Hidden in the acres of traditional, lumbering vehicles at the Seattle RV Show you’ll find Jack Gerber and his “Tiny Trailer.” It’s a throwback to earlier days, a tidy little aluminum clad rig that will tow behind a four-cylinder car and sleeps two.
“It has a bed that’s 75 inches,” said a cheerful Gerber. “I tow it with my Subaru Outback.”
Space is everything. Under the bed is a stowing area “For fishing rods and wading boots” says Jack, demonstrating for a curious bystander. He flips up the back end to show off a tiny but complete camp-kitchen. He’ll even throw in a set of dishes if you buy today. The price? $10,950, near the low end of RV units on display.
Gerber is just one of the dozens of vendors here, all scrambling to catch the public’s eye and the public’s wallet. It hasn’t been easy for the last five years. High gas prices and a clampdown on lending by banks drove this industry right to the brink.
On the other end of the price spectrum is the Integra Continental motor-coach, more than $580,000 list price, $449,000 if you buy it at the show.
Tadd Evans with Integra says business is booming and it’s a welcome change in a battered industry.
“2009 was the bottom. It did a complete dive, a nosedive and splat on the ground,” said Evans.
But the image of that nosedive is slowly and steadily fading in the rear-view mirror. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association reports a robust final quarter of 2012 and steady growth for 2013. Nothing like the boom years of ’06 and ’07, but it is encouraging improvement. RV Show director Dave Helgeson says the easing of lending policies has helped and the real road-warriors in the RV set never really left.
“The people that live the RV lifestyle weren’t going to give it up. They were going to stay closer to home put off buying for a couple of years, but the lifestyle was solid,” said Helgeson.
As for Jack Gerber and his “Tiny Trailer,” he says he builds and sells eight a year. And for him, he says that’s just about right.