Listen to this story
By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
There was a story published today on the New Atlas blog site announcing Ford would start selling Class B motorhomes this spring through auto dealerships in Europe.
I found the story intriguing for a number of reasons, and wondered what impact that could have on the North American RV market should automakers here see a similar opportunity.
This type of arrangement has potential to really shake up the American RV market.
It could open the door to European caravan makers to enter the United States while bypassing American RV dealers.
If auto dealers are already working on Mercedes Sprinter chassis, they would just need to train a few techs on component repair or partner with mobile service techs to take care of many problems their RV customers would encounter.
If auto dealers started selling motorized RVs, what is to stop them from carrying a towable to two?
Like RV dealers, auto dealers will be looking for alternate revenue streams once the next downturn gets underway. If the auto dealers are selling SUVs and trucks big enough to tow a small travel trailer, why couldn’t they put a few European caravans on the lots and sell them as a package?
Having the uniquely shaped and built caravans on a lot would be attention getting for sure. Business today is all about creating that “buzz” in a local market. I imagine an ad inviting shoppers to tour our new “European caravans” may appeal to a number of folks who enjoy being early adopters of new products.
It is difficult for a new manufacturer to break in to the North American market due to agreements key suppliers have with specific manufacturers to install components on an exclusive basis. But, what would happen if the RVs were imported instead?
Or, what if a new RV manufacturer were to start in the American market? Would it have better luck selling small trailers to auto dealers where they would stand alone on a lot, rather than get lost in the crowd of competing brands on an RV dealer’s lot?
Change is coming to campgrounds, too
I am convinced that the hospitality industry (hotels) will soon embrace RV owners to meet the demand for short-term and overnight stays because campgrounds are renting out more space to seasonal campers every year.
Earlier this week, I was attending a trade show at the Gaylord Resort in Nashville. As I was walking the grounds, I wondered what it would take for a facility like that — or any of the dozen other hotels close to Opryland — to erect a few RV sites on its property.
To be able to collect $50 a night without having to clean a room would be relatively easy money and an incentive for a hotel to install a handful of RV sites.
For RV owners, $50 per night with access to the hotel’s internet, pool and complimentary breakfast, might be a bargain, too.
The ability to park a small RV at a hotel within walking distance of a train or close a a bunch of Uber drivers would be hard to beat for adventure-loving millennials.
I am unaware of any concrete plans for either hotels to start accommodating RVers, or European caravan makers to start seeking American outlets for its products.
However, with the speed in which business is changing today, it wouldn’t surprise me if such plans have already been tossed around at some high-level planning meetings.