A push by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to build fifth-wheels larger than 400 square feet drew a decidedly split response from participants in the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll.
Results from the survey showed 36% in favor of an increase, 47% against, while a fairly high number, 17%, answered maybe – perhaps reflecting the wide range of opinions surrounding with the issue.
The move, which has been strongly opposed by the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and several high-profile campground organizations, would require a change in federal law. RVIA quietly eased its efforts in November, at the same time voting to up the limits on travel trailers to from 320 to 400 square feet.
Most poll respondents supporting additional square footage echoed the primary arguments posed by RVIA – consumers want more room and OEMS can satisfy that demand through larger or more sliderooms rather than increased length or height. Comments included:

  • “It is the natural progression of things to get larger as abilities advance,” observed a retailer. “They don’t really have to make them longer to get the higher square footage. They can do it through more, larger slides to increase interior room. And the campground certainly has control over what will fit in their facility – units too large simply need to go somewhere else. They can also impose length of stay restrictions.
  • “The arguments against this increase just don’t hold water,” said a member of the RV publishing arena. “RVIA is talking about increasing the square footage of the floorplan when the rig is parked and set for camping – slideouts afford this luxury without OEMs having to build unwieldy rigs for highway travel. How is this a problem?”
  • “Many people are going full time and are using fifth-wheels on seasonal or permanent sites,” said a dealer member. “They desire as much living space as they can get. Also, manufacturing methods have created lighter towable products.
    Accordingly, those poll participants against the increase drew on RPTIA’s response that the move would blur the lines between RVs and manufactured housing – perhaps inviting government intervention – and that parks couldn’t accommodate bigger RVs. Some responses were:

  • “The number of RV parks is decreasing around this country in lieu of higher uses,” said a respondent in the California RV park and campground industry. “Increasing the footprint of any RV while in a site requires more and more square footage per site. The options for owners of large rigs will become more and more limited, creating ill-will among these owners. RVs are already being considered low-income housing in California. Larger RVs will only worsen the situation for cities, parks and RVers.”
  • “Bigger is not always better,” said a builder. “If a person wants a park model they should buy a park model. This ‘changing marketplace’ is not being driven by the customer, but instead by a select number of manufacturers who have elected to ignore the rules by going outside the 400-square-foot limit.”
  • “After years of trying to put distance between ourselves and manufactured housing, this initiative, from most every perspective, is a loser that should be halted,” noted a retailer.
    Many respondents – for, against, and undecided – also expressed the need for oversight on towing safety and quality issues.

  • “I would be in favor, simply for the reason of ‘why not?’” said an RV mobile service provider. “The only advantage is more living space. But there are several potential perils. Manufacturers must ensure the frame, chassis, body, slideouts – the whole thing – really is up to the task. And dealers must ensure that buyers have vehicles with sufficient carrying capacity for a bigger trailer.”