On May 11, industry leaders convened at the RV Industry Power Breakfast in Elkhart, Indiana, to discuss the future of the RV industry, which plays a significant role in the region’s economy. Attendees acknowledged that the current state of the industry may not meet their expectations for 2023, but they remained hopeful for innovation and growth.
The RV Hall of Fame hosted the event, drawing a record-breaking crowd, including Governor Eric Holcomb, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, and Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson. A panel discussion featured prominent industry figures such as James Ashurst, Kevin McArt, Nathan Hart, and Phil Ingrassia.
During the panel discussion, Nathan Hart, the owner and manager of Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales, expressed concerns about the struggling economy and its impact on RV sales.
He stated, “Until the consumers feel better about the future, I think we’re going to continue to struggle.” RVIA Chairman and Forest River General Manager Kevin McArt emphasized the need for economic stability and cited high-interest rates as a barrier for many potential RV buyers.
Despite these challenges, the panelists agreed that now is the perfect time to invest in stronger infrastructure and better user experience within the industry. As an example, Hart discussed training technicians at Walnut Ridge, addressing the ongoing technician shortage in the industry.
The RV industry has also witnessed a shift in demographics, with younger consumers showing a growing interest in RVs. James Ashurst shared data showing that the median age of an average RV owner is 54, while the average age of first-time buyers dropped to 33 by 2022.
Toby O’Rourke, the CEO of Kampgrounds of America, emphasized the need for the industry to address various pain points and challenges faced by customers throughout the RVing process. She called for exceptional service at every point in the process, stating, “If we don’t smooth over these friction points, then we are at risk of losing almost 70% of people that are on the border about continuing camping.
The changing demographics of RV owners also bring new demands and expectations, such as the need for better Wi-Fi connectivity and improved accessibility features in RVs. O’Rourke urged industry leaders to leverage these pain points as opportunities for innovation.
Economist and author Peter Morici acknowledged the possibility of a recession this year but expressed hope for improvement in the future. “This year is not a good year; probably next year will be better. You should sell a few more RVs,” he said.
The insights shared at the event underline the importance of innovation and adaptation within the RV industry. As the market evolves and younger generations show increased interest in RVing, industry leaders must collaborate to overcome challenges and seize new opportunities for growth.
The RV industry’s potential for innovation and expansion could play a crucial role in shaping its future and solidifying its position as a key economic driver in regions like northern Indiana.
The 2023 RV Industry Power Breakfast saw a record-breaking crowd of over 1,000 attendees.