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RV sales surge as vacationers take off

August 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:37 PM EDT (2137 GMT)

From Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten

NEW HUDSON, Michigan (CNN) -- More and more Americans seeking a "vacation home to go" are turning to recreational vehicles, creating a boom in sales.

Deluxe models feature many of the same amenities that vacationers enjoy at home, including satellite dishes, microwave ovens, queen-size beds and full baths.

With these creature comforts, it's not just camping anymore.

"We're talking about condos on wheels," says David Humphries, president of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Gene and Donna Reed just purchased a fully equipped RV for $63,000.

"You have the facilities to use while you're traveling," he says. "You can cook, make sandwiches, use the bathroom."

That spells freedom -- and that's what is partially responsible for fueling the boom in RV sales.

"People say, 'Why don't you buy a cottage?'" RV owner Chuck Fisher says. "Well, I have a cottage, but I can take it anywhere I want it. It just has wheels on it."

Figures show RV sales increased by $1.5 billion between 1997 and 1998 from $6.9 billion to $8.4 billion.One dealer says the trend is continuing.

"We've had an increase of almost 45 percent over last year," Sherry Vicars-Corne said.

One in 10 people who own a car also owns an RV, figures show.

Sales were once dominated by retirees, but now an increasing percentage of younger buyers are giving RVs a try.

"They live a high-paced environment; they have to deal with all kinds of pressure," Humphries said. "And this is a wonderful way to get away from all that."

Low gasoline prices also have fueled the surge in RV popularity, making consumers less cost-conscious when driving something that might get only six or eight miles to the gallon.

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