Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece by Tony Flammia, Director of Sales and Marketing for the National RV Training Center has been submitted to RVBusiness.com for publication.
As interest rates climb and the economy begins to contract in anticipation of recessionary times, many people are expressing concern about the future of the RV industry.
The industry has seen several years of unprecedented exceptional growth, but because everything is cyclical in business, what goes up must come down. It seems to be happening now. Dealers are cutting inventory because they don’t want to be forced to pay interest on RVs that people can’t afford to buy. In turn, manufacturers will reduce production to meet reduced demand.
However, when people hear the words “shrink” or “reduce,” they may assume the industry is backing down. Yet, in most cases, the market is simply sized at normal, more manageable levels.
Despite everything going on with the economy, there is one segment of the RV industry that will continue to thrive for many years to come: service. RVs sold in recent years will still need to be maintained and repaired. We’re talking over 11 million motorhomes and trailers, according to figures maintained by the RV Industry Association (RVIA).
The cyclical economy seems to revisit business owners every 7-10 years. Yet people are either forgetting the lessons learned from the last recession or pretending that things are so different this time around that a different outcome will result.
Things are really different. Despite the weak economy from a sales perspective, the VR service will only continue to grow.
The December 2007 to June 2009 recession taught us that while people will control their spending until things improve, those who own RVs will continue to use them often. The reasons for this are varied:
If consumers own an RV, they might as well use it. Campervan vacations are still considerably cheaper than anything that requires air travel and hotels. During the last recession, “staycations” became a buzzword as families continued to seek recreation options closer to home.
In some parts of the country, living in a motorhome is cheaper than renting an apartment or making mortgage payments. Therefore, some people choose to live full time in RV parks.
COVID has made it clear that people don’t need to be in an office to be productive. Therefore, they can work from home. So who cares if the house is on wheels and changes location frequently?
Parents realize that their children will continue to age despite the state of the economy. They only have a short period to spend time with their children before they become teenagers and move on to other activities, jobs or move out to start their own lives.
As people will continue to use their recreational vehicles, units will continue to break down and need repair. During the last recession, the service business kept many RV dealerships afloat as sales dried up. When sales started to boom again in 2020, virtually overnight due to COVID, many dealerships found themselves needing additional RV technicians to keep up with demand.
Dealerships were so busy moving nearly 600,000 new RVs that they inadvertently created the need for more mobile service technicians.
This fact alone makes a recession in 2022 or 2023 entirely different from those in the past. What has changed is that literally thousands of new RV mobile service technicians have opened businesses across the country in the past five years. While RV sales are down, mobile service technicians are busier than ever.
RV owners have discovered the myriad benefits of working with independent mobile service technicians. Will those customers now return to RV dealerships for routine maintenance just because the economy is shrinking?
In all honesty, I believe there is enough room for everyone. The need for RV service is great and the repair options are few. So, if a dealership provides five-star quality service, the business has nothing to worry about. In fact, many mobile RV technicians work hand-in-hand with dealerships to provide on-the-spot repair options for their customers.
So while sales slow for RV dealers, mobile RV technicians will continue to thrive.
As the recession hits other industries and people lose their jobs, many of them will discover the benefits of being an RV technician. They can get all the training they need to fix 80% of the most common RV problems and start their own business in as little as five weeks.
While some people predict several years of difficult adjustment for brick-and-mortar RV businesses, dealerships known for their exceptional service as well as mobile service technicians are in an enviable position to weather any economic storm and, most likely, to thrive during this period. period.
There has never been a better time for tech-conscious, customer-focused men and women to get into a VR service business. Take that first step today by calling the National RV Training Academy at 903-386-0444 to speak with a student advisor today. People can also visit www.nrvta.com or email [email protected]