Will the I.E. RV industry survive hard times?

     With five major dealers closing stores and factories over the last year, the local RV industry is going down the tubes fast.
     Will it be near dead in a couple of years?
     It’s not unfathomable, given tanking sales and homeowners’ dried up well of home-equity credit.
     One thing is for sure: It pays to be in the RV market’s spin-off industry.
     While recreational vehicle manufacturers and dealers across the two-county region keep downsizing, Valerie Parmenter is still employing her eight workers to paint, maintain, repair and refurbish used RVs at her company in northern San Bernardino, VIP Enterprises.
     “We’re slow too, but we’re still hanging in there pretty strong,” Parmenter said. “My volume is down a tad. Right now we’re looking OK, but I don’t know what the next three months are going to bring.”
     RVs get 8 to 10 mpg, which is plenty of incentive to vacation at campgrounds closer to home. Some families feeling squeezed by gas prices and inflation are opting for this choice more often than not.
     And they’re throwing the cash savings at places like VIP Enterprises to “get their RVs looking new again,” Parmenter says.
     “Because customers aren’t buying new coaches, they’re fixing up the ones they have,” she said. “These campgrounds have rules that you can’t have a ratty-looking coach. So (RV owners) come to me to clean them up.”
     Perris-based Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. announced this week it’s closing two factories and laying off 250 workers.
     Fleetwood Enterprises in Riverside just closed its plant there, on top of shutting doors at another one in Fontana last year. The company has cut dozens of jobs over the last year.
     Earlier this month, La Mesa RV Center Inc., a San Diego-based RV and motor home dealer, announced the closure of its San Bernardino store by the end of this year.
     Ontario-based Alfa Leisure Inc. shut down in April, slashing 150 jobs.
     And National RV closed down its Perris headquarters and manufacturing plant in December, laying off 600 employees.
     –matthew.wrye@inlandnewspapers.com

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