Gr8LakesCamper: Recap of the Fall Detroit RV Show
By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one — and certainly the best in the last few years.
I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap. (You can also read my individual reports from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five. All but Day Five includes a video.)
The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16 percent over the previous year.
“Show attendance was up 20 percent over the 2009 numbers,” Sheffer said. “Dealers and exhibitors reported positive sales numbers and responses from those in attendance, and several $200,000 units were even sold during the show. Many dealers reported meeting and/or exceeding sales goals for the duration of the show.”
Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Michigan to take a look around.
And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.
“We generally come to all these shows,” said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan, who was at the show with his wife, Karen. “We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens.”
“You know, when you’re camping, you spend all your time outside anyways,” Karen added. “So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense.”
Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.
Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motor home behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Naturally, I found the Yates inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.
A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Michigan. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite #1809S travel trailer, and they’ll be back to the February show to make the purchase.
As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.
Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:
• Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floor plans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.
• Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.
• Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.
• Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.
• Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan White’s travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.
The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motor home. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.
The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver’s side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach. Click here for my video tour of the slide-within-a-slide.
All in all, the Fall RV Show was a lot of fun – but I would expect nothing less. I was able to get to the show four of its five days. I enjoyed exploring all the RVs and talking to the people enjoying those RVs. And now the countdown is on for the Spring RV shows!
From the personal blog: I’ve been posting a lot of information lately about travel destinations and specials they’re having, including Ohio’s Brilliant Fall Colors and Halloween Fun at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
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