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MC Fireside Chats – January 24th, 2024

Episode Summary

In the latest episode of MC Fireside Chats, hosted by Brian Searl, founder and CEO of Insider Perks, the focus was on the RV industry and outdoor recreation. The episode featured a panel of industry experts: Susan Carpenter from the RV Women’s Alliance, Phil Ingrassia from the RV Dealers Association (RVDA) of the U.S., and Luke Chippindale, who joined from Australia. Brian set the stage for a discussion about the year ahead in the RV industry, noting the significance of this being the first episode of the year. Brian Searl opened the episode with enthusiasm, highlighting the show’s focus on the RV industry and outdoor recreation. He expressed excitement about the episode being the first of the year, setting expectations for a conversation about the industry’s outlook. The guests for the episode included Susan Carpenter, Phil Ingrassia, and Luke Chippindale, with Brian noting the absence of regular participants Eleanor and Shane. Luke Chippindale, participating from Australia, discussed his role in government relations for the caravan industry. He focused on working with federal politicians in Canberra to elevate the industry’s voice. Luke talked about the successes in advocating for industry standards and safety, as well as the challenges posed by the shift towards electric vehicles and low-emission policies. Phil Ingrassia provided an overview of the current RV market in the U.S., discussing trends in wholesale shipments and retail forecasts for 2024. He touched on the impact of interest rates on discretionary purchases and the efforts of manufacturers to moderate price increases. Phil’s insights offered a comprehensive look at the market dynamics in the U.S. RV industry. Susan Carpenter shared her experience with the RV Women’s Alliance, highlighting its global reach and impact. She discussed the organization’s growth and its role in fostering international collaboration within the RV industry. Susan’s perspective added a global dimension to the conversation, emphasizing the worldwide nature of the RV community. The conversation then shifted to the impact of COVID-19 on domestic travel. Susan Carpenter brought up how the pandemic had changed travel preferences, with more people exploring their own countries. Luke Chippindale agreed, mentioning research on the wellbeing benefits of caravanning and camping, and the unique connectedness it brings compared to international travel. Susan recounted her experience at the Florida RV show, noting the trend of consumers trading in older models and the popularity of lower-priced RVs. Phil added that RV shows remain crucial for consumers to physically experience different RV models and layouts, despite the rise of online shopping. The business aspects of RV sales were also discussed. Phil explained the varying profit margins on different sizes of RVs, and Luke provided insights into the Australian market’s preference for larger towable RVs. This part of the conversation highlighted the differences and similarities in RV markets across different regions. Brian raised questions about the evolving role of RV shows in the age of internet research. Susan and Phil agreed that while online research is helpful, RV shows offer a unique opportunity for consumers to explore a wide range of options in one place. They emphasized the continued importance of these shows in the RV buying process. The discussion pivoted back to government relations, with Luke discussing the challenges of prioritizing various industry needs and the future of electric vehicles (EVs) in the caravan industry. Phil shared similar concerns for the U.S. market, emphasizing the need for infrastructure to support EVs and the debate over government involvement in this transition. The episode concluded with final thoughts from the guests. Luke invited people to experience the Australian caravan industry, emphasizing its maturity, value, and customer experience. Phil and Susan shared their perspectives, and Brian wrapped up the show, highlighting the importance of global insights in the RV and caravan industry. The episode provided a comprehensive look at the RV and caravan industry from different global perspectives, discussing consumer trends, the impact of technology, and the role of government and associations in shaping the industry’s future.

Recurring Guests

A man in a suit and tie is posing for a photo during the MC Fireside Chats on December 21st.
Phil Ingrassia
Executive Director
RVDA
A smiling woman in a black jacket and floral shirt, ready for the MC Fireside Chats on December 21st.
Susan Carpenter
Executive Director
RV Women's Alliance

Special Guests

An image of a person in a circle, featured in an episode.
Luke Chippindale
General Manager – Government Relations & Corporate Communications
Caravan Industry Association of Australia

Episode Transcript

This is MC Fireside Chats, a weekly show featuring conversations with thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and outdoor hospitality experts who share their insights to help your business succeed. Hosted by Brian Searl, the founder and CEO of Insider Perks, empowered by insights from Modern Campground, the most innovative news source in the industry.

Brian Searl: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of MC [00:01:00] Fireside Chats. My name is Brian Searl with Insider Perks. Super excited to be here with all of you for our 4th week kind of recurring RV industry, outdoor recreation focused episode. I think it’s our first one of this year. Yeah. In January for you guys being on the show.

Talk a little bit about some of your expectations for the years and things like that. We’ve got Susan Carpenter, one of our recurring guests from the RV Women’s Alliance, as well as Phil and Gracia from the RVDA. Our Miss Eleanor today. She’s in some meetings, and I guess Shane is not showing up either.

So hopefully he’ll be able to join us. Then we got Luke Chippendale all the way from Australia. It is very late there, right? 

Luke Chippindale: Early. Fall by the end. 

Brian Searl: Early. Okay. All right. Very early there. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. We’ll try to talk to you first and then you can just bail if you want.

But welcome Luke. So let’s just go around and briefly we’ll introduce ourselves. For those of you who don’t know, obviously we can start with Luke since you’re first show and then we can do Susan and Phil. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. Look I largely cover off our government relations.

So that sees me. Spent a lot of time in our nation’s capital, which [00:02:00] is Canberra, so working with federal politicians to effectively to really elevate the voice of the caravan industry within Australia. We’ve been going reasonably well of late, and it’s really trying to keep that momentum going, particularly from a political standpoint as well.

Brian Searl: I’m definitely interested in talking to you about that because we’ve had people on the show here in the United States, and I say here, but the United States and Canada, specifically, who deal with government relations and lobbying and their efforts to get legislation passed and bring, pieces of legislation to, otherwise wouldn’t receive attention, right?

And so I’m very interested to see what the synergies are between what you’re dealing with, what we’re dealing with, and that kind of stuff. So I think that’d be a really interesting discussion. Phil? 

Phil Ingrassia: Hi, I’m Phil Ingrassia. I’m president of the RV Dealers Association of the US. We represent all the travel trailers and motorhome dealers across the country and looking forward to an improving year in 2024.

Brian Searl: [00:03:00] Does RVDA have a Australia branch? 

Phil Ingrassia: No I believe that we’ve met with Stuart Lamont and some of the folks over there and they have a An association that represents the entire industry, where in the U. S. and Canada, they are separate dealer and manufacturer. 

Brian Searl: Gotcha. Okay. Susan, welcome back.

Susan Carpenter: Thank you. Happy to be here. My name is Susan Carpenter, and I am president of the RV Women’s Alliance. We are actually Worldwide now because we have members in Canada, we have members in Australia, where you are Luke and that’s my volunteer job, basically, and then I also work for an injection molding company called B& B Molders 

Brian Searl: when you say worldwide, who’s in Ireland? 

Susan Carpenter: You know what? We have somebody in Ireland, too. We don’t have a lot of people, but we seem to have gotten a lot of interest, and in fact, Australia, there was somebody over here during [00:04:00] RV Move America week that was interested in starting something up similar to ours in Australia and working with us.

Brian Searl: Iceland, 

Susan Carpenter: probably not Iceland. 

Multi country. 

Brian Searl: That’s just okay. There’s there’s just gotta be goals, right? If you hit the ceiling and you’re at your peak, you can retire. Yeah. 

Susan Carpenter: North America is where we center, but we do have members across the pond, so to speak. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Yeah, I’m definitely excited.

Obviously a great organization we’ve had you on for quite some time. Does anybody have anything pressing that we want to talk about? It’s been we haven’t seen you since last year. Really two months. It’s been two months because we had that special Christmas episode where we kicked you guys all off the show and had a recap.

So like the last two months, what’s been new? We, I don’t want to go all the way back to the conferences, but really we haven’t had that conversation yet, have we? How all the conferences went last year and all that kind of stuff and what you guys are looking forward to this year. Let’s do this year.

Susan and Phil, what are you looking forward to in 2024? What’s positive? 

Phil Ingrassia: I [00:05:00] think that, the industry forecasts anyway in the U. S. and Canada are for slightly better wholesale shipments. Meaning the, Manufacturer shipping to the dealers. Now, retails forecast to be flat year over year between 2023 and 2024.

So why is that happening? Dealers really sold into the inventory that they had. So there was an inventory drawdown in the U. S. and Canada, and now dealers have to restock the shelves. And so you’re going to see higher wholesale shipments. I think throughout the year retail is going to blow along at the same level as it was last year.

At least that’s a prediction right now from folks who do that kind of predicting. 

Brian Searl: What is the what is the sense of is this, I know we’ve been talking about how we’re expecting a moderation or a leveling off or is it going as intended? Is it better than expected? Is it trending [00:06:00] down and maybe we’ll cover?

Phil Ingrassia: I don’t think anybody’s really surprised by the market right now, in the U. S. and Canada the interest rate situation is moderating and that’s going to be a big driver for all discretionary purchases and whether it’s boats, whether it’s RVs, whether it’s, power sports.

Interest rates are a big part of that, and so as the Fed in the U. S. moderates that that’s, I think that’s going to have a lot, a big impact on the affordability of the units. And not to say that the manufacturers aren’t trying to moderate the price increases as well. There’s, there were, as Susan knows, they’re working very hard.

On holding the line on prices and she was just at the Florida RV Super Show, which is one of the biggest retail shows in the country and That the reports out of that show were you know at entry level mid level [00:07:00] products were You know front and center and really, manufacturers are trying to hit those affordability price 

Brian Searl: points All right.

I definitely want to talk to Susan about that show, but I want to get to Luke first Because he was kind enough to get up super early. Have you had coffee yet, Luke? 

Luke Chippindale: I’ve been efficient and actually put two away already, so I’m quite proud of myself. 

Brian Searl: What time is it actually there? 

Luke Chippindale: We’re now 8 past 5, so I woke up about 4ish to get the coffee.

Brian Searl: I appreciate you being here. We’ll try to make it work. 

Luke Chippindale: No, thanks for having me. 

Brian Searl: One of the goals of the show, and I don’t know how often, anybody from Australia tunes in, we’ve certainly had some guests on the show before. We’ve got good relationships with some of the suppliers who represent over there, like New Book and RMS and stuff like that.

So definitely we’ve had some discussions on the show, but it’s really interesting to me, the similarities, right? There’s, when I came up in this industry. I’m still coming up in this industry. But for 15 years, like it’s been a over here, you hear about things that are happening in the United States to a [00:08:00] dramatically lesser extent.

Canada would shock me. Like I learned that when I moved here, like I didn’t even know there was a Canadian National Association six years ago or seven years ago. And so I think it’s important for us to hear from people like you who can it’s such a small world. And yes, the rigs are a little bit different in Europe.

I don’t know what they are in Australia, but yet but there’s so many similarities on legislation and policy and how the industry runs and all that kind of stuff. And so just tell us a little bit about what you do for the association first, I think is where we should start. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, certainly. Probably coming back to something Phil said earlier so Caravan Industry Association of Australia covers off both the tourism aspect as well as the trade element.

We’re a fairly broad church from that perspective, which means that I have ample discussion points with elected reps. If I look at the current climate that we’re in, we’re probably a little bit behind where you guys are at the moment. In terms of inflation we’re probably only just getting on top of it.

We’ve started, we’ve now seen two of the recent [00:09:00] terms with minor reductions which is we’ve effectively seen all of our discretionary. Savings evaporate from post Covid. We’re, it’s taking us a little while. We’re, from an economic perspective, it’s we’re effectively going into a little bit of a slowdown.

Our inflation rate hasn’t come down as quickly as the reserve would like which means that it’s probably gonna end up with a longer tail than what you’ve experienced. So that obviously has a bit of a flow onto to the market. We haven’t necessarily seen the softening, so we’re still.

COVID levels which is fantastic. There is forward predictions around certainly the pipeline that shows softening, but ultimately because of our international travel and still fairly high, Cost to leave the country. Caravaning is still a great money option within Australia. So really, we start to talk about the sentiment associated and our marketing team does a fantastic job of keeping caravaning top of mind from both the [00:10:00] trade and tourism perspective.

We’ve got probably most of the assets from a park perspective lies in regional rural areas. So it means that for anyone that comes to the country or Australians that want to see their country, they’ve really got a fantastic opportunity to drive around and check out what is a fairly diverse range of parks these days, and from family parks, cabins and roofed accommodation through to RV pull in points.

Obviously caravan towed product spots as well. Multitude of options as well as a facility. So part of my role is really being able to convey those messages back into, to federal politicians and really advocate for the industry within that space. So we’ve got probably a couple of key challenges.

We’ve moved into that EV low emissions discussion. Which obviously from our perspective has a fair flow on to industry, what it means from an [00:11:00] innovation perspective, from a charging perspective skills and resources is largely still being formulated by the Federal Government they were quick to pull the trigger on selecting a technology and they haven’t been technology agnostic and they haven’t necessarily let Industry dictate what the best options are so part of that now is working through cross collaboration because obviously with the likes of Orcas, there is a great deal of innovation that’s going to flow through from there from lightweight materials and what have you, the use of hydrogen and obviously critical minerals has a fair flow on effect to industry, so again, part of my role is advocating to government to say hey, We’ve got a play in this.

We’re the last sovereign vehicle manufacturer within Australia, so our vehicle market has disappeared quite some years ago, so a lot of that cross collaboration, what would be the innovation aspects and design aspects, [00:12:00] disappeared from our shores a while ago, so it’s meant that we effectively have to try to keep pressure on government to go we’re it.

If you want us to maintain a sovereign vehicle manufacturer you need to support us in some fashion. We represent close to 900 trade elements across the sector. I think there’s 2, 600 caravan parks across the country, if not more. So there is, we’re a 27 billion industry within Australia so it’s not insurmountable and it’s keeping us top of mind when it comes to any policy or legislation that’s brought about.

Brian Searl: Alright, so I have a couple questions for you. And if he’ll please, and Susan, jump in any time if you have questions for him as well. Just for most of our audiences, obviously North America, United States, and Canada, we’re expanding slowly, right? Modern Campground covers the whole world, but I think it’s fair to say that most of our audience is over here.

So for those of you who aren’t, for those of our audience, which is most, who aren’t as familiar with the Australian New [00:13:00] Zealand, it’s Australian New Zealand you represent, or just Australia? 

Luke Chippindale: Just Australia. We co operate with the Wellington Museum, but we represent just Australia. 

Brian Searl: Okay, so for Australia, if you look back five years, fill us in on some of the most important policy victories that you guys have had.

Luke Chippindale: That’s a great question. So one of probably the most recent one, we were fortunate to advocate to government for a significant injection of 10 million, which, in the scheme of things, it sounds great, but in the scheme of things probably didn’t do too much. It was a bit of a drop in the ocean.

In terms of really being able to highlight infrastructure changes within caravan parks. We’ve seen the recognition by Federal Government now that the industry matters and the industry is relevant. From that perspective, that was one of the key parts to see, start seeing more accessible elements to, to caravan parks.

And then from that, safety within Australia is really paramount. Whether that be safety from a vehicle [00:14:00] perspective, towing perspective regulatory. From us, we, with COVID coming into play. It meant that there was a paradigm shift within the market. Probably seven my, Stuart would probably say close to 10 years ago, he’s been advocating for the likes of a Road Vehicle Safety Act which really started to talk about the minimum standard of design elements.

That took a long time to advocate for, it took a long time for government to understand why an industry would be asking for greater compliance. And greater oversight into it. That finally came into fruition July last year which saw manufacturers having to meet. A design standard underneath the Federal Government’s policy and regulatory protection.

It meant that there was effectively the Department of Infrastructure and Transport would run compliances as well as just us doing it. And we would there was no, there’s no necessarily powers associated with the compliance checks that we do. It shows, this had a level of enforceability to [00:15:00] it, which was fantastic.

I start to probably move away from what the Feds have done and what the market has done. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a significant increase in capital from whether it be lots of superannuation funds or private enterprise into parks and into the industry itself. They’ve recognised what the industry means for Domestic tourism coupled with also the vehicle elements, so more vehicle manufacturing.

So it’s meant that our offering of product has increased significantly. Do we know what type of bird that is? It sounds cool. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s I can’t remember what the name of them are. They’re the Canadian birds. I can’t remember the name. They’re really annoying. So it’s the name. Anyway, yeah, he’s up on my little roof there.

Chillin sorry, I’ll mute you. 

Luke Chippindale: That’s cool. So yeah from, we’ve had probably minor policy wins we’ve had injections of defibrillators so we’ve advocated to the federal government to ask for [00:16:00] effectively the input of defibrillators That’s early, forgive me, getting words out into caravan parks and that surprisingly enough has seen quite a significant probably safety nets probably too strong a word, but there has definitely been instances within the the tens of where people have had an incident at a park and there’s been a defibrillator on hand to have them keep started back into normality for want of a better term.

It’s minor policy wins through to those major ones as we go along. 

Brian Searl: So as you look forward, and again, Phil and Susan, if you’d like to pop in, please do, so I don’t have to talk more because everybody’s, nobody likes when I talk. If you look ahead the same flip question, if you look ahead to the next five years, what are your kind of major priorities that you’d love to see as wins?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a great question. So we’re probably similar to the conversations that are probably happening in many sectors where we’re still looking to see what that baseline looks like. What’s the new norm looks like. So [00:17:00] for us it’s understanding where that’s going to land.

From a federal government perspective, we’ve worked hard over the last probably 18 months, two years to get probably a more recognised advocacy and policy discussion within Australian Parliament House. We’ve been fortunate enough to have that happen with what is called the Parliamentary Friends of Caravan in Group.

That effectively means that we have three Locked in meetings per year at Parliament House, which sees effectively bipartisan support for caravanning and discussion around critical policy points for caravanning. We’re still recovering from COVID in as much as skills and resources are still quite thin on the ground.

Because we’re so reliant upon. A set workforce it becomes challenging when we have [00:18:00] people across the country that don’t necessarily want to do what they were doing prior to the pandemic. Being able to upskill. Again so we’ve got park managers, so we’ve got people being able to repair caravans people being able to understand what it is to work within a caravan sector is tremendously important.

And we’ve, that’s probably one of our key parts. We’ve ironically enough just put in our Federal Budget pre submission this morning. To talk about where we’re looking at over the next sort of three to five years. And really some of those key priorities are around ensuring that domestic tourism has international flights capacity start to, to pick up again.

We start to see the decrease in prices, people opting for more international travel and forgetting about their backyard. That’s ultimately for us is ensuring that we maintain top of mind from a government perspective. That you can’t ignore domestic tourism, you need to ensure that we embrace people [00:19:00] visiting our country.

The economic ramifications around lack of regional dispersal is quite dire and without overstating it, there are a number of towns and regions across the country that are heavily reliant upon drive tourism. And the economic stimulus that provides. If government was to turn away from that or not support it as, as much as we would like it has a significant flow on effect.

So that’s it. 

Brian Searl: I don’t mean to interrupt you, but that’s an interesting thing that I think we share, right? It’s so interesting to me, and I was in Iceland in September. It was the same way. Iceland’s like literally the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to in my life. But we’re, but I had so many conversations with people about pre COVID.

Even people in Iceland would leave Iceland and not realize what they had in their own backyard. I’m like, this is mind blowing to me, but it’s the same way everywhere. When I used to live in Florida, I was, I moved down there. It was nine miles from the beach and 45 minutes from Disney. And we moved down there.

I’m going to go to the beach every single day. And then you forget what’s in your own backyard. So is there any tricks that you guys have to obviously marketing and [00:20:00] commercials and right. But is there anything that you’ve seen that works really well? 

Luke Chippindale: I can probably only relay back to a couple of the campaigns that we did for COVID and that was so our marketing general manager is quite phenomenal.

So within a week or two of lockdowns commencing in Australia. We came up with the idea, or he came up with the idea, along with our CEO, Stuart Lamont, of holidaying at home. Getting people automatically to think about, what we don’t need to travel overseas. We don’t even necessarily need to travel hundreds of kilometres to remember what it is to holiday together and what that experience means.

That then, once lockdown started to lift and we were able to You know, travel slightly more slightly further. The next progression was, okay, holiday at home, a holiday in your own backyard. Check out your region. Remember what it’s like to visit a new place in your region and the feeling [00:21:00] that provides you.

Remember the connectivity that you have with your own country, with your own region. And that sort of has spread out from there through to we have a Road to a Million campaign that runs now annually. Which again, singing the praises of our GM for marketing is a, is an award winning campaign. And it’s just for further people travel within Australia, the more they’re rewarded with their chance to win a million dollars.

So it’s really getting them to visit some really cool places in Australia, visiting a a partner park and, basically highlighting the fact that, Hey, we’ve been here, we really enjoyed it. Can you help me recognize it so I can potentially win a million dollars?

Brian Searl: Phil, have you thought about giving away a random million dollars if you buy an RV? You rent it for a chance to win, right? You just gotta buy an RV. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah a lot of shows are giving away RVs, but dealers are giving away RVs. I don’t know about that. 

Brian Searl: No. Don’t give away the RV.

Just give away the million dollars. To one person out of everybody who buys an RV. [00:22:00] And then you sell more RVs, right? Naturally, you would. You have to, you would think. I don’t know. I’m just saying it could drive demand. We got to try. 

Phil Ingrassia: Sounds like a church fundraiser to me, Brian. 

Brian Searl: Could be. Could be. I’m definitely not the person behind this operation, 

Susan Carpenter: yeah, this brings up a good point about travel, too. I think people before COVID were so enamored in flying to other countries and seeing other countries, and what COVID did is made them You know, travel in their backyard, basically, because if you forget, you take the United States. My husband and I, one of our goals, see every national park in the United States.

And it’s incredible. It really is. I don’t think people really realize what your own country has as resources because you just don’t think about it, right? It just and I think there’s quite a few people that said you know what, I don’t think we need to travel international considering what we have here, and are very slow to go back to [00:23:00] that kind of tourism.

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, and you raise a really interesting point. Our research team did some some fairly groundbreaking research. It’s probably getting a little bit old now. I think it was probably about 2018 and it needs to be refreshed. But looking at the wellbeing and connectedness of caravanning and camping.

And being able to talk to the human element and something that was largely unparalleled when you look at international travel. Reminding people that it’s not necessarily just about the trip. It’s what the trip actually, the byproduct of it and the outcome of it. And that is, you feel more connected.

You probably feel more connected to your kids where Quite often doing international travel, the last thing you feel like is connected to the people that you’re traveling with because it’s not always particularly from Australia where it’s a sizable leap to anywhere it’s often challenging.

For us, that was a key element the really the wellbeing aspect of caravanning and camping has been a tremendous outcome from our perspective. Awesome.[00:24:00] 

Brian Searl: Susan, I’d love to pivot to you just for a second. 

Susan Carpenter: Sure. 

Brian Searl: Let’s talk about the Florida show since you went. I think you’re the only one on.

Susan Carpenter: What was cold, I wore my winter coat. 

Brian Searl: I’m sorry, just likewise to you, Luke. If you have any questions, feel free to jump in. 

Susan Carpenter: Yeah. I was down there for the day, walk the show, Talk to a bunch of vendors. And you’re, Phil’s absolutely right about the price point too, because a lot of the RVs that I’ve seen, I was there on a Saturday were the lower point RVs that you see the sold sign on.

Anywhere from about 40, 000 on down. The bigger ticket items obviously are a bigger reach. Very well attended. There were, It was wall to wall people, and everybody, was in a jovial mood and happy to be there. I don’t think there’s any research that came out yet of, how many of those people actually bought RVs, but it was encouraging.

People were buying them, so that was good, and people were out there looking. And I think a lot of [00:25:00] people, we talked to a lot of people that said they were trading in. So that’s another thing that’s a good sign. We always like to see people trading in older models for the newer ones. So 

Brian Searl: I’m curious, Phil, maybe you don’t know this or do you know this, but is there a difference in margin from a dealer if first, if they sell a big unit versus a medium size or a smaller unit?

Phil Ingrassia: Oh yeah, definitely. We do benchmarking for that kind of activity and, it’s like anything else smaller items require, larger margins. Typically the margins on new towables are slightly larger than on motorized just because dealers Typically we’ll make a little bit more money as far as a margin goes on the total products because they’re lower priced, so the margins have to be a little bit higher.

Brian Searl: Luke, does it, does the industry look the same over there as far as the size of rigs that people are driving? Because I know in Europe it’s smaller, [00:26:00] right? Generally speaking. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, so we’re probably middle of the road, pardon the pun where our product is and certainly the consumer appetite is, particularly from a towed product perspective, has been towards larger towables.

Effectively almost towing the family home these days from a tow product, from a motorized product. We’re probably not at the same size we’re approaching but it’s still probably more of a downsized element from where you guys are currently at. Most of our parking’s around the tow product, and our motorized parking is.

It’s obviously expanding, which is good, but definitely at this point, we’re only probably approaching three and a half, four ton in some instances for a towed product. And do you see that? 

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead, Susie. 

Susan Carpenter: No, I was going to say, in that market is, are they normally, camping at campgrounds, or do you have a lot of people?

After I docking and going off into the wild, 

Luke Chippindale: Most of our market is towards [00:27:00] parks. So we tend not to have a lot of free camping. So most of it will be within parks. Part of that is around our regulatory process. Councils quite often frown upon people free camping.

So they’ll have designated areas within national parks or what have you that people can pull up and stay in. But certainly from a free camping perspective, it tends not to be quite as dominant. 

Brian Searl: I was going to ask Michael, I’m taking you back for a second, but I was going to ask, do you see that size of the rigs being like trending up or trending down based on the interest rates and the economy, or is it just still ended up from your perspective?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a good, we’re probably still we haven’t necessarily seen too much shift in that probably because we’re probably still a little bit behind you guys in terms of. What the new economic challenges face for the market. We’ve seen the softening in the forward progressions.

We haven’t necessarily seen it shift product per se. So our what would we, what we [00:28:00] would determine to be gray nomads or that upper echelon market is fairly well insulated, they will tend to go for the bigger product anyway. Is that going to push the expansion on the size? I don’t necessarily see that happening in the short term.

I think consumer behaviour, we’ve still got the rise of what we classify as digital nomads, so families that have decided to sell up or hit the road because of COVID. There is still that population traveling where they’re still looking at vans themselves. The aftermarket hasn’t necessarily shifted at all.

In fact, it’s probably held fairly tight. Which would suggest that there is still an appetite there to be going into bigger product. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. I keep jumping back and forth with questions because I keep thinking about something that I want to ask now, which is now Susan Stern for Florida, and really Phil, too.

I’m curious as we go. I don’t want to say forward but as more and more people have the internet [00:29:00] as a tool and research things online and things like that, are the shows, like the big huge shows, they’re obviously still an impact, no, no question on the bottom line for dealers, right?

But are they as big of an impact, is it as as important for them to have a super successful Florida RV show as it was 20 years ago?

Phil Ingrassia: I think shows are definitely evolving. One of the things that in the U. S. and North American market in general is there are so many brands of units and among those brands are floor plans. Some are very limited production floor plans, so it’s difficult to just have a complete online buying experience and find the right RV.

Because of all the variations and, you’re not [00:30:00] buying a, a Toyota RAV4, which gray with whatever trim level. It’s a little different when you’re buying a travel trailer and or a motorhome because of the limited production runs for some models and then of course the floor plan, different differences.

It’s like the house, the different in, interior treatments of everything from the couches to the curtains or whatever. So while I will, there certainly is a lot more online shopping and people are using it to price out and what dealerships they might want to visit, where typically they might go to five or six dealerships, maybe they’re only going to go to two now.

Because they’ve already done a lot of the pre work online, but still, people do want to go in. Oh, for sure. Absolutely. 

Susan Carpenter: They may narrow it down considering what they’re looking for, are they looking for, bunk beds and you’re [00:31:00] a toy hauler, you can do that. But I think these big shows like the Tampa and PRVCA and the Texas ones and the ones across the country are, I think are important because Joel said, it’s not like a car where you know, and you go in, there’s only, there’s limited trim models.

You go in and it’s like buying a house on wheels, basically. Your colors are different, even though the floor plan, it looks like the floor plan you, you want, the minute you walk in It’s different. There again, it’s the color. How is it really laid out? You just can’t get a feel for that online, no matter how many pictures you have.

You go to the Tampa show and there’s so many RVs there. You can it’s really great. Even if you’re not going to buy at that show, you could sure narrow it down to the one or a couple where then you can go to a local dealership or whatever that carries that brand and actually start the 

process.

Brian Searl: Yeah, so let me clarify, like I wasn’t questioning the importance of the shows, right? Just more so of if you’re a [00:32:00] dealer who has your brand there, and for whatever reason you have an off year does that mean your year is unrecoverable, or are there still enough people who are coming to the individual dealers around your area that can make up for that?

I guess is what I was asking. 

Phil Ingrassia: Show follow up is huge. Not everybody who goes to the shows buys that. And the buying time frame for RVs is, can be very long. It just depends. It’s, when you buy a car, it’s coming off lease or there’s your Got a big mechanic bill or something like that where that’s typically not the case with the RV buyer, they can take between, three months and a year or longer depending.

So follow up is critical after shows, and a lot of dealers have told me they don’t, they, they can’t really judge a show. for several months until, all those show leads have run their course because certainly some people are gearing up for [00:33:00] a spring trip or they’re snowbirds and they need a unit right now, but typically it’s a longer buying process than a car, because it is discretionary.

Susan Carpenter: Their return on investment must be good because they continue to do these shows and show up in big form.

Brian Searl: Came across that way. I was done. It wasn’t questioning the ROI of the shows. 

Susan Carpenter: It’s an interesting question because as internet sales and like when you’re buying a car and different things, buying habits have changed. Who doesn’t buy from Amazon constantly, but anyways, just because it’s easy, right?

But those are just for simple things. I don’t think in that atmosphere, for the dealer or the retail person, that’s changed a lot other than maybe some research up front. And for the dealer, like Bill said, I think, it’s like advertising. You get the people [00:34:00] out there, they meet you, they feel comfortable with you, who are they going to go back to when they’re ready to buy the unit?

Phil Ingrassia: And the other thing I think about shows that dealers think about too is that when you’re at a show, you’re not visiting the dealership. You don’t know what kind of service capacity they have. You may not even know where they are, as far as where you live. And that’s an important part of it too, is for people shopping at shows that, you know.

They shouldn’t just look at the price. Obviously that’s, one of the main things, what’s the service after the sale going to be like? How convenient is it going to be to get your vehicle serviced? And so all those things should play in the buying process as well.

I think that’s, I represent the dealer, so I’m going to say that but it’s true. It, dealer, The RVs need service. That’s just a fact. And and the harder it is to get service, the less likely you are to be happy with the unit. 

Brian Searl: That’s where I think I was going. It’s I just suck at asking questions.

But[00:35:00] I think my point was, is if you have the internet to narrow down the top three or five models that you’re interested in, is it as necessary to go to the show, or do you just go to your couple local dealers and then buy quicker? I don’t think there’s, I agree with you I wouldn’t buy an RV online.

Susan Carpenter: I think it’s fun to go to the shows. You may have it narrowed down, but it, 

Brian Searl: you’re twisting my question again, Susan. I know, I’m with you. 

Susan Carpenter: I get what you’re saying. Yeah, I think. 

Brian Searl: You’re making me look bad. 

Susan Carpenter: No, I just think I just think it’s a great opportunity for the consumers to get out and see everything that’s out there in one spot, rather than going from dealership to dealership.

Brian Searl: The flip side of that is what Phil said, though. You have to do that extra research, right? Again, I’m not advocating for them not to go, but just 

Susan Carpenter: Yeah, no, I’m just saying, I love, so a lot of times when I go there as not a consumer, but in the industry, I’m going there for industry trends. What’s the design, what’s the [00:36:00] hardware, what, what, choosing what, just get a feel of.

Where they’re going and what better place than to go to one of these big shows and be able to walk so many different types of units and get a real good sense overall. Doesn’t matter who’s making it what’s going on out there. Is it turning more to silver? Are we going back to gold? There’s just so many trends that you can look at.

To me that’s very invaluable. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, and increasingly too Florida is the Florida RV Super Show in Tampa. is like this and so is the Big Hershey Show in Pennsylvania where the manufacturers are bringing prototypes. Electric vehicles, all kinds of different things for people to take a look at.

They may not be ready for sale, but they are building PR around that and showing folks, what’s coming in the future. They’re a place to demonstrate, not only what’s for sale now, but increasingly what’s coming down the pike and what [00:37:00] innovations are coming into the industry.

Luke Chippindale: From an Australian market perspective, the show has given a fantastic opportunity to really highlight the aspirational aspect of the vehicles, and then it’s almost a two tiered system, so the shows act as that element to form, start forming an emotional connection with, whether it be a floor plan or what you would like to have in the vehicle itself, and then go, okay, you know what, I really dig.

X, y and Z dealers, and then they start to form the relationships with those dealers as well, and might go and visit the, and find out what their capacity is. So it all, it almost ends up being an inter interlinked chain around how that emotional connection is made before even the purchase is done.

That’s an 

Susan Carpenter: interesting perspective. You’re right, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into those things when you buy one. 

Brian Searl: Let’s briefly for a second pivot back to government relations. That’s what Luke’s specialty is, right? We don’t want to use the most valuable time we have from Luke’s on our show [00:38:00] So in but also I think I’m gonna pitch the same thing maybe to you Phil and Susan So if you want to start thinking about this, I’m just curious so all the things right like you’ve got especially in Australia when everything’s merging to one association as we talked about but There’s so many different priorities from so many different people Right?

Everybody has this legislation that they want you to focus on, or this problem they want you to solve, or So, as an association, how do you decide where your limited, I’m assuming, resources go? Because we’re all not billionaires. At least I’m not. Phil might be. But, so how do you decide? Like, how do you decide what to prioritize?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a good question. Sorry. From I guess the way that I ultimately approach it and will pitch it to both Stuart and the board and ultimately our state members will be almost around horizontal priorities. If I look at, the transition to EV. Or the shift towards low emissions fuels, we start to talk [00:39:00] about a horizontal priority that needs work now, but is it imminent work that needs to be done now?

Likely not. We need to formulate the policy. We need to formulate and understand what the trajectory looks like, what that pathway looks like, and then start to. Course correct or bring legislation that, that helps enable industry to hit the end point. That’s, if I look at it from that perspective and there’s a whole I come back to you’d likes of skills or manufacturing and there is then ultimately minor priorities that sit along those pipelines that.

Ultimately trying to get some skills to drive innovation sooner rather than later is better and working through from that perspective through to what are our imminent next sort of two year issues coming forward. What are we needing to advocate for? Again, I’ll come back to skills insurance we’ve got we’re still battling fairly high insurance premiums for both PI and PL.

[00:40:00] Policies trying to work with what any measure or any I’ll be careful here because it’s we’ve done a fair amount of work already but any application that can be made by government to international underwriters or what have you to understand what our environment looks like and best ways to work within our environment.

You start to prioritise what the industry is crying for now, what it’s potentially going to be crying for or needing in the short term, mid term, and then ultimately what does 10 years look like. We’re doing a fair amount of work currently to understand what caravanning in Australia looks like in 10 years time based on potential towable potential vehicles and potential fuel sources and charging infrastructure and, unfortunately there isn’t a lot of government strategy to help direct us in, in that the market is still deciding for a country.

Like Australia, where we are heavily based in resources, we obviously sit at the forefront [00:41:00] of critical minerals, what that means for the transition, coupled with obviously hydrogen there’s a different, a number of different plays that you try to track the trajectory on to help industry as much as possible.

Brian Searl: What are your, I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on lobbying Phil caravaning in the United States? Because I think that’s way cooler. What is the RVDA? I don’t want to go RVing in the U. S. I want to go caravaning. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, Yeah, that’s a European that came over from Europe. I guess I don’t know but yeah, it’s it’s always interesting the different nomenclature, but a lot of the issues are the same and Certainly one of the biggest ones that we’re going to be facing in the next 10 years is the electrification of the tow vehicle fleet and, how that’s going to move forward and at what pace and is there going to be the infrastructure to support those folks and, lessen or eliminate range anxiety that’s out there.

And of course in the U. S. there’s a big [00:42:00] infrastructure package that was passed by Congress. And so a lot of that is being aimed at infrastructure, but of course, how is government going to do this? When gasoline vehicles started, the private sector put the gas stations out there, the oil companies.

This is a different a different approach. And how is that going to be done? Is it going to be done through tax incentives or? Direct government grants to folks to put up chargers in rural areas and places where people recreate. And all that’s starting to get worked out, but it’s far from clear at this point how that’s gonna, how that’s all gonna shake out.

So while, the automakers are talking about a shift to EV chassis. Our industry’s got to watch on, okay, where’s the support structure for that and what’s that going to look like in the future? 

Brian Searl: Do you [00:43:00] find that, and just speaking about EV vehicles is what prompted the question in my head, but do you find as you, both of you gentlemen are working on, government relations and things like this, for the people who didn’t say, come to you and say we want you to work on EVs, let’s just pick EVs for example, right?

Who are either against EVs or don’t believe it’s going to be a big thing or it’s going to be 20 or 30 years away instead of 10 years away? Do you find that sometimes it’s difficult to explain to them why that’s your priority over some other things if they don’t, if they aren’t completely on board?

Just from an association standpoint, isn’t it? 

Phil Ingrassia: There’s a lot of noise about this right now. In fact, I was at a public policy forum last week in D. C. where you had one side talking about, what we’re gonna do this if we don’t do it. China’s gonna come in with a cheap ev and everybody’s gonna buy it.

And we’re going to lose a whole decade of of built in America, built in the US or built in North [00:44:00] America vehicles because China’s gonna take the lead in EVs. And this person compared it to the 1970s in the US where the Asian automakers came in and dominated. By selling fuel efficient vehicles, okay, during the Arab Oil Embargo and all that time.

On the other hand, you’ve got another side saying, the government shouldn’t be pushing this should be a market based economy, and if people want EVs, they should buy them, but it shouldn’t be the government forcing them on their buying decision. Both reasonable arguments. Yep. What, as a, as an association executive, you’ve got to take the, all the information you can and try to guide a path that’s reasonable forward for your organization.

I, whatever happens, if it gets personal with you, that’s probably not the way to go. You need [00:45:00] to react to data and take all the information in, but when it becomes a political football that’s where it can be a real problem. So both sides have really good arguments in some respects.

But, you’ve got to balance it out. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, and Phil, you made a really good point and it’s an interesting from our perspective. We effectively replicate North America when it comes to our consumer behaviours. Our top five vehicles are, light, heavy what we would call four wheel drives.

Or, pickups or what have you, so the likes of the Hiluxes and we’re even starting to get large scale Ford Rangers and what have you. They’re our consumer products. That’s what Australians like to buy. We’re now We’re effectively an Asian market though we’re reliant upon whatever Asia picks up and provides us we’re in this weird scenario whereby the government will have to have some sort of interplay to try to open up or drive market so [00:46:00] that we can at the very least meet consumer demand.

Without Chinese product coming in and when we’re really susceptible to Chinese product, if we look at what imports have happened during COVID, it’s been Chinese imports. So it’s where it will be an interesting scenario. And again, you’re having to remove your personal perspectives around it.

Just to allow some sort of trajectory for industry to, to work 

Brian Searl: through. I think I maybe stepped into a landmine unmistakably, but that was a great conversation anyway. But it was more so talking about, all right, now you’ve used the data and you’ve used it and you’re headed in the right direction. You’ve decided as an association, how do you then convince the people who weren’t fully on board with just using one example of many, EV this time, right?

That this is the right path. How do you bring, how do you message that to those people? 

Luke Chippindale: I think you’ve probably just you’ve used the D word and there is a severe lack of data to, to be able to convince anyone at this point. Sorry, Phil, I jumped in, but to that trigger 

Phil Ingrassia: [00:47:00] you’re 100 percent right.

And people will use the data to make whatever point they want. For instance here in the U. S. It was a big deal that Hertz decided to sell. 20 percent of their electric fleet saying it was a high cost, hard to maintain vehicle. So that got a lot of press. See, EVs are bad. So people were taking that.

And then on the other hand, if you dig a little deeper, Hertz always is turning over their rental car fleet. So they’re getting rid of thousands of. Ice or internal combustion engine vehicles as well. It’s just a matter of, we still, the crystal ball is very cloudy on EVs. The manufacturers have said they’re going to make these, production goals, okay?

An all electric EV market by 2035 or whatever, whatever that goal they’ve set. But, they’re, they’re cutting back Ford Lightning production and moving some of those people over to produce ICE [00:48:00] vehicles. It’s very complicated right now. And I do think that there, there’s going to be a place for EVs and it could open up a whole new market for people who didn’t want to buy a motorhome for whatever reason because they didn’t want to spend that much money on gas.

There’s probably room for both for the foreseeable future. 

Brian Searl: I’m in as soon as it can drive me everywhere autonomously. That’s all I want to do. I need to, I work too much, so 

Luke Chippindale: I’ll probably just add to Phil’s point very quickly, particularly around data. Because of the lack of data around industry, I start to take a step back and go, how do we actually meet the numbers that are going to be required, as Phil was just saying around, vehicle reductions by 2035.

We can’t extract enough of the minerals out of the ground quick enough to be able to meet those targets. Automatically, yet we’re moving towards a low emissions environment. EVs will be part of that equation. Potentially, a hydrogen fuel cell will be part of that [00:49:00] equation as well. We don’t know, but it comes down to the timing of it.

And ultimately at this point in time, obviously the inflation reduction up is doing a fair amount to, to move battery production and vehicle production towards what I would classify as French drawing or, strategic manufacturing within North America. But ultimately it means those rates are going to be hard to meet because we simply can’t get the stuff out of the ground quick enough to be able to make it.

Brian Searl: Alright I think that was a good discussion. I don’t know if I contributed anything good to it, but we have four minutes left here. Do you guys have any final parting thoughts for us?

Phil Ingrassia: Wow.

Susan Carpenter:

don’t know.

Phil Ingrassia: Don’t all talk at once. It’s gonna warm up, so that’s good. And in the U. S. I know it’s summer in Australia, right? 

Luke Chippindale: I need it to cool down, Phil. 

Susan Carpenter: We’ll take some [00:50:00] of your tea. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, my wife is glued to the Australian Open every day right now. She’s a big tennis player, so she’s watching all that action.

Very exciting. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, it’s I feel sorry for it. Melbourne’s, they’ve got it in the right location because Melbourne’s probably the most temperate climate during summer. We’ve been, we’ve got a cyclone just sitting off the coast of Queensland at the moment where where yesterday was 37, 38 degrees which, Is over a hundred for you guys, but yeah.

37 for me, how about you, Dan? Yeah, it’s been a relatively uncomfortable summer. Oh boy. 

Brian Searl: Yeah those are tough, right? It’s inter I live right on Alberta, BC, so we deal with both. It was negative 40 in Calgary a week and a half ago, and then in BC some days, and Alberta, it’ll get up to 37, 38, 40, right?

Luke Chippindale: Give me a winter any day. 

Brian Searl: Yeah. Alright, Go ahead, Susan. 

I’m sorry. 

Susan Carpenter: Oh, I was just going to say, it’s raining here in wonderful Mishawaka, Elkhart, [00:51:00] Indiana, so 

Brian Searl: We’re going to move the RV manufacturing to Hawaii, and then everybody can live there. Let’s lobby for that, Bill. Yeah. That seems like a way there.

No offense. 

Luke Chippindale: Stop pulling the knights together with that one, Brian. I’ll help you out with that. 

Brian Searl: Alright, done. If you wanted to communicate one thing to the North American campground owners, RV dealers, everybody who watches this loop, what would that be about? Australia or the industry or anything you want to say?

Luke Chippindale: Look yeah, that’s a big one. I know. From my perspective our industry’s we’re matured to the point where it is a sizable mature industry. Where the value for money, offering The product expanse, the park expanse and infrastructure offering is second to none. I’ve neglected to mention, any time I travel, I actually stay in caravan parks.

And in a previous life, I would largely only stay in hotels. I now, wherever I go, will look for the local caravan parks, such as they’re offering. It’s you [00:52:00] very rarely get the type of customer experience anywhere else than you would do it in a park these days. So what it means to the Australian psyche in the Australian econ economy is tremendous and something that we’re really proud of.

So we encourage anyone who wants to come down and experience the Australian caravan industry. 

Brian Searl: All right thank you so much for being here. I know it’s really early super grateful for you. 

Luke Chippindale: Thank you for having me anytime. 

Brian Searl: Don’t say that. You really make your recurring guests at four o’clock in the morning.

Luke Chippindale: There’s worse things. I was a cyclist, so I’m usually up at four o’clock anyway. So 

Brian Searl: we’re always open to opinions from Australia. I’ll tell you that. So we want to like part of this is bring the whole world together, right? 

Phil Ingrassia: Give our regards to Stuart Lamont. He’s awesome. 

Luke Chippindale: He’s a good man. He’s a very good man.

Brian Searl: Any final thoughts, Bill or Susan, before we go? Great show as usual. [00:53:00] Alright, thank you guys for being here. I appreciate you. This is another episode of MC Fireside Chats. We’ll be back next week. And take care guys, and have a great day. 

Luke Chippindale: Thanks guys. Lovely meeting you all. 

Thanks for joining us for this episode of MC Fireside Chats with your host, Brian Searl. Have a suggestion for a show idea? Want your campground or company in a future episode? Email us at hello at moderncampground. com. Get your daily dose of news from moderncampground. com and be sure to join us next week for more insights into the fascinating world of outdoor hospitality.

This is MC Fireside Chats, a weekly show featuring conversations with thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and outdoor hospitality experts who share their insights to help your business succeed. Hosted by Brian Searl, the founder and CEO of Insider Perks, empowered by insights from Modern Campground, the most innovative news source in the industry.

Brian Searl: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of MC [00:01:00] Fireside Chats. My name is Brian Searl with Insider Perks. Super excited to be here with all of you for our 4th week kind of recurring RV industry, outdoor recreation focused episode. I think it’s our first one of this year. Yeah. In January for you guys being on the show.

Talk a little bit about some of your expectations for the years and things like that. We’ve got Susan Carpenter, one of our recurring guests from the RV Women’s Alliance, as well as Phil and Gracia from the RVDA. Our Miss Eleanor today. She’s in some meetings, and I guess Shane is not showing up either.

So hopefully he’ll be able to join us. Then we got Luke Chippendale all the way from Australia. It is very late there, right? 

Luke Chippindale: Early. Fall by the end. 

Brian Searl: Early. Okay. All right. Very early there. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. We’ll try to talk to you first and then you can just bail if you want.

But welcome Luke. So let’s just go around and briefly we’ll introduce ourselves. For those of you who don’t know, obviously we can start with Luke since you’re first show and then we can do Susan and Phil. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. Look I largely cover off our government relations.

So that sees me. Spent a lot of time in our nation’s capital, which [00:02:00] is Canberra, so working with federal politicians to effectively to really elevate the voice of the caravan industry within Australia. We’ve been going reasonably well of late, and it’s really trying to keep that momentum going, particularly from a political standpoint as well.

Brian Searl: I’m definitely interested in talking to you about that because we’ve had people on the show here in the United States, and I say here, but the United States and Canada, specifically, who deal with government relations and lobbying and their efforts to get legislation passed and bring, pieces of legislation to, otherwise wouldn’t receive attention, right?

And so I’m very interested to see what the synergies are between what you’re dealing with, what we’re dealing with, and that kind of stuff. So I think that’d be a really interesting discussion. Phil? 

Phil Ingrassia: Hi, I’m Phil Ingrassia. I’m president of the RV Dealers Association of the US. We represent all the travel trailers and motorhome dealers across the country and looking forward to an improving year in 2024.

Brian Searl: [00:03:00] Does RVDA have a Australia branch? 

Phil Ingrassia: No I believe that we’ve met with Stuart Lamont and some of the folks over there and they have a An association that represents the entire industry, where in the U. S. and Canada, they are separate dealer and manufacturer. 

Brian Searl: Gotcha. Okay. Susan, welcome back.

Susan Carpenter: Thank you. Happy to be here. My name is Susan Carpenter, and I am president of the RV Women’s Alliance. We are actually Worldwide now because we have members in Canada, we have members in Australia, where you are Luke and that’s my volunteer job, basically, and then I also work for an injection molding company called B& B Molders 

Brian Searl: when you say worldwide, who’s in Ireland? 

Susan Carpenter: You know what? We have somebody in Ireland, too. We don’t have a lot of people, but we seem to have gotten a lot of interest, and in fact, Australia, there was somebody over here during [00:04:00] RV Move America week that was interested in starting something up similar to ours in Australia and working with us.

Brian Searl: Iceland, 

Susan Carpenter: probably not Iceland. 

Multi country. 

Brian Searl: That’s just okay. There’s there’s just gotta be goals, right? If you hit the ceiling and you’re at your peak, you can retire. Yeah. 

Susan Carpenter: North America is where we center, but we do have members across the pond, so to speak. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Yeah, I’m definitely excited.

Obviously a great organization we’ve had you on for quite some time. Does anybody have anything pressing that we want to talk about? It’s been we haven’t seen you since last year. Really two months. It’s been two months because we had that special Christmas episode where we kicked you guys all off the show and had a recap.

So like the last two months, what’s been new? We, I don’t want to go all the way back to the conferences, but really we haven’t had that conversation yet, have we? How all the conferences went last year and all that kind of stuff and what you guys are looking forward to this year. Let’s do this year.

Susan and Phil, what are you looking forward to in 2024? What’s positive? 

Phil Ingrassia: I [00:05:00] think that, the industry forecasts anyway in the U. S. and Canada are for slightly better wholesale shipments. Meaning the, Manufacturer shipping to the dealers. Now, retails forecast to be flat year over year between 2023 and 2024.

So why is that happening? Dealers really sold into the inventory that they had. So there was an inventory drawdown in the U. S. and Canada, and now dealers have to restock the shelves. And so you’re going to see higher wholesale shipments. I think throughout the year retail is going to blow along at the same level as it was last year.

At least that’s a prediction right now from folks who do that kind of predicting. 

Brian Searl: What is the what is the sense of is this, I know we’ve been talking about how we’re expecting a moderation or a leveling off or is it going as intended? Is it better than expected? Is it trending [00:06:00] down and maybe we’ll cover?

Phil Ingrassia: I don’t think anybody’s really surprised by the market right now, in the U. S. and Canada the interest rate situation is moderating and that’s going to be a big driver for all discretionary purchases and whether it’s boats, whether it’s RVs, whether it’s, power sports.

Interest rates are a big part of that, and so as the Fed in the U. S. moderates that that’s, I think that’s going to have a lot, a big impact on the affordability of the units. And not to say that the manufacturers aren’t trying to moderate the price increases as well. There’s, there were, as Susan knows, they’re working very hard.

On holding the line on prices and she was just at the Florida RV Super Show, which is one of the biggest retail shows in the country and That the reports out of that show were you know at entry level mid level [00:07:00] products were You know front and center and really, manufacturers are trying to hit those affordability price 

Brian Searl: points All right.

I definitely want to talk to Susan about that show, but I want to get to Luke first Because he was kind enough to get up super early. Have you had coffee yet, Luke? 

Luke Chippindale: I’ve been efficient and actually put two away already, so I’m quite proud of myself. 

Brian Searl: What time is it actually there? 

Luke Chippindale: We’re now 8 past 5, so I woke up about 4ish to get the coffee.

Brian Searl: I appreciate you being here. We’ll try to make it work. 

Luke Chippindale: No, thanks for having me. 

Brian Searl: One of the goals of the show, and I don’t know how often, anybody from Australia tunes in, we’ve certainly had some guests on the show before. We’ve got good relationships with some of the suppliers who represent over there, like New Book and RMS and stuff like that.

So definitely we’ve had some discussions on the show, but it’s really interesting to me, the similarities, right? There’s, when I came up in this industry. I’m still coming up in this industry. But for 15 years, like it’s been a over here, you hear about things that are happening in the United States to a [00:08:00] dramatically lesser extent.

Canada would shock me. Like I learned that when I moved here, like I didn’t even know there was a Canadian National Association six years ago or seven years ago. And so I think it’s important for us to hear from people like you who can it’s such a small world. And yes, the rigs are a little bit different in Europe.

I don’t know what they are in Australia, but yet but there’s so many similarities on legislation and policy and how the industry runs and all that kind of stuff. And so just tell us a little bit about what you do for the association first, I think is where we should start. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, certainly. Probably coming back to something Phil said earlier so Caravan Industry Association of Australia covers off both the tourism aspect as well as the trade element.

We’re a fairly broad church from that perspective, which means that I have ample discussion points with elected reps. If I look at the current climate that we’re in, we’re probably a little bit behind where you guys are at the moment. In terms of inflation we’re probably only just getting on top of it.

We’ve started, we’ve now seen two of the recent [00:09:00] terms with minor reductions which is we’ve effectively seen all of our discretionary. Savings evaporate from post Covid. We’re, it’s taking us a little while. We’re, from an economic perspective, it’s we’re effectively going into a little bit of a slowdown.

Our inflation rate hasn’t come down as quickly as the reserve would like which means that it’s probably gonna end up with a longer tail than what you’ve experienced. So that obviously has a bit of a flow onto to the market. We haven’t necessarily seen the softening, so we’re still.

COVID levels which is fantastic. There is forward predictions around certainly the pipeline that shows softening, but ultimately because of our international travel and still fairly high, Cost to leave the country. Caravaning is still a great money option within Australia. So really, we start to talk about the sentiment associated and our marketing team does a fantastic job of keeping caravaning top of mind from both the [00:10:00] trade and tourism perspective.

We’ve got probably most of the assets from a park perspective lies in regional rural areas. So it means that for anyone that comes to the country or Australians that want to see their country, they’ve really got a fantastic opportunity to drive around and check out what is a fairly diverse range of parks these days, and from family parks, cabins and roofed accommodation through to RV pull in points.

Obviously caravan towed product spots as well. Multitude of options as well as a facility. So part of my role is really being able to convey those messages back into, to federal politicians and really advocate for the industry within that space. So we’ve got probably a couple of key challenges.

We’ve moved into that EV low emissions discussion. Which obviously from our perspective has a fair flow on to industry, what it means from an [00:11:00] innovation perspective, from a charging perspective skills and resources is largely still being formulated by the Federal Government they were quick to pull the trigger on selecting a technology and they haven’t been technology agnostic and they haven’t necessarily let Industry dictate what the best options are so part of that now is working through cross collaboration because obviously with the likes of Orcas, there is a great deal of innovation that’s going to flow through from there from lightweight materials and what have you, the use of hydrogen and obviously critical minerals has a fair flow on effect to industry, so again, part of my role is advocating to government to say hey, We’ve got a play in this.

We’re the last sovereign vehicle manufacturer within Australia, so our vehicle market has disappeared quite some years ago, so a lot of that cross collaboration, what would be the innovation aspects and design aspects, [00:12:00] disappeared from our shores a while ago, so it’s meant that we effectively have to try to keep pressure on government to go we’re it.

If you want us to maintain a sovereign vehicle manufacturer you need to support us in some fashion. We represent close to 900 trade elements across the sector. I think there’s 2, 600 caravan parks across the country, if not more. So there is, we’re a 27 billion industry within Australia so it’s not insurmountable and it’s keeping us top of mind when it comes to any policy or legislation that’s brought about.

Brian Searl: Alright, so I have a couple questions for you. And if he’ll please, and Susan, jump in any time if you have questions for him as well. Just for most of our audiences, obviously North America, United States, and Canada, we’re expanding slowly, right? Modern Campground covers the whole world, but I think it’s fair to say that most of our audience is over here.

So for those of you who aren’t, for those of our audience, which is most, who aren’t as familiar with the Australian New [00:13:00] Zealand, it’s Australian New Zealand you represent, or just Australia? 

Luke Chippindale: Just Australia. We co operate with the Wellington Museum, but we represent just Australia. 

Brian Searl: Okay, so for Australia, if you look back five years, fill us in on some of the most important policy victories that you guys have had.

Luke Chippindale: That’s a great question. So one of probably the most recent one, we were fortunate to advocate to government for a significant injection of 10 million, which, in the scheme of things, it sounds great, but in the scheme of things probably didn’t do too much. It was a bit of a drop in the ocean.

In terms of really being able to highlight infrastructure changes within caravan parks. We’ve seen the recognition by Federal Government now that the industry matters and the industry is relevant. From that perspective, that was one of the key parts to see, start seeing more accessible elements to, to caravan parks.

And then from that, safety within Australia is really paramount. Whether that be safety from a vehicle [00:14:00] perspective, towing perspective regulatory. From us, we, with COVID coming into play. It meant that there was a paradigm shift within the market. Probably seven my, Stuart would probably say close to 10 years ago, he’s been advocating for the likes of a Road Vehicle Safety Act which really started to talk about the minimum standard of design elements.

That took a long time to advocate for, it took a long time for government to understand why an industry would be asking for greater compliance. And greater oversight into it. That finally came into fruition July last year which saw manufacturers having to meet. A design standard underneath the Federal Government’s policy and regulatory protection.

It meant that there was effectively the Department of Infrastructure and Transport would run compliances as well as just us doing it. And we would there was no, there’s no necessarily powers associated with the compliance checks that we do. It shows, this had a level of enforceability to [00:15:00] it, which was fantastic.

I start to probably move away from what the Feds have done and what the market has done. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a significant increase in capital from whether it be lots of superannuation funds or private enterprise into parks and into the industry itself. They’ve recognised what the industry means for Domestic tourism coupled with also the vehicle elements, so more vehicle manufacturing.

So it’s meant that our offering of product has increased significantly. Do we know what type of bird that is? It sounds cool. 

Brian Searl: Yeah, I think it’s I can’t remember what the name of them are. They’re the Canadian birds. I can’t remember the name. They’re really annoying. So it’s the name. Anyway, yeah, he’s up on my little roof there.

Chillin sorry, I’ll mute you. 

Luke Chippindale: That’s cool. So yeah from, we’ve had probably minor policy wins we’ve had injections of defibrillators so we’ve advocated to the federal government to ask for [00:16:00] effectively the input of defibrillators That’s early, forgive me, getting words out into caravan parks and that surprisingly enough has seen quite a significant probably safety nets probably too strong a word, but there has definitely been instances within the the tens of where people have had an incident at a park and there’s been a defibrillator on hand to have them keep started back into normality for want of a better term.

It’s minor policy wins through to those major ones as we go along. 

Brian Searl: So as you look forward, and again, Phil and Susan, if you’d like to pop in, please do, so I don’t have to talk more because everybody’s, nobody likes when I talk. If you look ahead the same flip question, if you look ahead to the next five years, what are your kind of major priorities that you’d love to see as wins?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a great question. So we’re probably similar to the conversations that are probably happening in many sectors where we’re still looking to see what that baseline looks like. What’s the new norm looks like. So [00:17:00] for us it’s understanding where that’s going to land.

From a federal government perspective, we’ve worked hard over the last probably 18 months, two years to get probably a more recognised advocacy and policy discussion within Australian Parliament House. We’ve been fortunate enough to have that happen with what is called the Parliamentary Friends of Caravan in Group.

That effectively means that we have three Locked in meetings per year at Parliament House, which sees effectively bipartisan support for caravanning and discussion around critical policy points for caravanning. We’re still recovering from COVID in as much as skills and resources are still quite thin on the ground.

Because we’re so reliant upon. A set workforce it becomes challenging when we have [00:18:00] people across the country that don’t necessarily want to do what they were doing prior to the pandemic. Being able to upskill. Again so we’ve got park managers, so we’ve got people being able to repair caravans people being able to understand what it is to work within a caravan sector is tremendously important.

And we’ve, that’s probably one of our key parts. We’ve ironically enough just put in our Federal Budget pre submission this morning. To talk about where we’re looking at over the next sort of three to five years. And really some of those key priorities are around ensuring that domestic tourism has international flights capacity start to, to pick up again.

We start to see the decrease in prices, people opting for more international travel and forgetting about their backyard. That’s ultimately for us is ensuring that we maintain top of mind from a government perspective. That you can’t ignore domestic tourism, you need to ensure that we embrace people [00:19:00] visiting our country.

The economic ramifications around lack of regional dispersal is quite dire and without overstating it, there are a number of towns and regions across the country that are heavily reliant upon drive tourism. And the economic stimulus that provides. If government was to turn away from that or not support it as, as much as we would like it has a significant flow on effect.

So that’s it. 

Brian Searl: I don’t mean to interrupt you, but that’s an interesting thing that I think we share, right? It’s so interesting to me, and I was in Iceland in September. It was the same way. Iceland’s like literally the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to in my life. But we’re, but I had so many conversations with people about pre COVID.

Even people in Iceland would leave Iceland and not realize what they had in their own backyard. I’m like, this is mind blowing to me, but it’s the same way everywhere. When I used to live in Florida, I was, I moved down there. It was nine miles from the beach and 45 minutes from Disney. And we moved down there.

I’m going to go to the beach every single day. And then you forget what’s in your own backyard. So is there any tricks that you guys have to obviously marketing and [00:20:00] commercials and right. But is there anything that you’ve seen that works really well? 

Luke Chippindale: I can probably only relay back to a couple of the campaigns that we did for COVID and that was so our marketing general manager is quite phenomenal.

So within a week or two of lockdowns commencing in Australia. We came up with the idea, or he came up with the idea, along with our CEO, Stuart Lamont, of holidaying at home. Getting people automatically to think about, what we don’t need to travel overseas. We don’t even necessarily need to travel hundreds of kilometres to remember what it is to holiday together and what that experience means.

That then, once lockdown started to lift and we were able to You know, travel slightly more slightly further. The next progression was, okay, holiday at home, a holiday in your own backyard. Check out your region. Remember what it’s like to visit a new place in your region and the feeling [00:21:00] that provides you.

Remember the connectivity that you have with your own country, with your own region. And that sort of has spread out from there through to we have a Road to a Million campaign that runs now annually. Which again, singing the praises of our GM for marketing is a, is an award winning campaign. And it’s just for further people travel within Australia, the more they’re rewarded with their chance to win a million dollars.

So it’s really getting them to visit some really cool places in Australia, visiting a a partner park and, basically highlighting the fact that, Hey, we’ve been here, we really enjoyed it. Can you help me recognize it so I can potentially win a million dollars?

Brian Searl: Phil, have you thought about giving away a random million dollars if you buy an RV? You rent it for a chance to win, right? You just gotta buy an RV. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah a lot of shows are giving away RVs, but dealers are giving away RVs. I don’t know about that. 

Brian Searl: No. Don’t give away the RV.

Just give away the million dollars. To one person out of everybody who buys an RV. [00:22:00] And then you sell more RVs, right? Naturally, you would. You have to, you would think. I don’t know. I’m just saying it could drive demand. We got to try. 

Phil Ingrassia: Sounds like a church fundraiser to me, Brian. 

Brian Searl: Could be. Could be. I’m definitely not the person behind this operation, 

Susan Carpenter: yeah, this brings up a good point about travel, too. I think people before COVID were so enamored in flying to other countries and seeing other countries, and what COVID did is made them You know, travel in their backyard, basically, because if you forget, you take the United States. My husband and I, one of our goals, see every national park in the United States.

And it’s incredible. It really is. I don’t think people really realize what your own country has as resources because you just don’t think about it, right? It just and I think there’s quite a few people that said you know what, I don’t think we need to travel international considering what we have here, and are very slow to go back to [00:23:00] that kind of tourism.

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, and you raise a really interesting point. Our research team did some some fairly groundbreaking research. It’s probably getting a little bit old now. I think it was probably about 2018 and it needs to be refreshed. But looking at the wellbeing and connectedness of caravanning and camping.

And being able to talk to the human element and something that was largely unparalleled when you look at international travel. Reminding people that it’s not necessarily just about the trip. It’s what the trip actually, the byproduct of it and the outcome of it. And that is, you feel more connected.

You probably feel more connected to your kids where Quite often doing international travel, the last thing you feel like is connected to the people that you’re traveling with because it’s not always particularly from Australia where it’s a sizable leap to anywhere it’s often challenging.

For us, that was a key element the really the wellbeing aspect of caravanning and camping has been a tremendous outcome from our perspective. Awesome.[00:24:00] 

Brian Searl: Susan, I’d love to pivot to you just for a second. 

Susan Carpenter: Sure. 

Brian Searl: Let’s talk about the Florida show since you went. I think you’re the only one on.

Susan Carpenter: What was cold, I wore my winter coat. 

Brian Searl: I’m sorry, just likewise to you, Luke. If you have any questions, feel free to jump in. 

Susan Carpenter: Yeah. I was down there for the day, walk the show, Talk to a bunch of vendors. And you’re, Phil’s absolutely right about the price point too, because a lot of the RVs that I’ve seen, I was there on a Saturday were the lower point RVs that you see the sold sign on.

Anywhere from about 40, 000 on down. The bigger ticket items obviously are a bigger reach. Very well attended. There were, It was wall to wall people, and everybody, was in a jovial mood and happy to be there. I don’t think there’s any research that came out yet of, how many of those people actually bought RVs, but it was encouraging.

People were buying them, so that was good, and people were out there looking. And I think a lot of [00:25:00] people, we talked to a lot of people that said they were trading in. So that’s another thing that’s a good sign. We always like to see people trading in older models for the newer ones. So 

Brian Searl: I’m curious, Phil, maybe you don’t know this or do you know this, but is there a difference in margin from a dealer if first, if they sell a big unit versus a medium size or a smaller unit?

Phil Ingrassia: Oh yeah, definitely. We do benchmarking for that kind of activity and, it’s like anything else smaller items require, larger margins. Typically the margins on new towables are slightly larger than on motorized just because dealers Typically we’ll make a little bit more money as far as a margin goes on the total products because they’re lower priced, so the margins have to be a little bit higher.

Brian Searl: Luke, does it, does the industry look the same over there as far as the size of rigs that people are driving? Because I know in Europe it’s smaller, [00:26:00] right? Generally speaking. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, so we’re probably middle of the road, pardon the pun where our product is and certainly the consumer appetite is, particularly from a towed product perspective, has been towards larger towables.

Effectively almost towing the family home these days from a tow product, from a motorized product. We’re probably not at the same size we’re approaching but it’s still probably more of a downsized element from where you guys are currently at. Most of our parking’s around the tow product, and our motorized parking is.

It’s obviously expanding, which is good, but definitely at this point, we’re only probably approaching three and a half, four ton in some instances for a towed product. And do you see that? 

Brian Searl: Sorry, go ahead, Susie. 

Susan Carpenter: No, I was going to say, in that market is, are they normally, camping at campgrounds, or do you have a lot of people?

After I docking and going off into the wild, 

Luke Chippindale: Most of our market is towards [00:27:00] parks. So we tend not to have a lot of free camping. So most of it will be within parks. Part of that is around our regulatory process. Councils quite often frown upon people free camping.

So they’ll have designated areas within national parks or what have you that people can pull up and stay in. But certainly from a free camping perspective, it tends not to be quite as dominant. 

Brian Searl: I was going to ask Michael, I’m taking you back for a second, but I was going to ask, do you see that size of the rigs being like trending up or trending down based on the interest rates and the economy, or is it just still ended up from your perspective?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a good, we’re probably still we haven’t necessarily seen too much shift in that probably because we’re probably still a little bit behind you guys in terms of. What the new economic challenges face for the market. We’ve seen the softening in the forward progressions.

We haven’t necessarily seen it shift product per se. So our what would we, what we [00:28:00] would determine to be gray nomads or that upper echelon market is fairly well insulated, they will tend to go for the bigger product anyway. Is that going to push the expansion on the size? I don’t necessarily see that happening in the short term.

I think consumer behaviour, we’ve still got the rise of what we classify as digital nomads, so families that have decided to sell up or hit the road because of COVID. There is still that population traveling where they’re still looking at vans themselves. The aftermarket hasn’t necessarily shifted at all.

In fact, it’s probably held fairly tight. Which would suggest that there is still an appetite there to be going into bigger product. 

Brian Searl: Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. I keep jumping back and forth with questions because I keep thinking about something that I want to ask now, which is now Susan Stern for Florida, and really Phil, too.

I’m curious as we go. I don’t want to say forward but as more and more people have the internet [00:29:00] as a tool and research things online and things like that, are the shows, like the big huge shows, they’re obviously still an impact, no, no question on the bottom line for dealers, right?

But are they as big of an impact, is it as as important for them to have a super successful Florida RV show as it was 20 years ago?

Phil Ingrassia: I think shows are definitely evolving. One of the things that in the U. S. and North American market in general is there are so many brands of units and among those brands are floor plans. Some are very limited production floor plans, so it’s difficult to just have a complete online buying experience and find the right RV.

Because of all the variations and, you’re not [00:30:00] buying a, a Toyota RAV4, which gray with whatever trim level. It’s a little different when you’re buying a travel trailer and or a motorhome because of the limited production runs for some models and then of course the floor plan, different differences.

It’s like the house, the different in, interior treatments of everything from the couches to the curtains or whatever. So while I will, there certainly is a lot more online shopping and people are using it to price out and what dealerships they might want to visit, where typically they might go to five or six dealerships, maybe they’re only going to go to two now.

Because they’ve already done a lot of the pre work online, but still, people do want to go in. Oh, for sure. Absolutely. 

Susan Carpenter: They may narrow it down considering what they’re looking for, are they looking for, bunk beds and you’re [00:31:00] a toy hauler, you can do that. But I think these big shows like the Tampa and PRVCA and the Texas ones and the ones across the country are, I think are important because Joel said, it’s not like a car where you know, and you go in, there’s only, there’s limited trim models.

You go in and it’s like buying a house on wheels, basically. Your colors are different, even though the floor plan, it looks like the floor plan you, you want, the minute you walk in It’s different. There again, it’s the color. How is it really laid out? You just can’t get a feel for that online, no matter how many pictures you have.

You go to the Tampa show and there’s so many RVs there. You can it’s really great. Even if you’re not going to buy at that show, you could sure narrow it down to the one or a couple where then you can go to a local dealership or whatever that carries that brand and actually start the 

process.

Brian Searl: Yeah, so let me clarify, like I wasn’t questioning the importance of the shows, right? Just more so of if you’re a [00:32:00] dealer who has your brand there, and for whatever reason you have an off year does that mean your year is unrecoverable, or are there still enough people who are coming to the individual dealers around your area that can make up for that?

I guess is what I was asking. 

Phil Ingrassia: Show follow up is huge. Not everybody who goes to the shows buys that. And the buying time frame for RVs is, can be very long. It just depends. It’s, when you buy a car, it’s coming off lease or there’s your Got a big mechanic bill or something like that where that’s typically not the case with the RV buyer, they can take between, three months and a year or longer depending.

So follow up is critical after shows, and a lot of dealers have told me they don’t, they, they can’t really judge a show. for several months until, all those show leads have run their course because certainly some people are gearing up for [00:33:00] a spring trip or they’re snowbirds and they need a unit right now, but typically it’s a longer buying process than a car, because it is discretionary.

Susan Carpenter: Their return on investment must be good because they continue to do these shows and show up in big form.

Brian Searl: Came across that way. I was done. It wasn’t questioning the ROI of the shows. 

Susan Carpenter: It’s an interesting question because as internet sales and like when you’re buying a car and different things, buying habits have changed. Who doesn’t buy from Amazon constantly, but anyways, just because it’s easy, right?

But those are just for simple things. I don’t think in that atmosphere, for the dealer or the retail person, that’s changed a lot other than maybe some research up front. And for the dealer, like Bill said, I think, it’s like advertising. You get the people [00:34:00] out there, they meet you, they feel comfortable with you, who are they going to go back to when they’re ready to buy the unit?

Phil Ingrassia: And the other thing I think about shows that dealers think about too is that when you’re at a show, you’re not visiting the dealership. You don’t know what kind of service capacity they have. You may not even know where they are, as far as where you live. And that’s an important part of it too, is for people shopping at shows that, you know.

They shouldn’t just look at the price. Obviously that’s, one of the main things, what’s the service after the sale going to be like? How convenient is it going to be to get your vehicle serviced? And so all those things should play in the buying process as well.

I think that’s, I represent the dealer, so I’m going to say that but it’s true. It, dealer, The RVs need service. That’s just a fact. And and the harder it is to get service, the less likely you are to be happy with the unit. 

Brian Searl: That’s where I think I was going. It’s I just suck at asking questions.

But[00:35:00] I think my point was, is if you have the internet to narrow down the top three or five models that you’re interested in, is it as necessary to go to the show, or do you just go to your couple local dealers and then buy quicker? I don’t think there’s, I agree with you I wouldn’t buy an RV online.

Susan Carpenter: I think it’s fun to go to the shows. You may have it narrowed down, but it, 

Brian Searl: you’re twisting my question again, Susan. I know, I’m with you. 

Susan Carpenter: I get what you’re saying. Yeah, I think. 

Brian Searl: You’re making me look bad. 

Susan Carpenter: No, I just think I just think it’s a great opportunity for the consumers to get out and see everything that’s out there in one spot, rather than going from dealership to dealership.

Brian Searl: The flip side of that is what Phil said, though. You have to do that extra research, right? Again, I’m not advocating for them not to go, but just 

Susan Carpenter: Yeah, no, I’m just saying, I love, so a lot of times when I go there as not a consumer, but in the industry, I’m going there for industry trends. What’s the design, what’s the [00:36:00] hardware, what, what, choosing what, just get a feel of.

Where they’re going and what better place than to go to one of these big shows and be able to walk so many different types of units and get a real good sense overall. Doesn’t matter who’s making it what’s going on out there. Is it turning more to silver? Are we going back to gold? There’s just so many trends that you can look at.

To me that’s very invaluable. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, and increasingly too Florida is the Florida RV Super Show in Tampa. is like this and so is the Big Hershey Show in Pennsylvania where the manufacturers are bringing prototypes. Electric vehicles, all kinds of different things for people to take a look at.

They may not be ready for sale, but they are building PR around that and showing folks, what’s coming in the future. They’re a place to demonstrate, not only what’s for sale now, but increasingly what’s coming down the pike and what [00:37:00] innovations are coming into the industry.

Luke Chippindale: From an Australian market perspective, the show has given a fantastic opportunity to really highlight the aspirational aspect of the vehicles, and then it’s almost a two tiered system, so the shows act as that element to form, start forming an emotional connection with, whether it be a floor plan or what you would like to have in the vehicle itself, and then go, okay, you know what, I really dig.

X, y and Z dealers, and then they start to form the relationships with those dealers as well, and might go and visit the, and find out what their capacity is. So it all, it almost ends up being an inter interlinked chain around how that emotional connection is made before even the purchase is done.

That’s an 

Susan Carpenter: interesting perspective. You’re right, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into those things when you buy one. 

Brian Searl: Let’s briefly for a second pivot back to government relations. That’s what Luke’s specialty is, right? We don’t want to use the most valuable time we have from Luke’s on our show [00:38:00] So in but also I think I’m gonna pitch the same thing maybe to you Phil and Susan So if you want to start thinking about this, I’m just curious so all the things right like you’ve got especially in Australia when everything’s merging to one association as we talked about but There’s so many different priorities from so many different people Right?

Everybody has this legislation that they want you to focus on, or this problem they want you to solve, or So, as an association, how do you decide where your limited, I’m assuming, resources go? Because we’re all not billionaires. At least I’m not. Phil might be. But, so how do you decide? Like, how do you decide what to prioritize?

Luke Chippindale: That’s a good question. Sorry. From I guess the way that I ultimately approach it and will pitch it to both Stuart and the board and ultimately our state members will be almost around horizontal priorities. If I look at, the transition to EV. Or the shift towards low emissions fuels, we start to talk [00:39:00] about a horizontal priority that needs work now, but is it imminent work that needs to be done now?

Likely not. We need to formulate the policy. We need to formulate and understand what the trajectory looks like, what that pathway looks like, and then start to. Course correct or bring legislation that, that helps enable industry to hit the end point. That’s, if I look at it from that perspective and there’s a whole I come back to you’d likes of skills or manufacturing and there is then ultimately minor priorities that sit along those pipelines that.

Ultimately trying to get some skills to drive innovation sooner rather than later is better and working through from that perspective through to what are our imminent next sort of two year issues coming forward. What are we needing to advocate for? Again, I’ll come back to skills insurance we’ve got we’re still battling fairly high insurance premiums for both PI and PL.

[00:40:00] Policies trying to work with what any measure or any I’ll be careful here because it’s we’ve done a fair amount of work already but any application that can be made by government to international underwriters or what have you to understand what our environment looks like and best ways to work within our environment.

You start to prioritise what the industry is crying for now, what it’s potentially going to be crying for or needing in the short term, mid term, and then ultimately what does 10 years look like. We’re doing a fair amount of work currently to understand what caravanning in Australia looks like in 10 years time based on potential towable potential vehicles and potential fuel sources and charging infrastructure and, unfortunately there isn’t a lot of government strategy to help direct us in, in that the market is still deciding for a country.

Like Australia, where we are heavily based in resources, we obviously sit at the forefront [00:41:00] of critical minerals, what that means for the transition, coupled with obviously hydrogen there’s a different, a number of different plays that you try to track the trajectory on to help industry as much as possible.

Brian Searl: What are your, I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on lobbying Phil caravaning in the United States? Because I think that’s way cooler. What is the RVDA? I don’t want to go RVing in the U. S. I want to go caravaning. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, Yeah, that’s a European that came over from Europe. I guess I don’t know but yeah, it’s it’s always interesting the different nomenclature, but a lot of the issues are the same and Certainly one of the biggest ones that we’re going to be facing in the next 10 years is the electrification of the tow vehicle fleet and, how that’s going to move forward and at what pace and is there going to be the infrastructure to support those folks and, lessen or eliminate range anxiety that’s out there.

And of course in the U. S. there’s a big [00:42:00] infrastructure package that was passed by Congress. And so a lot of that is being aimed at infrastructure, but of course, how is government going to do this? When gasoline vehicles started, the private sector put the gas stations out there, the oil companies.

This is a different a different approach. And how is that going to be done? Is it going to be done through tax incentives or? Direct government grants to folks to put up chargers in rural areas and places where people recreate. And all that’s starting to get worked out, but it’s far from clear at this point how that’s gonna, how that’s all gonna shake out.

So while, the automakers are talking about a shift to EV chassis. Our industry’s got to watch on, okay, where’s the support structure for that and what’s that going to look like in the future? 

Brian Searl: Do you [00:43:00] find that, and just speaking about EV vehicles is what prompted the question in my head, but do you find as you, both of you gentlemen are working on, government relations and things like this, for the people who didn’t say, come to you and say we want you to work on EVs, let’s just pick EVs for example, right?

Who are either against EVs or don’t believe it’s going to be a big thing or it’s going to be 20 or 30 years away instead of 10 years away? Do you find that sometimes it’s difficult to explain to them why that’s your priority over some other things if they don’t, if they aren’t completely on board?

Just from an association standpoint, isn’t it? 

Phil Ingrassia: There’s a lot of noise about this right now. In fact, I was at a public policy forum last week in D. C. where you had one side talking about, what we’re gonna do this if we don’t do it. China’s gonna come in with a cheap ev and everybody’s gonna buy it.

And we’re going to lose a whole decade of of built in America, built in the US or built in North [00:44:00] America vehicles because China’s gonna take the lead in EVs. And this person compared it to the 1970s in the US where the Asian automakers came in and dominated. By selling fuel efficient vehicles, okay, during the Arab Oil Embargo and all that time.

On the other hand, you’ve got another side saying, the government shouldn’t be pushing this should be a market based economy, and if people want EVs, they should buy them, but it shouldn’t be the government forcing them on their buying decision. Both reasonable arguments. Yep. What, as a, as an association executive, you’ve got to take the, all the information you can and try to guide a path that’s reasonable forward for your organization.

I, whatever happens, if it gets personal with you, that’s probably not the way to go. You need [00:45:00] to react to data and take all the information in, but when it becomes a political football that’s where it can be a real problem. So both sides have really good arguments in some respects.

But, you’ve got to balance it out. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, and Phil, you made a really good point and it’s an interesting from our perspective. We effectively replicate North America when it comes to our consumer behaviours. Our top five vehicles are, light, heavy what we would call four wheel drives.

Or, pickups or what have you, so the likes of the Hiluxes and we’re even starting to get large scale Ford Rangers and what have you. They’re our consumer products. That’s what Australians like to buy. We’re now We’re effectively an Asian market though we’re reliant upon whatever Asia picks up and provides us we’re in this weird scenario whereby the government will have to have some sort of interplay to try to open up or drive market so [00:46:00] that we can at the very least meet consumer demand.

Without Chinese product coming in and when we’re really susceptible to Chinese product, if we look at what imports have happened during COVID, it’s been Chinese imports. So it’s where it will be an interesting scenario. And again, you’re having to remove your personal perspectives around it.

Just to allow some sort of trajectory for industry to, to work 

Brian Searl: through. I think I maybe stepped into a landmine unmistakably, but that was a great conversation anyway. But it was more so talking about, all right, now you’ve used the data and you’ve used it and you’re headed in the right direction. You’ve decided as an association, how do you then convince the people who weren’t fully on board with just using one example of many, EV this time, right?

That this is the right path. How do you bring, how do you message that to those people? 

Luke Chippindale: I think you’ve probably just you’ve used the D word and there is a severe lack of data to, to be able to convince anyone at this point. Sorry, Phil, I jumped in, but to that trigger 

Phil Ingrassia: [00:47:00] you’re 100 percent right.

And people will use the data to make whatever point they want. For instance here in the U. S. It was a big deal that Hertz decided to sell. 20 percent of their electric fleet saying it was a high cost, hard to maintain vehicle. So that got a lot of press. See, EVs are bad. So people were taking that.

And then on the other hand, if you dig a little deeper, Hertz always is turning over their rental car fleet. So they’re getting rid of thousands of. Ice or internal combustion engine vehicles as well. It’s just a matter of, we still, the crystal ball is very cloudy on EVs. The manufacturers have said they’re going to make these, production goals, okay?

An all electric EV market by 2035 or whatever, whatever that goal they’ve set. But, they’re, they’re cutting back Ford Lightning production and moving some of those people over to produce ICE [00:48:00] vehicles. It’s very complicated right now. And I do think that there, there’s going to be a place for EVs and it could open up a whole new market for people who didn’t want to buy a motorhome for whatever reason because they didn’t want to spend that much money on gas.

There’s probably room for both for the foreseeable future. 

Brian Searl: I’m in as soon as it can drive me everywhere autonomously. That’s all I want to do. I need to, I work too much, so 

Luke Chippindale: I’ll probably just add to Phil’s point very quickly, particularly around data. Because of the lack of data around industry, I start to take a step back and go, how do we actually meet the numbers that are going to be required, as Phil was just saying around, vehicle reductions by 2035.

We can’t extract enough of the minerals out of the ground quick enough to be able to meet those targets. Automatically, yet we’re moving towards a low emissions environment. EVs will be part of that equation. Potentially, a hydrogen fuel cell will be part of that [00:49:00] equation as well. We don’t know, but it comes down to the timing of it.

And ultimately at this point in time, obviously the inflation reduction up is doing a fair amount to, to move battery production and vehicle production towards what I would classify as French drawing or, strategic manufacturing within North America. But ultimately it means those rates are going to be hard to meet because we simply can’t get the stuff out of the ground quick enough to be able to make it.

Brian Searl: Alright I think that was a good discussion. I don’t know if I contributed anything good to it, but we have four minutes left here. Do you guys have any final parting thoughts for us?

Phil Ingrassia: Wow.

Susan Carpenter:

don’t know.

Phil Ingrassia: Don’t all talk at once. It’s gonna warm up, so that’s good. And in the U. S. I know it’s summer in Australia, right? 

Luke Chippindale: I need it to cool down, Phil. 

Susan Carpenter: We’ll take some [00:50:00] of your tea. 

Phil Ingrassia: Yeah, my wife is glued to the Australian Open every day right now. She’s a big tennis player, so she’s watching all that action.

Very exciting. 

Luke Chippindale: Yeah, it’s I feel sorry for it. Melbourne’s, they’ve got it in the right location because Melbourne’s probably the most temperate climate during summer. We’ve been, we’ve got a cyclone just sitting off the coast of Queensland at the moment where where yesterday was 37, 38 degrees which, Is over a hundred for you guys, but yeah.

37 for me, how about you, Dan? Yeah, it’s been a relatively uncomfortable summer. Oh boy. 

Brian Searl: Yeah those are tough, right? It’s inter I live right on Alberta, BC, so we deal with both. It was negative 40 in Calgary a week and a half ago, and then in BC some days, and Alberta, it’ll get up to 37, 38, 40, right?

Luke Chippindale: Give me a winter any day. 

Brian Searl: Yeah. Alright, Go ahead, Susan. 

I’m sorry. 

Susan Carpenter: Oh, I was just going to say, it’s raining here in wonderful Mishawaka, Elkhart, [00:51:00] Indiana, so 

Brian Searl: We’re going to move the RV manufacturing to Hawaii, and then everybody can live there. Let’s lobby for that, Bill. Yeah. That seems like a way there.

No offense. 

Luke Chippindale: Stop pulling the knights together with that one, Brian. I’ll help you out with that. 

Brian Searl: Alright, done. If you wanted to communicate one thing to the North American campground owners, RV dealers, everybody who watches this loop, what would that be about? Australia or the industry or anything you want to say?

Luke Chippindale: Look yeah, that’s a big one. I know. From my perspective our industry’s we’re matured to the point where it is a sizable mature industry. Where the value for money, offering The product expanse, the park expanse and infrastructure offering is second to none. I’ve neglected to mention, any time I travel, I actually stay in caravan parks.

And in a previous life, I would largely only stay in hotels. I now, wherever I go, will look for the local caravan parks, such as they’re offering. It’s you [00:52:00] very rarely get the type of customer experience anywhere else than you would do it in a park these days. So what it means to the Australian psyche in the Australian econ economy is tremendous and something that we’re really proud of.

So we encourage anyone who wants to come down and experience the Australian caravan industry. 

Brian Searl: All right thank you so much for being here. I know it’s really early super grateful for you. 

Luke Chippindale: Thank you for having me anytime. 

Brian Searl: Don’t say that. You really make your recurring guests at four o’clock in the morning.

Luke Chippindale: There’s worse things. I was a cyclist, so I’m usually up at four o’clock anyway. So 

Brian Searl: we’re always open to opinions from Australia. I’ll tell you that. So we want to like part of this is bring the whole world together, right? 

Phil Ingrassia: Give our regards to Stuart Lamont. He’s awesome. 

Luke Chippindale: He’s a good man. He’s a very good man.

Brian Searl: Any final thoughts, Bill or Susan, before we go? Great show as usual. [00:53:00] Alright, thank you guys for being here. I appreciate you. This is another episode of MC Fireside Chats. We’ll be back next week. And take care guys, and have a great day. 

Luke Chippindale: Thanks guys. Lovely meeting you all. 

Thanks for joining us for this episode of MC Fireside Chats with your host, Brian Searl. Have a suggestion for a show idea? Want your campground or company in a future episode? Email us at hello at moderncampground. com. Get your daily dose of news from moderncampground. com and be sure to join us next week for more insights into the fascinating world of outdoor hospitality.

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