RV market expects a turnaround

Coon says dealers exhibiting at recent shows in about a dozen states reported surprising attendance and sales, which they attributed to "pent-up demand and the desire of consumers to burst out of the malaise affecting the economy. Sales exceeded expectations, and consumers generally displayed a positive attitude."

Taylor agrees, saying, "Generally, the financial outlay of RV-related businesses has been an indicator that our economy is on its way out of a recession. Many of the resort owners we work with are investors and stay in tune with the future of our economy."

There are also reasons to be hopeful that RV-related lending may loosen up as the year progresses. "Inclusion of RV consumer loans and RV dealer floor-plan loans in the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (or TALF) could ease credit and stimulate RV lending," Coon says. "We believe credit will flow back into the RV market as lenders increasingly recognize that RV consumers are excellent credit risks."

Less gloomy in the luxury market

The high-end motor-home market seems to have taken a gentler hit than the RV industry in general. Karl Blade, president of Oklahoma-based Newell Coach Corp., which specializes in luxury motor homes, says, "Most of our customers are cash buyers. Those that finance can still find financing if they have good credit."

Those who don't have the cash on hand may be taking a little longer to make the purchase but still aren't willing to settle. "When they buy, they still want all of the amenities," Blade says.

Taylor says, "We've found that Class A motor-coach owners have discretionary income." This allows them to buy and maintain pricey RVs while also buying a lot at an upscale RV resort.

A study conducted by PKF Consulting, a travel and tourism consulting firm, found that "typical RV family vacations are on average 26 (percent) to 74 percent less expensive than other types of vacations studied." That means even during challenging times, the cost of RV ownership can be a worthwhile investment, especially for people who travel a lot -- or would like to.


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