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Americans bought nearly half a million RVs in 2018, with the industry bringing in more than $20 billion in revenue.

This story by Graham Rapier originally appeared in Business Insider.

The segment is broken down by industry analysts into nine classes, ranging from small campers to massive diesel motorhomes. Based on RV Dealer Association's information, gathered via the use of an outside company called Statistical Surveys, this is the most popular RV brand in each class:

  • Travel trailers are by far the most popular RV type, with 289,940 being sold in 2018. 
  • Second to travel trailers, 83,252 fifth wheel RVs were sold in 2018. Montana was able to raise its lead to 8 percent market share, but Reflection is quickly catching up.
  • Class A’s have declined in sales for three years in a row, but Winnebago has retained its lead. However, its market share fell slightly in 2018. Allegro, A.C.E, Coachmen, and Georgetown make up the rest of the top five.
  • Winnebago’s Touring Coach Class B topped the competition. Erwin Hymer and the famous Airstream also make the top five of this segment.
  • Class C motorhomes, or those built on truck chassis, are also growing in step with its smaller Class B counterparts. Four Winds leads this segment, though its lead slipped a bit in 2018. Coachmen, Winnebago, Sunseeker and Chateau make up the other top four brands in this segment.


 

Sure, Lippert Components OneControl Smart RV Technology will let the RV’s owner control his lights or awning or a host of other features from a smartphone. 

It’s what that owner isn’t necessarily thinking about controlling that will likely provide the greatest benefit to both him and the OEM that made his rig, however. Future possibilities include recognizing that a design or component has a problem – or even being able to order the correct replacement part long before the RV gets pulled into the dealership or service center, according to John Manfreda, a system architect with LCI. 

And, it’s all being made possible by a great leap forward in the area of connectivity.

Lippert has incorporated both Cloud services and cellular services in the latest versions of its OneControl ConnectAnywhere and OneControl Wireless.

Growing Connectivity 

It’s not that the idea of connectivity is new, but how it’s being achieved that continues to grow and expand. For instance, the idea of a home computer being able to connect to the Internet once meant a land-line phone. 

In much the same way, remote control – whether at home or in an RV – typically meant operating from a wall-mounted touchscreen.

The touchscreen is still there for those who want it, but for a large segment of RVers, the phone has become the computer, transmission has gone cellular, and stored data has moved into the Cloud. It’s little wonder that OneControl has joined them there. 

“We’ve added both Cloud services and cellular services to our offering with our OneControl ConnectAnywhere and OneControl Wireless,” Manfreda says. “It’s a big deal because now we’re talking telematics and telemetry, which means you can do long-distance coach control, voice-activation commands and GPS tracking. It also enables the Cloud presence through the coach.” 

In short, it expands the idea of remote control of a coach and turns OneControl into an OnStar-type offering. And, while ConnectAnywhere and wireless are still being offered as options, Brent Hamood, director of sales for OneControl, says the numbers certainly support them soon becoming a standard.

“We expect that next year every car Ford sells will have cellular connectivity,” Hamood says. “AT&T has 24 million cars on their in-car Wi-Fi network and adds about 2 million more every quarter, so that tells us cellular connectivity isn’t going away.” 

And, while he adds that the RV industry has traditionally been a bit behind cars and homes in adopting technology, more OEMs will look at it to help differentiate them in the market. 

“More people will come to expect this type of service,” Hamood says. 

At its simplest, these remote systems have always allowed users to perform tasks such as checking their tank levels before heading off-road to a remote campground. However, with cellular capabilities, they can now turn on the lights and HVAC well before returning from a hike or trip into town. 

And, they can do it with the touch of a phone screen – or by voice. LCI added a voice system to OneControl in 2016. 

“The cool thing about voice is the adoption rate is actually faster than with cell phones,” says Hamood. “It’s natural for people to interact by speaking, and almost 13 percent of households have a voice system from Amazon or Google.” 

“The Millennials absolutely expect it,” adds Manfreda. “Even people in RVs get it. It’s the entryway into digital connectivity; once you get them hooked on voice they want everything else.”

LCI’s John Manfreda (left) and Brent Hamood say the latest upgrades to the company’s OneControl Smart RV Technology are allowing RVers to remotely control more features on their units than ever before.

Something for Everyone 

What will that “everything else” entail? 

The remote-control manufacturer that can answer that best may not currently even be currently in the marketplace, according to Hamood, who adds it could very well be supplied by Google or Amazon. 

In the meantime, LCI says the number of items the company’s research-and-development team is looking at encompasses a wide segment of possible products and ideas. 

“We’re looking at things like remote door locks, of course,” Hamood says. “Power management, software updates, trip reporting, GPS monitoring, remote diagnostics; we’re working on all those things at once.” 

Fortunately, Manfreda adds, LCI has an infrastructure that allows the company to work on those multiple things, and with the system existing in the Cloud, new features don’t have to have simultaneous rollouts and instead can be added as they’re developed. 

Still another question that’s yet to be answered is what will the advent of 5G mean for products such as OneControl? Its ability to offer a high data rate, higher system capacity and increased device connectivity might not change the way an RV owner runs out his awnings and slide-outs, but it does have the potential for LCI to offer still more products. 

“The tremendous bandwidth may get us into infotainment, where people want to stream videos and movies and that kind of thing,” says Hamood. 

“RV owners aren’t camping to get away from technology,” agrees Manfreda. “They’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but they still like technology to keep them warm and they still want to surf the web when they’re sitting with their friends. Things like 5G, and cellular hot spots – which are already part of our offering – has its own value.” 

And, while areas such as power management and remote diagnostics don’t have the same appeal, perhaps, as the ability to dim the lights at the right moment, that’s where Hamood and Manfreda see tremendous potential with OneControl’s ability to enhance communication to and from the coach.

LCI circuit board that goes into the OneControl system made at the company’s factory in Sterling Heights, Mich.

Putting a bit of a damper on things is recent problems that have arisen between some popular social media sites and users unhappy with the collection and dissemination of personal information. Rather than using what they are learning to sell an RV owner tunics or body wash, the data being collected through OneControl is being used to remotely diagnose issues and – ideally – build-in service improvements. 

Hamood compares it to going to an automobile dealership and hooking into a computer that shows the fault codes. 

“We’ve built those things into the controls we’re putting in,” Hamood says. “Now, the dealers have the ability to log into those, and we have the ability to log in and we can see problems, oftentimes before the end-user knows there’s a problem.” 

One of the next steps, he adds, is developing an automated email system that will tell owners they might, for instance, have a low-voltage issue with a battery that could cause problems. 

Improved Service 

Nor does Hamood see this data collection ending there. He says a longer-term goal is improving the service warranty experience of the owner in a way that should be a game-changer for OEMs utilizing OneControl and the buyers of their units. 

“We know that’s a struggle for the RV industry,” he says. “Dealers will tell you they have a hard time getting techs who are qualified. We would like to be able to know what’s wrong with a unit long before it gets to the dealership. If we can know what happened, we can have a part shipped to a dealer so it can be there to meet the customer and drastically cut down on service times.” 

A secondary benefit Hamood sees is that it will help the manufacturers that supply the industry, including LCI, which is known for items such as axles, awnings and slide-outs. 

“We like to think we understand our products very well, but this gives us the opportunity to known them on a different level and improve them,” he adds. “That’s what we’re looking at every single day.” 

The goal of improving service times is getting a lot of buy-in from the OEMs, according to Hamood. While those companies realize the RV owner doesn’t mind showing off the ability of his phone to operate his slide-outs, they, too, want to improve service times at their dealerships. 

The data also helps RV manufacturers understand how their customers are using their units in the field, and LCI is taking requests from OEMs that want to know different types of information of that nature – a process that’s helped by the fact that OneControl operates out of Sterling Heights, Mich., and is manufactured in the United States. 

Manfreda says only recently did LCI turn up a case where monitoring fault codes showed that one OEM was having issues with a component LCI was providing – a first for the company. 

“Normally, the owner might have had a problem for the life of the vehicle and not known it,” Manfreda says. “Or, they might have blown more fuses and it would be annoying. But, through the Cloud we were able to contact this manufacturer and have them reconfigure how they were installing the piece on the assembly line.” 

Of course, LCI will continue to investigate more ways to connect and monitor the various components that go into an RV, but the possibilities go well beyond that. Not only will all RVs have a cellular connection, but it will be necessary to service the younger Millennial buyers. 

“Their expectation of service is much different than in the past,” Hamood observes. “They’re used to things fixing themselves in the moment and moving on, and as their expectations grow, we just get better at providing that.” 

How much better? 

“We’re going to be building better, smarter RVs from an OEM perspective, and we’re going to be building better, smarter components from a supplier perspective,” Hamood says. “And, the market is going to be much better in terms of consumer confidence because we’ll have a tremendous idea of what’s gone wrong and why it’s gone wrong and how to fix it really quickly.” 


RECALLS


 NHTSA:  Recalls made for Airstream, Newmar, and Several Others


JUNE 24, 2019

Airstream is recalling certain 2017 to 2020 Basecamp trailers. The tire placard is lacking the trailer’s spare tire information. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of FMVSS No. 110, “Tire Selections and Rims.”

Airstream will notify owners, and will provide corrected labels, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 23. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 extension 7401 or 7411.

Potential number of units affected: 911

Keystone RV is recalling certain 2019 to 2020 Dutchmen Voltage trailers, model 4185. An 18,000-pound capacity fifth wheel pin box may have been installed instead of the specified 21,000-pound capacity pin box hitch.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will replace the pin box inner with a pin box inner rated for 21,000 pounds, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 19. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 19-354.

Potential number of units affected: 79

Keystone RV also is recalling certain 2020 Crossroads Cruiser fifth wheels, models 27MK, 29SI, 28RD, 24RL and 29RK. The furnace exhaust vent may be missing.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will install a furnace exhaust vent if it is missing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 10. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 19-355.

Potential number of units affected: 54

Newmar is recalling certain 2019 Essex, King Aire, London Aire, Mountain Aire, and 2020 Dutch Star motorhomes. The brake relay valve may have an air flow restriction due to a partially blocked orifice, which may lead to extended stopping distance. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of FMVSS No. 121, “Air Brake Systems.”

Newmar will notify owners, and Spartan dealers will inspect and replace the brake relay valve, if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 19. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300 or Spartan customer service at 1-800-543-5008. Newmar’s number for this recall is 19012.

Potential number of units affected: 40

Newmar also is recalling certain 2019 Mountain Aire and Essex motorhomes built on Freightliner XC chassis equipped with air disc brakes. The brake caliper mounting bolts may have been insufficiently tightened.

Newmar will notify owners, and Freightliner dealers will inspect and repair the vehicles, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 21. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300. Newmar’s numbers for this recall are FL-816 and 19V-367.

Potential number of units affected: 3

Jayco is recalling certain 2020 Greyhawk motorhomes. The brake relay valve may have an air flow restriction due to a partially blocked orifice, which may cause to extended stopping distance. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of FMVSS No. 121, “Air Brake Systems.”

Spartan will notify Jayco owners, and Spartan dealers will inspect and replace the brake relay valve, if necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Spartan customer service at 1-800-543-5008 or Jayco at 1-800-517-9137.

Potential number of units affected: 23

Thor Motor Coach is recalling certain 2019 to 2020 Magnitude, Omni motorhomes, models BB35 and BH35. Wires located in the electrical junction box may move around and contact an extra screw that was errantly installed.

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the junction box and remove the extra screw, and repair any damaged wiring, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin Aug. 5. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000169.

Potential number of units affected: 81

Entegra Coach is recalling certain 2020 Anthem and Cornerstone motorhomes. The steering shaft bolt may have been insufficiently tightened.

Entegra will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the motorhome and tighten the steering shaft bolt, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 28. Owners may contact Entegra customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Entegra’s number for this recall is 9803435.

Potential number of units affected: 88

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