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Innovation Drives RVs

Imported Plywood Helps Drive RV Industry Innovation

Despite rising fuel costs, the recreation vehicle industry is doing just fine, thank you.

Lauan plywood provides the combination of strength, thin construction and lighter weight, all critical in RV construction.

“People aren’t going to stop camping and traveling,” says Bruce Hopkins, vice president of standards and education for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “They’ve made the investment because it’s their passion, their lifestyle, and they’ll find a way to keep enjoying it. “If you’re buying a half million dollar motor home, whether gas is two or two-fifty a gallon isn’t going to make a lot of difference to you. And those who like to camp in a towable RV can leave it at a campground and use a smaller car to commute home.”

According to the RVIA, 70 percent of new RV sales are towable RVs, and 30 percent are motorhomes. Today’s RV owner is 49 years old and married, with an annual household income of $56,000. As baby boomers retire the industry expects a surge in sales, but it isn’t waiting quietly on the sidelines for this demographic to mature.

Innovation is making the RV more attractive to a greater range of enthusiastic wanderers. “The most significant change lately has been the slideout, the expandable room sections that increase the square footage of the RV when parked,” says Hopkins. The sport utility RVs, or SURVs, is another big thing. The back wall folds down like a ramp, letting people carry loads – four wheelers, antiques, bikes, dogs and even horses. SURVs give you a lot more flexibility with an RV; you can sleep I nit but you can also haul cargo of a variety of types. “There’s a trickle-down effect to innovation to this industry. You see these really outlandish, cool motorhomes that sell for a million and a half, and some of the included amenities and technological options become available in more affordable models. Technology, like wireless internet access, is a big deal to baby boomers.”

The RV industry has been using imported woods like lauan plywood since the 1970’s, prized for its strength, unique thin construction and affordability. “Lauan is such a great material for the industry because you can get it in thinner sheets than domestic plywood,” says Hopkins. “Thinner sheets allow manufacturers to bend it for interior contours, so they can provide the consumer with something other than just a square box. It’s also very easy to laminate with fiberglass and aluminum for exterior walls, and with vinyl and other materials for interiors. In each case, the lauan plywood provides the combination of strength, thin construction and lighter weight, all critical in RV construction. “Whatever people want to do or wherever they want to go, there’s a product out there for them. As a result, you’ve got people who want to be on the move and do thinks and they’re finding that there’s an RV that fits their needs."

Where to Buy Lauan/Meranti: Search IWPA's Directory for wood suppliers, species, products or service providers.

Wood Species Library: Technical data sheets on domestic, imported, and lesser-known wood species from the U.S. Forest Products Lab.

Copyright© 2005 by the International Wood Products Association. Published by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. and circulated to an audience of 20,000 architects, designers, distributors, manufacturers, and users of imported wood products in North America.

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