Whether interested in having a look at a teardrop trailer or a luxury Prevost upfit, those attending the opening day of the 2022 Florida RV SuperShow at the Florida State Fairgrounds outside Tampa likely had to stand in line.
Record crowds were the order of the day as sunny skies, mild temperatures and more than 1,300 units on display drove eager consumers through the gates.
“Yesterday we had a record crowd, 20,300. Our record was 19-and-some-odd two years ago in 2020,” said Dave Kelly, Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) executive director. “Everyone had a tremendous day yesterday – dealers, manufacturers, our booth exhibitors. Everyone is just saying what a great day it was.”
The success of the show may well be an outgrowth of the resilience of the RV industry as a whole, as noted by THOR Industries Inc. CEO Bob Martin during a presentation of the company’s eMobility strategy and two electric RV concepts – a motorhome and a travel trailer (see video below). The presentation doubled as an investor meeting.
In remarks prior to the presentation, Martin said, “It’s still early in the RV season. We had the Boston show last week. Attendance was down a little bit, but you had to show proof of vaccination to get in. Campers Inn just had a record show.”
Martin noted that there is a little bit of a towable build-up as far as available inventory and that a lot of the dealers “are glad to have the towables for these shows and the spring selling season.”
Motorized production is constrained by chassis availability from all suppliers – Mercedes, Freightliner, Ford, Fiat – he said, noting “that’s going to be a much longer recovery in the U.S. and probably even more in Europe. But, what they’re getting, they’re selling. Dealers are excited.”
He said while it’s early in the year, Tampa is a pretty good barometer of how things are going.
“From what I’m hearing from dealers – we had an event last night – they are very positive going into the year,” Martin noted.
Inflation is a factor that currently is on everyone’s mind and dealers have been selling at a high list prices, but that’s something that will come down as inventories stabilize, he said.
“It’s a good thing for the long term of the industry if they come off the list a little bit and can absorb a little bit of that,” Martin said.
He noted that prices of commodities, like aluminum, for example, are starting to stabilize, “and as things come down over time, things will adjust. But we feel like this year is going to be a great year. Everybody’s excited.”
Later, during a Q&A session, Martin talked about THOR’s efforts to ramp up production as much as possible amid strong demand and challenging supply chain issues, and added, “Right now, there’s still incredible interest in the lifestyle. You look at everything else that’s happening in the world, and RV is still the safest way to travel and probably the most fun.”
He said the cost of hotels have gone up significantly and airline travel is not fun.
“It’s testing and it’s not easy. We do it because we have to for business, but not a lot of people are traveling like that for vacations,” he said. “So as we look at the RV industry, even though there is a little bit of a build, dealers comment to me that, ‘Yeah, you know, if I build up a little bit of inventory, I have to come off that MSRP.’ So they come back to a more normalized sale price, which for me honestly is a good thing.”
He said today THOR feels very good about where it is as a company and feels very good about the RV industry as a whole.
“As you go out and see our new products – everybody has a new launch here at this show – and there’s a buzz in the RV industry. Just drive around. You’ll see it today when you see all the campers who are here. The show is packed,” he said. “We have a positive outlook for this year and for many years going on.”
Martin’s optimism was almost universally shared by dealers throughout the show grounds who enjoyed a steady stream of interested consumers.
“Traffic’s been great,” said Lyman Cheyney, sales rep for Lazydays RV in Seffner, Fla. “Yesterday we were so busy I didn’t leave here until 7 o’clock.”
Cheyney, who was manning the Forest River motorized display for Lazydays, said there were very few tire kickers. “These were buyers. I’m seeing buyers in the motorized.”
He also said the buyers were fairly well educated about the coaches they were interested in.
“I see a lot of people who have, almost a 10-year-old, 12-year-old unit that they’re trying to get upgraded.” He added that many parks these days won’t accept coaches over 10 years old and said that restriction has driven some sales.
Inventory remains a problem, he said. Lazydays brought 25 units to the show, all of which will sell, with 12 sold on Wednesday, the first day of the show.
“If you order a unit, you’re a year out. The ones that are available, you should buy them,” he said.
In the supplier exhibit hall, Jack Enfield, sales and marketing manager for MORryde, said he’d seen lots of current owners as well as newbies looking to buy their first RV asking about MORryde products. The Elkhart Ind.-based company supplies RV wheel and jack stabilizing, suspensions systems, TV mounts, sliding tray systems, steps and more.
“It’s been a very hectic few hours already,” he said, adding “this is a great opportunity for us to meet customers, and if they already have our product, get their feedback on it.”
He said the company is offering a new line of stabilizers and has a dealer offering specials allowing people to purchase products at the show.
Frank Konigseder Jr. is vice president of Stuart, Fla.-based Liberty Coach of Florida, a Prevost upfitter.
He said he has been displaying at the Tampa SuperShow for 25 years and is seeing heavy traffic, “We’re seeing a lot of changes in the audience. We’re seeing an age group drop. We saw that last year at the show and I’m seeing it already this year and we’ve only been open for three hours.”
He said last year the company – the largest Prevost retailer in the U.S. sold 81 new and used units. Of those, 51% were sold to first-time Prevost buyers.
Liberty is sold out now through January 2023, he said, noting that supply chain and labor issues have slowed production.
“We’re building 14 units a year. If we were could build 28 like we used to, we’d sell all 28,” he said.