Dear Truck Camper Community,
Politically, it would be wise to keep these words from the pages of Truck Camper Magazine, but to hell with political correctness. I’ve had enough of watching our industry and community suffer while I say nothing here in TCM.
Today I’m picking a fight with the current economic threat to truck camping. I started this magazine twenty months ago because I love truck camping and I am more than willing to put my reputation and the future of this magazine on the line for it.
So right here, right now, we’re going to have it out. Together we are going to layout the economic threat and look at it square in the face. Then we will challenge this threat and chart a course of action to move our truck camping community forward.
Roll up your sleeves. It’s time to fight.
The Economic Threat
There is no hiding from the economic news that has led almost every local and national news source for months. With few exceptions, the truck camper industry has not publicly talked about the economy, but everyone else has. We must pull our collective heads out of the sand and deal with the economic threat, right here, and right now.
So what is this economic threat? In the past five years, fuel prices have doubled, the housing bubble has burst, the sub-prime mortgage industry has collapsed, foreclosures have skyrocketed, and as a result, banks have all but pulled available credit.
For our truck camper industry, these economic conditions have been a perfect storm with devastating effects. Western RV/Alpenlite shut down in mid-April. West Coast Leisure Homes/Okanagan announced a cessation of manufacturing and a massive layoff in late-July. And just this past Friday, Interior RV/Snowriver announced it’s shutting its doors forever. Other manufacturers have scaled back production, suffered layoffs, and work hour reductions.
If that was all you knew, you might think our entire truck camping industry was in dire straights. If that was all you knew, you might even think that our truck camping lifestyle was in trouble. But that’s not the whole story. Not by a long shot.
Down, Not Out
When we visited East End Campers in early July, Bill Penney and his team sold three truck campers in just four days. When we visited Travel Lite and Northstar Campers in mid-July, we saw production lines full of campers moving forward. While the numbers continue to be down, manufacturers continue to build truck campers, dealers continue to sell truck campers, and people continue to buy truck campers.
This is worth repeating. The great majority of manufacturers are still building, selling, and shipping truck campers to dealers. Dealers are still selling and delivering truck campers to customers. And most importantly, people are still buying truck campers and hitting the open road to fun and adventure. The truck camper industry may be down, but it’s far from out.
The Turn Around Challenge
The economic threats are clear. Fuel prices, the housing crisis, and the credit crunch have slowed new camper sales to dangerously low levels. These economic factors have also threatened our lifestyle and kept many who already own a truck camper from fulfilling their truck camping dreams. This cannot stand.
If we are to turn things around and get our industry and community moving forward, we need to accomplish two things. First, we must remind ourselves that life is short and nothing, including a down economy, should stop us from enjoying our truck camping lifestyle. And second, we need to make a strong case that now may be the best time anyone will ever see to buy a new truck camper.
These are our challenges. This is our fight.
No one should ever put their financial security in jeopardy to buy a truck camper or to go truck camping. That said, I believe there are a lot of us who can afford a truck camper but have allowed the economy, and the media’s reporting on the economy, to scare us out of buying one. Even worse, I believe many of us who already own a truck camper have put our truck camping plans on hold as a result of the same economic fears.
If this is true, our fear, not the economy, is the real threat to our industry and truck camping way of life. If this is true, our fear, not the economy, is keeping many of us from our truck camping dreams. This is unacceptable.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that you are one of these folks who (a) can afford a truck camper and (b) were planning to buy a truck camper but have since put it off because of economic concerns. You may have told yourself, “I’ll wait until fuel prices drop, housing prices rise, and the credit crunch is over. Then I’ll buy a truck camper”.
Are you really going to wait until factors that are beyond your control change before living your dreams? And are you really going to wait until the media tells you that the economy is better before you go on the truck camping adventures of a lifetime?
Imagine that you were able to talk to yourself in the year 2018, ten years into the future. What do you think would you say about your decision now to buy or not buy a truck camper?
I bet you would say something like this, “Don’t wait! Like every economic cycle before it, the economy recovers and everything will soon be okay. So get off the sofa, turn off the television, and get out there. Visit your old friends. See your family. Explore the amazing national parks. Boondock in the wilderness. Go hunting, fishing, boating, ATVing, and snowmobiling. You already know you can do more and spend less with a truck camper. Now cross all those life long goals off your list and live, live, live!”
I will never regret buying our first truck camper and exploring the United States and Canada. It changed my life. That first truck camping adventure will remain one of the most important and wonderful things that my wife and I ever did. I cannot imagine anyone with the financial means regretting the purchase of a truck camper or the costs of truck camping. It’s that amazing, and it’s worth fighting for no matter what the economy or the media throws our way.
The Case To Buy Now
So here’s the deal, and I mean deal.
There are two significant upsides to our down economy. For one, Ford, GM, Dodge, and Toyota are ready to make you the deal of a lifetime on a new truck. For two, truck camper dealerships are also ready to make you a deal of a lifetime on a new camper. We’re talking about potentially saving thousands of dollars off what you would have spent just this time last year.
Depending on your price negotiation skills and travel habits, it’s quite possible that you’ll save enough on a truck and camper combo for thousands of miles of free fuel. If you save $1,000 on your truck camper combination, that’s 200 gallons at $5 a gallon. At 10 miles per gallon, that’s 2,000 miles of fun filled truck camping adventure. Save $2,000 off your truck and camper purchase and you’ve got 4,000 miles of free fuel. Best of all, fuel isn’t anywhere near $5 a gallon right now.
The bottom line is that truck and truck camper dealerships are hungry to sell their inventory before the winter sets in. Get in there and make a deal of a lifetime. Then get out there and live your dreams.
Whether you’re an industry leader, a long-time subscriber, or a first time reader, you are a vital part of our community. Please take a minute to email me with your response to this letter.
I have made my stand. Where do you stand? Tell me what your thoughts are on the current economic threat and what we should do about it. I will post your responses here in TCM on Thursday.
Thank you for hearing me out. This fight will continue.
Publisher, Truck Camper Magazine