RV dealers and parts suppliers may want to prepare for an abundance of orders as people across the country gravitate toward a new normal for long-distance travel and family vacations.
Longtime RV business leaders say the industry is poised for a spike in sales, rentals and general interest in the RV lifestyle in the wake of coronavirus-induced social distancing norms. At a time when most people will likely think twice before booking a flight or taking a cruise, RVs could emerge as the go-to for leisure travel and outdoor vacations.
Phil Ingrassia, RV Dealers Association (RVDA) president, said the core concepts of RV living will be attractive to a broader swath of Americans in the aftermath of widespread coronavirus concern.
“We are in a position to maybe come back more quickly than other industries in the travel sector,” Ingrassia said. “It’s the nature of the activity and nature of the products that allows us to provide an option to a lot of people who don’t have a lot of options right now.”
However, Ingrassia said that surge in popularity is dependent on the return of other elements of outdoor recreation. In order for people to want to purchase or rent an RV, he said, they’ll have to be able to use it and be able to find the aftermarket parts they need.
“We’re working with our partners to responsibly open campgrounds so that our customers have somewhere to go from late spring into the summer months. That’s been important,” Ingrassia said.
The RVDA has been working closely with RVDA of Canada to educate people about safe use of campgrounds and the inherent value of vacationing in an RV. RVDA of Canada President Eleonore Hamm is also optimistic about the future of RV sales.
“Once things are open and once the campgrounds are back, I think we will be well positioned because people are wanting to get outdoors,” Hamm said. “The campgrounds have noted that they will have measures in place so that they can socially distance their customers.”
Shane Devenish, president of the Canadian Recreation Vehicle Association, said different sectors of the industry will have to support each other to make the predicted comeback a reality. Devenish and Hamm have coordinated lobbying efforts with support from outdoor recreation groups throughout Canada.
Devenish compared the RV industry to a three-legged stool, that only stands tall when dealers, manufacturers and campgrounds are performing well.
“We’ve been successful in a lot of the provinces with lobbying efforts to just provide safety guidelines that would address the health department and social distancing concerns at those places,” Devenish said.
Jamison Carrier, founder and president of Relentless Dealer Services, said he expects RV dealers to be flooded with new buyers in the coming months.
“I honestly think the biggest challenge that dealers are going to be faced with in 2020 is a lack of inventory,” Carrier said. “I think we’re going to have more demand than what the supply is going to be able to handle. I think people want to RV.”
Kellye Janis, general manager of RV Partfinder, has been in the RV industry for more than three decades. She said she’s seen the industry weather ups and downs over the years, and she expects parts and service to play a key role in the future popularity of the RV lifestyle.
“Parts and service will shine, and parts will do a much better job of coming back strong,” Janis said. “Parts and service will be our heroes right now in the industry.”
She said she hasn’t seen the pandemic hurt the parts-and-service sector as much as it has affected sales and other elements of the RV industry.
Scott Weatherall, product marketing manager for RV parts supplier Garnet Instruments, said the RV industry should prepare for a spike in sales and product orders.
“I think the Type B’s and Type C’s are anticipated to be big sellers going forward because people want something that’s easy access and ready to go,” Weatherall said.
Weatherall said the RV industry can capitalize on the increased attention RVs received as an efficient way to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, people are on the news all the time with RVs now,” he said. “We’re going to see a bit of a surge, and then it’s going to taper back down again, but I think a lot of people have RVs on their mind right now.”