Recreational Vehicle Industry Association’s Richard Coon: RVs are ‘very safe’

Kevin Allen

When Richard Coon looks back on all of the RV trips he’s taken, he fondly recalls visiting Yellowstone National Park. He and his wife, Susan, have four grown-up children and four grandchildren.

“We’ve been to Yellowstone several times,” Coon says, “and we love to be in that part of the world.”

Coon is no ordinary RV enthusiast, though. As president of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, he is one of the RV industry’s biggest boosters. And these days, Coon has a lot to smile about: A survey of 150 RV industry professionals by GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance found that 43 percent expect sales to rise by 5 percent to 10 percent in 2013. Close to 9 million U.S. households own RVs.

CarInsuranceQuotes.com spoke with Coon to get an idea of what to expect from the RV industry in 2013 and beyond.

Surveys from organizations like GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance business predict an upswing in RV sales in 2013. Are you equally optimistic? Why?

I am. We’re coming off a (very) good year in 2012, and the RV industry as a whole for 2012 was up about 13 percent overall. It hasn’t slowed down when you talk to the manufacturers that are building the products. They’re all saying it’s continuing to be very good.

Has the industry seen a steady incline since the recession?

Well, 2008 and 2009 were disasters. The industry dropped nearly 70 percent. But it came back in 2010 about 50 percent, and it’s been slowly growing … (back) ever since. It hasn’t quite gotten back to the pre-recession level in terms of units (sold), but it’s getting closer.

What are some of the legislative challenges you’re facing in expanding RV use into China?

A lot of it is in the safety standards and the basic rules of RVing that need to be in place before the industry can move forward. To give you an example, you can’t tow a trailer in China. A travel trailer like you see going down the street (in the U.S.) is illegal in China. So we’re working to try to get those laws changed. That’s a very grassroots, basic premise that you have to have in place before the industry can grow in China. It’s those kinds of things we’re working on with provincial and federal governments in China to get them to change their rules and laws.

Trying to get in front of the public is another challenge. A large majority of Chinese people don’t know about RVing. Once they find out, they like the idea.

But our biggest challenges remain in the United States: fuel prices, consumer confidence, unemployment and those basic economic drivers.

How does the RV industry attract new consumers?

We do “Go RVing” advertising, which is what the industry relies on to get the consumer excited about the lifestyle. Our members, of course, advertise their product specifics at shows and with local advertising. We’re also heavy in social media now, promoting the lifestyle of RVing, especially to the younger generation. Just getting the word out is part of the challenge.

Is there anything RV owners should keep in mind when buying insurance for their vehicles?

Most people treat it very similar to how they treat their car insurance. For one thing, you want to have insurance, that’s for sure. Number two, you’ve got a big investment in your RV — usually more money than your car. So you want to make sure you have ample coverage toward that.

If you look up statistics, the number of people killed in an RV in the United States is very low. It’s like 0.06 percent of all accidental deaths are RV-related. RVs tend to be very safe. The people who own them tend to drive them slower, keep out of congested areas and drive them less often than they drive their cars.

A lot of it is in the safety standards and the basic rules of RVing that need to be in place before the industry can move forward. To give you an example, you can’t tow a trailer in China. A travel trailer like you see going down the street (in the U.S.) is illegal in China. So we’re working to try to get those laws changed. That’s a very grassroots, basic premise that you have to have in place before the industry can grow in China. It’s those kinds of things we’re working on with provincial and federal governments in China to get them to change their rules and laws.

Trying to get in front of the public is another challenge. A large majority of Chinese people don’t know about RVing. Once they find out, they like the idea.

But our biggest challenges remain in the United States: fuel prices, consumer confidence, unemployment and those basic economic drivers.

How does the RV industry attract new consumers?

We do “Go RVing” advertising, which is what the industry relies on to get the consumer excited about the lifestyle. Our members, of course, advertise their product specifics at shows and with local advertising. We’re also heavy in social media now, promoting the lifestyle of RVing, especially to the younger generation. Just getting the word out is part of the challenge.

Is there anything RV owners should keep in mind when buying insurance for their vehicles?

Most people treat it very similar to how they treat their car insurance. For one thing, you want to have insurance, that’s for sure. Number two, you’ve got a big investment in your RV — usually more money than your car. So you want to make sure you have ample coverage toward that.

If you look up statistics, the number of people killed in an RV in the United States is very low. It’s like 0.06 percent of all accidental deaths are RV-related. RVs tend to be very safe. The people who own them tend to drive them slower, keep out of congested areas and drive them less often than they drive their cars. 

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