Phoenix-based Cavco Industries Inc. is the largest park model manufacturer in the western United States and Mesa-based RV Traders has consistently been its largest dealer, a distinction that recently prompted Cavco to name RV Traders its “Dealer of the Decade.”

But while RV Traders co-owners Ken Dugwyler and Jack Crays are obviously pleased with Cavco’s recognition, they are equally enthused about the timing of Cavco’s announcement, which coincides with a sharp upturn in consumer demand for park models after two years of lagging sales, according to a news release.

“The park models really seem to be reviving this year,” Dugwyler said, adding that RV Traders’ sales are up 30% over 2009 figures.

RV Traders, which has locations in Mesa and Apache Junction, sells both park models as well as travel trailers, fifth-wheels and toy haulers. But Dugwyler said park models, which are used as seasonal cottages in RV parks and resorts in Arizona and throughout the Sunbelt, have withstood the economic downturn better than towable RVs and, consequently, have helped his dealership weather the recession.

“The demand for everything declined in the past couple of years. But the regular RVs suffered considerably more than the park models,” Dugwyler said, adding, “We’re definitely doing a lot better with park model sales this year than the past couple of seasons, especially last year. Our RV business is improving as well.”

RV Traders has been involved in the park model business in Arizona since its inception in the late 1970s. Dugwyler said demand for park models has grown in Arizona and across the Sunbelt because park models offer Snow Birds an attractive, roomy and sturdy alternative to travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes.

Unlike towable or motorized RVs, park models are 400-square foot cottage-like units with full size kitchen appliances, showers and interior furnishings. Park models are also better insulated than towable or motorized RVs, which makes them more comfortable for use as a seasonal dwelling.

“Park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles, but they are sort of a hybrid between a factory-built home and an RV,” Dugwyler said. “They are approved by zoning laws to go into RV parks, but they are built more like a small home.”

And while RV Traders initially sold park models almost exclusively to Snow Birds, Cavco’s decision to broaden its product offering to include cabin-style park models has helped open up a new market for working professionals, families and retirees who want to have a weekend or seasonal getaway cabin in the mountains of northern Arizona, the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.

“Our geographic reach is growing every year,” Dugwyler said. “We’re shipping units to California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. We’ve even sold some units in Montana and Wyoming.”

And because RV Traders is also a full-service RV dealership, it can accept towable RVs and motorhomes as trade-ins for park model units.

“We resell just about every park model we take in trade for a new one,” Dugwyler said, adding that older park models are typically sold for use in some of the more economical RV parks.

Cavco, for its part, is pleased that RV Traders continues to enjoy market success. “They’ve been our number one dealer for sales and customer service ever since we signed them on,” said Tim Gage, vice president of Cavco’s Specialty Group, adding, “We fully expect that RV Traders will continue to grow with us in the years ahead.”