and faster in 2018.
Gutsche’s talk officially kicked off the 2017 National RV Trade Show, touted as the largest annual industry gathering of RV manufacturers and component suppliers.
The event, hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) from Nov. 27-30 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, started the day before with a gathering of media professionals, who were given a sneak preview of the week’s events.
Here, RVIA president Frank Hugelmeyer boasted that the show offers 1.2 million square feet of display space featuring the latest and greatest that RV manufacturers and suppliers have to offer. The show is growing, with Hugelmeyer pointing out that there were 40 new exhibitors in the Outside Lifestyle Pavilion and more than 2,700 dealers in attendance, including 700 first-time dealer attendees.
“This is all part of celebrating what is an incredibly exciting industry to be a part of,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure the show reflects the excitement and the energy we are seeing every day at both the dealer levels and in our manufacturing facilities.”
Today, Gutsche talked at the annual Outlook 2018 breakfast where industry leaders looked toward the year ahead and predicted where the industry is headed. Go RVing and REV Group were represented, and their outlook noted that the age of RVers entering the industry is lower, with millennials entering in droves.
Chad Reese told attendees that Go Rving is uniquely poised to take the industry to the next level, with 20 years behind them and much knowledge to propel the industry forward. “Go RVing brings the RV lifestyle to consumers,” which in turns, he said, helps you sell RVs.
Tim Sullivan from the REV Group noted that the company saw $3 billion in sales in 2017 and attributed much of its growth to RVs. He noted that the company’s collaborative efforts and innovation enabled it to roll out the company’s first hybrid, wheelchair accessible van, and promised more innovations to come.
And, Gutsche, a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning innovation expert, and the CEO of Trend Hunter, told attendees that while the RV industry is clearly bigger and better than ever, the time is now for companies to accelerate their efforts, innovate and make change happen.
“No matter what you do in the RV industry, there is so much happening and [so much growth], but now is not the time to stop innovating,” he cautioned. “You can’t be paralyzed by all that opportunity. You have to take a leap. Chaos creates opportunity.”
He added, “There is so much opportunity now. Now is not the time to preserve the status quo. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to take leaps, push harder.”
For many companies on the show floor, 2018 is the year that they will innovate.
Take Carefree of Colorado, which brought four innovations to the show, one of which is its Premium Room, which attaches to awnings to expand the living space of your RV. The rooms are waterproof and feature a heavy-duty canvas and vinyl. They are custom made to a specific RV’s size, and go up in less than 30 minutes.
Danny Smith of Carefree of Colorado says the innovation comes from what they were seeing in international markets. “Carefree saw an opportunity to introduce this product to the American market,” he said.
Smith noted that he believes the time is now for such a product as RVers downsized their RVs after the recession, and younger RVers, such as millennials, seek to add room to their RVs. “This gives a family addition space and extra privacy,” he says.
The company is also catering to the industry’s demands for advanced technology in products as it introduces new offerings such as the Wireless Awning Control System with Bluetooth technology. These awnings can be controlled via Carefree’s Bluetooth app or a separate control fob, and works on all 12-volt Carefree Awnings. Later this year, the company will introduce plug and play electronics which will be situated in the awnings arms.
“This will let people plug in speakers and other electronics,” said Jensen Huddleston, marketing manager. “The industry is seeking technology advances … technology helps them and makes things easier. Carefree sees to bring modern technology to the RV industry.”
As adventure camping increases in popularity, companies like Forest River Inc. are rising to the challenge. Forest River Product Manager Cody Shade, who oversees the all-new No Boundaries towable line of travel trailers and teardrop campers, said the new brand is designed to be affordable, towable and versatile.
He noted that once upon a time “camping was the activity” but now it’s only the central location from which all activity flows. The active lifestyle movement dictated the need for a new product line that allows campers to “do what they love…explore the world.”
“The entire product line is designed to be towed with vehicles that most of us already own,” he said. Shade also said that every “NOBO” could be “purchased by a family for less than probably what they’re paying in a family cellphone plan [in a year].”
Sam Jefson of Winnebago Industries Inc. touted several debuts, including the Revel Class B, Fuze Class C, Horizon diesel pusher, Intent gas Class A and Winnie Plus 27RLTS fifth-wheel, while Bob Rogers, director of marketing at Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., highlighted the company’s 17 percent growth over 2016’s record year. He also noted that the company brought its Model 2465, the company’s longest travel trailer, to the show this year.
“These are the good old days. I’m a fisherman so I always tend to show up to the fishing hole about a week too late. I should’ve been here last week. We’re jamming right now, and we got to make hay, and we love it,” Rogers said.
More on innovations found on the show floor at the event to come tomorrow as the industry event of the year continues to unfold.