“From One Modern Marvel to Another”: What Today’s World of Recreational Vehicles Has to Offer

In Features, Non-fiction on May 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Written by Alex Ashley

In 1985, Spokane resident Ron Little opened his first RV dealership in a little, converted gas station on Sprague and Havana.

That was nearly 30 years ago, and times were different back then. It was a strange world: big, blocky cars; a tornado of neon; and one bad movie after another. But, at least for the RV industry, it was also a simpler time.

“People used to be happy with the essentials: water, heat, maybe a bathroom,” says Little of consumers in years past. Ron is the owner of RVs Northwest, and runs what is soon to become 3 branches: two in Spokane, and one in Coeur D’Alene. “Nowadays though, people take everything they own with them; they want to take home with them wherever they go.”

“From One Modern Marvel to Another”

It is true, of course, that the RV industry has changed; the world around it has evolved at equal pace. The Airstream trailer of the 1950’s, for example, also known as the “silver bullet,” was iconic of the era in which it was born: relatively plain, simple and conservative, with fewer bells and whistles than we are accustomed to today.
Next, the Frank motorhomes and Corvair Ultravans of the 1960’s: taking things a few steps beyond their 50’s precursors and, in typical 60’s fashion, experimental and creative.

But they still didn’t have that “thing” that 21st century innovation and modernization has offered us in the past five, maybe ten years. What is it?

Anything you want.

“Manufacturers and dealers have become very good at adapting to the consumer,” says Little.

And really, you can identify how the world has adapted and changed by looking at the steady evolution of the recreational vehicle and travel trailer industry: things started slow, simple, rather blas←, and worked their way up through the years to something more notable. Convoluted and complicated? Perhaps a little. But more importantly, at your fingertips is everything you could ever ask for. Ours is an era of modern convenience that has had a tremendous impact on the RV industry.
Observes Little: “It is in constant transition from one modern marvel to another.”

“Go Green”

Of all the modern amenities our era of RV’ing has to offer, the concept of “Go Green” eco-friendly travel has to be one of the most characteristic of our time; we are becoming increasingly aware of environmental considerations.

“Manufacturers are adapting to eco-friendly construction techniques,” says Little, “and as a dealer, I see a lot of those products passing through.”
Such techniques include using recycled materials, lots of electric and fuel-cell technology, and building the product around an awareness of resource, water and energy efficiency. Thus, when you go to a dealer like Ron, you have the option of taking home a product that is eco-friendly.

“Everyone Has Their Own Dream”

“It’s a fun business,” says Little of the RV industry. “People are excited about their particular dream-whatever that may be. We help them fulfill that dream. And just so you know, that’s why there are so many products available. Everyone has something different in mind.”

It’s true: Ron’s customers are vast and varied; each has their own idea of the “perfect weekend.”

There’s the “toy hauler” crowd: young bucks on the prowl for a raucous, fun-filled weekend of dirt biking or ATV’ing. Incidentally, “toy hauler” is actually the name of a product Little says is quite popular. A ramp in the back of a full-sized trailer folds down, the furniture hides away against the walls, or even over your head, creating room to drive your dirt bikes or four-wheelers right inside the trailer.

But Little says a large chunk of his customer base are those who are a little older and wiser; those who have worked hard their entire lives, raised entire families, and have earned the right to something with comfort, convenience and class.

“The fastest growing market in the industry right now is the real high-dollar stuff,” he says.” He is speaking specifically of luxury-model, diesel-pusher RVs. RV’s range in price from anywhere between $10,000 – $400,000. And to be honest, there aren’t many things more comfortable, more lavish.

But here’s something you may not think of as the brass ring of recreational vehicles: Travel trailers. Just the name of the product may already conjure up imagery of a clunky, tow-behind rectangles. But the entire concept has slowly been redefined.

They come in all shapes and sizes, for all different types of people. There’s the 30-something, “weekend warriors” with kids, who will likely be coming to Ron in the market for a product called a bunkhouse travel trailer. They are between 24′-27′ feet, and range in price from $13,000 – $30,000. Little says this is one of the most popular products he sells. It is built as an environment for the family, equipped with a full-sized bed for mom and dad, two bunks for the kids and plenty of room for everything else you are likely to find in a standard trailer.

But the concept of travel trailers is far more versatile than that. The Blackstone line, for example-which has been called the “Cadillac” of the travel trailer industry-consists of five travel trailers from 28 to 34 feet in length, and targets a special kind of buyer: those downsizing from a motorhome or larger fifth wheel, but who still expect luxury features: A tank-less hot water system, vaulted radius interior ceiling, “mountain-sized” strut designed luggage doors that are 50 percent larger; 70 gallons of fresh water capacity, and 80 gallons of grey water capacity; a wireless touch pad to operate slide-outs; an awning, power stabilizer jacks, residential-sized queen bed and available living room fireplace.

Their slogan: ” Where luxury meets the outdoors.”

“People love RV’ing,” Ron concludes. “Despite whatever may happen in the stock market or the economy overall, people still make room in their lives for this great American tradition. The demand is still in. It’s even been said that the RV industry could be used as an indicator for the state of the economy.”

His conclusion?

“It’s a good time to be an RV dealer.”

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