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We need the horsepower of the RV industry

I turned on the TV in Chicago last night and what did I see? It was a well-done Go RVing commercial. Here I am, I thought, in the nation’s second-largest market and I see the RV industry appropriately hitting it with a slick message. And I’m immediately ticked.

Clearly the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association is again a lap ahead of the marine industry with its slick national TV campaign. To quote that quintessential philosopher Yogi Berra: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

There’s no denying RV industry sales have recovered faster than boating. Paralleling the marine industry, RV sales plummeted from 353,400 units in 2007 to 165,700 in 2009. But the following year, while still well below pre-recession levels, things turned around for RVs. Sales increased to 242,300 units, reportedly fueled by emphasis on younger buyers attracted to reasonably priced pop-ups and small campers. August marked the 31st consecutive month RV shipments were greater than the corresponding month last year.

More specifically, for the first half of this year, RVs chalked up sales of 192,065 units, up more than 12,000 units from last year. Moreover, it’s notable that sales of the big, expensive Class A motorhomes have climbed 23 percent so far, all leading to a projection that overall RV sales will finish the year at 321,100 units or better.

In the 1990s, the RV manufacturers stepped up to support a GO RVing program by packing a graduated fee passed through to the consumer on every RV unit. It took a decade for the marine industry to follow the good example and create the Discover Boating program. Why it took 10 years can only be explained this way: There are times the boating industry can’t agree on a date for a New Year’s Eve party.

The estimated $7 million currently going into Discover Boating annually fails to be enough for a needed national TV campaign. Yes, what the Discover Boating team is doing with limited funds is outstanding. The Discover Boating website is comprehensive. Millions of people go to it. It refers thousands to manufacturer websites and Discover Boating materials available free to marine dealers are abundant.

But it’s not enough. Boating is not stepping up with funds to get to the next level. Joe Lewis (Mount Dora Boating Center), chairman of the Grow Boating initiative, confirms the funding model (engine horsepower assessment) hasn’t changed since first set in October 2005. In today’s reality, nine years later, that shouldn’t be acceptable.

An illustration: If dealer cost on a boat with a 5.0L (260 HP) engine was, say, $35,000 nine years ago, the pass-through engine horsepower assessment was $72 or .0021 percent of cost. Conservatively assuming cost on that boat has risen 15 percent (to $40,250) since, the engine assessment is still only $72, but it’s now just .0017 percent. The original target was to approach .0025 percent of total cost. It needs to get back there.

Bottom line: It’s time this matter is placed on the agendas of the next board meetings of leaders including, but not limited to, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, the Association of Marina Industries, among others.

So, next time I’m in Chicago, or any other major U.S. market, I want to see TV telling me why I should Discover Boating.

Sign the ethanol petition today

Larry Innis, Washington lobbyist for MRAA, will be in a group meeting with the Office of Management and Budget on Monday concerning the proposed rulemaking by the EPA that will impact the level of ethanol required in gasoline in the future. OMB is reviewing the EPA’s proposal now.

In light of EPA administrator Gina McCarthy’s recent comments indicating the EPA favors higher ethanol levels, the group has a petition opposing higher levels that will be presented to OMB at Monday’s meeting. The marine industry, among many others, is opposed to any increase in ethanol which damages marine engines.

The call is out for as many as possible to individually sign this Smarter Fuel Future petition before Monday. The strategy is simple: the more signatures, the more enhanced the efforts of the group at the meeting. Please do it right now.


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