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More “Time To Fight” Responses

Responses to my letter, “It’s Time To Fight” continue to come in.  It is amazing to see so much passion for our truck camping lifestyle and industry in these responses and I truly appreciate all the feedback and support.  I’m already at work on the next letter, and this time I have a plan of action.  I hope to have this plan ready to debut next week.

In the meantime, please keep the feedback coming.  Believe it or not, the industry reads your responses with great interest.  This economy and how we all respond to it is the critical issue of the moment.  If you have a response to my letter (yes, industry leaders, that means you too), please take a minute and give us your feedback.  We are listening!

As a side note, a few more readers have responded with their views on national politics.  While I continue to enjoy these emails and identify with the fervor from which they come, I am keeping national politics out of this discussion.

“Good article!  As you know, we made our stand and bought our 2008 Ford and a 2008 Lance camper in May. This has been a project in the making for years and right when I’m ready to buy, the economy goes crazy. My wife even turned against the idea saying that it was a poor investment.

I quickly pointed out to her that the return on this investment was not in dollars but in the joy of life, which is priceless. I went on to say that, “I’m not letting the economic tide dictate to me what I can or cannot do.”

So, I did it, and I haven’t looked back since. I have truly enjoyed my rig thus far and I am looking forward to our future trips.  By the way, my wife is enjoying it too.” – Dennis De Ville

“Gordon – Well written and points well taken.  You, unlike many of us here, probably don’t remember the gas lines of the late 70s.  Like then, the US auto/truck manufacturers were lulled into a sense of complacency by low fuel costs and kept building big vehicles with big engines with little care of fuel consumption.  Suddenly we embargoed the Arab oil and supplies dropped.  Supplies dropped, but the money was still in good supply. Now the economy is creating a similar situation in that supplies are adequate but money is in short.

Back then, in order to confront the issue nationally, a nation-wide speed limit of 55 miles per hour was imposed.  We got through it by slowing down!  We have a 2007 Civic Hybrid for our every day travel and its 45 miles per gallon gives us enough saving to drive our 2007 Tundra 5.7L at 19 miles per gallon.  Even with the Tundra’s muscle, its payload is not up to hauling most truck campers now available.

Maybe the reason Hallmark, Four Wheel, and Northstar are selling everything they can build is because they see the market realistically.  Unlike the Big Three back in the 70s, they see that downsizing is a good thing.  If the RV industry is to be salvaged, the RV manufacturers have to give the buyers smaller more fuel-efficient options.

Even the new Lance 830 Euro Style camper requires a 3/4 ton truck!  I’d highly doubt if a European would buy a 3/4 ton US truck to haul a truck camper!  I’m sure there will be some that Lance can point to, but there probably isn’t a run on the market.  I really like the 830 but Lance could go back to their roots and give the market self-contained campers we can haul with our more fuel-efficient half-ton trucks.  We’re shopping and will be looking at Hallmark, Bigfoot, and Outfitter next week in Colorado.  Hallmark and Outfitter both make models that can be hauled on our Tundra, while the 1500 series Bigfoot will require us to up-size to a 3/4 ton truck.

We’ll be buying, but probably buying small.  No 3,200 pound triple slides for us.  Thanks for providing the forum to allow the owners and potential buyers to speak.  Hopefully the manufacturers who are still in business will be reading this thread.  Best regards and happy camping.” – Bill in Western Maryland

“Great job, Gordon.  We at Torklift International salute your stance.  The only one that can hurt or take away an industry we love and depend on is us. We must look for new ways to compete for that disposable income. Americans love to be outdoors with their families and enjoy the parks and campgrounds all around this beautiful country.  The benefits of having campers in the campsites are too many to get into here. But so many depend on the income stream that comes from campers hitting the roads every weekend.

I think there are several things we as an industry need to look at in order to build our industry stronger and more secure as well as make it more accessible to more Americans so they too can catch the spirit of the great outdoors.  Necessity is the mother of invention and Americans have always been at the forefront of ingenuity.  One of the driving forces in our downturn is financing for new product.  How about we create our own co-op that could provide the consumer with financing and insurance and maybe even roadside assistance for the camping public?

If manufacturers and dealers could pool monies and carry their own financing at reasonable interest rates we would no longer be dependent on commercial banks and financial institutions that don’t have a vested interest in our industry. Bank of America is not able to park an RV or camper outside of one of their branches to sell a vehicle that was re-possessed. Our dealers across America can. We know what our customers want.

Also our dealers across America could convert engines to newer fuel technologies such as CNG. This would reduce fuel costs to RV’ers thus making transportation by RV more attractive and cost effective. Dealers could install CNG pumps to provide fuel stops as well as mini-mart and supply stations nation-wide. Most dealers are based in local communities that have gas lines run to their buildings and can allocate the room for a fill station.  Even cars can use these fill points as more models come on-line. That would create new profit centers for our dealers and allow a new avenue of service to convert engines over to this type of fuel.  CNG is less cost, available, plentiful, and clean burning.

We need new ideas, whatever they may be, to not only move our industry forward but to secure it’s future as well.  Thanks again, Gordon, for your stance and we stand with you.  Torklift will do its part to develop new products to improve performance and safety in the truck camper and RV industries. We will not only survive this episode we are all living, but grow our business and our commitment to this wonderful lifestyle that all of America should be able to enjoy.” – Jay C. Taylor, General Manager, Torklift International

“Gordon – Your last comment regarding deals is 100% correct. Ever since the Tonka truck and camper came out in the 60s, I had always wanted to own the real thing. On August first, we made the trek to Washington State from Northern Canada and made the purchase of a lifetime. We picked up a camper to put on our 2003 Dodge 3500 and regard it as our new addition to the family.

We didn’t look at it as financial woe, but as a means to enjoy the outdoors and to experience what’s left out there beyond the economically crunched marketplace. Unfortunately, our weather is changing and we’re heading towards a possible long cold winter.   In the short time we’ve owned our Winter Creek, we can honestly say that we haven’t regretted nor looked back for one second at what we’ve bought.  We only look forward to the many coming years of extensive use and are already making plans for next year.

My advice to everyone is this.  Don’t wait for the gas prices to fall.  Get that truck and camper you’ve always wanted because there are numerous deals out there and now is the time to purchase.” – Rod Onyski, Albian Sands Energy Inc., Alberta, Canada

“Gordon – I’m in total agreement with you about the dwindling market of manufacturers!  I will disagree with you on why.  I’ve been in the market for a camper for a while. When we finally agreed on what to get, we had to travel about 250 miles. Then we sat down with salesman and told him what we had in mind.  He showed us what we wanted to see and I was kind of disappointed.  Then he showed us a couple of models up.  Nice!  Until he showed us the weight.  Gee, that meant a new truck.

Then, he told us the price for the camper.  My teeth nearly fell out, and I don’t have false teeth.  Now let’s total this up $38,000 or $39,000 for the camper, $77,000 for a new rig!  Too much, man!  What I’m trying to say is they’ve priced themselves out of the middle-income market.  How do they stay afloat in tough times?

To solve the problem might be a three-fold attack.  One, reduce cost without reducing quality.  Two, increase your markets with eager dealer in new areas not more in the same area.  And three, make all campgrounds and RV parks reduce their space sizes so only truck campers fit!  Just a little humor.  Thanks, for the magazine.  I did finally get a camper that fit my old truck.” – Robert

“I wanted to respond to your article. We’ve been truck camping for six years now and last year we upgraded to a Snowriver camper. As you pointed out in your article, Snowriver among others have recently gone out of business.  We’re left with a great camper but no support or warranty.

Before encouraging all to rush out and buy, there should be some deep soul searching on which companies are still viable. I would have hoped that if there’s excess capacity in the industry that the weaker companies would join together and form a single stronger company rather then going out of business. Looking at your home page, you list over fifteen manufactures.  However, in a mature industry, only three to five of the strongest companies remain. Instead of waiting until it’s too late, much more consolidation should take place with the best practices and techniques being combined into a few stronger companies that can weather the ups and downs of the industry.” – Steven Clendening

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