I spent a day at the RVIA show in Louisville last week. It's been quite a while since I visited the recreation vehicle trade show, and a lot has changed.
It's simply amazing how large and luxurious motor homes have become. Not too long ago, even the best were a little Spartan.
The product choices are staggering: everything from the smallest travel trailer that can be towed by today's smaller sedans, right up to the largest motor home that has all the comforts of home, and then some. Gasoline or diesel- powered, fifth wheel or bumper hitch, van conversion or pusher. They were all there.
What hits you is how important and involved Detroit is.
We all know that most of the chassis and powerplants are derived from Detroit products, although there are more competitive chassis manufacturers and diesel engines that don't come from the former Big 3. The selection for RV dealers and their customers is great.
But what really caught my eye was the huge explosion in travel trailers. The growth has paralleled the growth in pickup trucks. That's because a travel trailer needs a pickup to pull it down the highway.
What a great potential for dealers who sell pickups. Just make friends with the neighborhood RV dealer and make sure he knows where to send those travel trailer buyers who need pickups.
Of course, it works both ways. Once a customer buys a pickup, he might be in the market for an RV.
There is direct opportunity for car dealers to stock and sell RVs although they aren't the big ones.
But the more modest van conversions, sport-utility conversions and pickup truck conversions are naturals because they produce strong retail profits.
The auto and RV industries run close to each other and, to a great extent, are mutually dependent. And both are enjoying their best year ever.
Anyone who doubts America's love affair with the automobile needs only to check out the RV industry. It's another great example of a business that has just grown simply because of America's love for recreation and motors.
It won't be as long a time before my next visit to the annual RVIA show, but I imagine the changes will be even greater.