Is the RV Industry Headed for a Slowdown?

There is a little known fact about the RV sector that the rest of America should pay heed to. The RV industry has long been an economic barometer of sorts, providing a leading indicator of the direction of the economy as a whole.   “R.V.’s have always preceded the rest of the economy in a downturn and in an upturn,” said Richard Curtin, an economist at the University of Michigan.  Many members of this industry are currently watching this trend as they see RV sales starting to level off.

Lawyer Atlanta GA

RV industry shipments aim to hit 539,900 through the end of 2018, in what would mark 9 straight years of growth.  This is a 7% increase over 2017 which tallied 504,600, and still less than the 550,000 forecasted for 2019.  Shipments year over year through Q1 saw a 13.4% lift.  These figures were provided by Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the RV Industry Association, to the association back in June.

Mr. Hugelmeyer has a lot to be optimistic about with the aging population, which tend to be the bread and butter of the RV industry, as well as outsized interest from the millennial age group, who are entering their generational period of extra discretionary income.  This all seems to align with the fact that since 2010, when the sector was emerging from the financial crisis, the RV industry has grown at an annual average of 12.6%.

Not everyone, however, shares Mr. Hugelmeyer’s glass half-full interpretation.  The city of Elkhart, Indiana, self-dubbed the “RV Capital of the World” is responsible for the production of more than 80 percent of Recreational vehicles sold in the U.S.  Many in the industry here are getting a different sense of the headwinds that propel this little corner of the economy.

While overall RV shipments were up for July, motor home shipments were down 6.5% in the same month.  Richard Curtin sees this as a “yellow light”.  Mr. Curtin acknowledges this could be a temporary condition such as excess inventory due to overproduction involving a nearly 10 year boom.  While not a significant cause for concern yet, there are other future looking indicators to be considered as opposed to historic sales.

Elkhart enjoys some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at just over 2%.  Despite this, recently some companies there have been cutting their production workers to four day work weeks instead of five to alleviate some of the excess inventory.

Others point not to the temporary labor glut, but the larger factors that could be contributing to these headwinds.  The RV industry, like many other manufacturing and farming communities are hit first and hardest by the impacts of the trade tariffs.  Cost of goods for many in the industry are seeing increases of up to 50%.  These costs ultimately pass through to the consumer, and many blame the rising prices for the levelling off in shipments.

Senator Joe Donelly, A Democrat whose home is near Elkhart says, “I think there’s serious concern about the effects of tariffs on the R.V. industry.  So many of the components that go into R.V.s are directly affected by these tariffs.  Echoing these sentiments is Mark Dobson, the head of the Economic Development Corporation in Elkhart County, “Nobody’s in a panic, they are just concerned.”

Still, where some fear a downturn, others are thriving.  LCI industries, a large manufacturer of components for RV’s are experiencing growth in growing sectors.  CEO Jason Lippert is optimistic.  His company saw aftermarket component sales rise by more than half in the second quarter, signaling a move to RV maintenance as opposed to new purchases.  Dan Holtz, a small business owner in the industry welcomes a perceived slowdown, as he has said he is having trouble finding enough workers and sees it as nothing more than an expected correction.

While no one in the industry has hit the brakes just yet, some are starting to take their foot off the accelerator.  While Mr. Curtin believes conditions metaphorically display a yellow light, he concludes that, “Depending on how things evolve in six months, it could be a red light, getting to the end of the expansion.”  Every business owner in the RV industry concerned about the slowdown being experienced within the sector should retain qualified counsel to represent their interests.

Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have over 12 years’ experience in representing clients in the RV space.   Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-671-4031 to discuss how we can assist you with protecting your RV business today.

Porsche’s Airport Hotel Is Pampering Dogs with Dinner and Drinks (Credit: Eater Atlanta)

Solis Two Porsche Drive hotel and Apron restaurant are going the extra mile with their menu offerings for dogs flying the friendly skies

Porsche’s posh Solis Two Porsche Drive hotel located at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport now offers “Sit, Stay, Solis” for guests traveling with their dogs. The Porsche Experience Center hotel provides an in-room dog bed, a dedicated dinner menu, and even a happy hour for dogs at Apron restaurant.

Upon check-in, guests traveling with their dogs will receive a dog bed, crate, and food and water bowls to keep their canines comfortable in their hotel rooms. Owners can then take their pups down to Apron’s dog-friendly patio for a special menu developed by executive chef Derrick Green with treats, ice cream, and “pupsicles.”

Once a month, Apron is hosting “Puptails on the Pawtio” where dogs are treated to grooming and training sessions while their owners listen to guest speakers and attend book signings. On-site adoptions days are also in the works. The next dog adoption day is scheduled for Saturday, August 18 with Lifeline Animal Project.

A $75 non-refundable pet fee is required upon check-in at the hotel. There is no weight limit for dogs staying at Solis Two Porsche Drive. Sorry, only two pets per room.

https://atlanta.eater.com/2018/7/23/17602122/two-solis-porsche-drive-dog-friendly-menu-atlanta

This Year’s Atlanta Metro Export Challenge to Launch With July 18 Event

The Atlanta Metro Export Challenge, which has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2016 to help local exporters with their global sales journeys, is returning again this year with backing from JPMorgan Chase

Administered by the Metro Atlanta Chamber but open to firms from the 29-county region, the challenge will hold an information session and kickoff meeting at the NanoLumens office in Peachtree Corners at 4 p.m. July 18. 

There, potential participants will hear about how the challenge has helped companies hone their strategies and receive the financial boost needed to enhance existing sales or jumpstart international growth. 

And this recap won’t just be coming from the organizers: previous winners from the last two years will be on hand to provide their first hand testimonials about the experience. 

Many have said that the challenge — and the broader thinking it fosters — has catapulted their companies into positive new territory. 

One example is Triatek, which won last year’s pitch competition to the tune of $20,000 — and that was after the first-round victory that saw the maker of ventilation systems for hospitals and research labs take home $5,000. 

Triatek was bought by Johnson Controls Inc.  shortly after its export-challenge victory, and company leaders say having a global footprint, a process accelerated by the challenge, contributed substantially to its being seen as a promising acquisition target. 

Cars 360, another export-challenge winner with app used to take 360-degree photo for car sales listings, was acquired by Carvana, the company seeking disrupt the car dealership process through technology and simplicity. 

For interested companies, here’s how the process works: Companies apply for a grant by outlining practical plans on how they would use $5,000 to generate more export sales. Thirty will be selected as first-round winners, receiving reimbursements for expenses in sums up to that amount. Then, those winners will be invited back later in the year for a pitch competition for the possibility of winning an additional $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000. 

Start the application process here, and register for the informational event here

Editor’s note: Global Atlanta is an organizing partner of some Atlanta Metro Export Challenge events.

Autonomous vehicles bill nearing final passage in GA General Assembly

Dave Williams
Staff Writer
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Legislation setting a legal framework for autonomous vehicles to hit the highways in Georgia is just a step away from final passage.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a House substitute to Senate Bill 219 Friday 151-17. Since the measure’s Senate supporters were at the table when the House substitute was crafted, senators simply need to agree to it to send that final version to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

The bill exempts self-driving vehicles from the licensing requirements that apply under state law to human drivers. However, in light of the still-developing technology involved in putting autonomous vehicles on public highways, the legislation also mandates more expensive insurance requirements for driverless vehicles than the minimum liability insurance premiums required of traditional autos.

“This bill creates a legal structure that makes it very clear where legal responsibility lies if something goes wrong,” said Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

The legislation met some resistance from lawmakers who don’t trust driverless vehicle technology.

“Whenever you operate a machine, there has to be an operator to make sure it doesn’t do what you don’t want it to,” said Rep. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead.

But Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, the bill’s chief sponsor, said driverless cars are safer than vehicles driven by people increasingly distracted by cellphones.

“I’m convinced the technology has sufficient safeguards in place,” he said. “This technology will help reduce traffic deaths in Georgia.”

Belton also argued driverless vehicles would take jobs from 3.5 million Americans in the trucking industry.

But Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Georgia can’t afford to be left behind by other states in taking advantage of the job-creating potential represented by autonomous vehicles.

“Florida, Michigan, California and so many other states have already passed laws allowing this technology,” he said. “This is the future. The future is today.”

Automotive News – Mercedes dealers get relief on renovations

Mercedes dealers get relief on renovations

10-year buffer aimed at easing tensions over Autohaus standards

A pledge by Mercedes-Benz to give U.S. dealers a 10-year moratorium on making facility changes is unusual.

Mercedes-Benz dealers, once they’ve updated their stores to the brand’s second-generation Autohaus image standards, won’t be required to make more changes to their dealerships until January 2024 at the earliest.

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