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The RV: Going the way of the dinosaur?

The economic crisis threatens an industry and an American lifestyle. ‘This is the worst it’s ever been.’

Reporting from Forest City, Iowa — In the realm of conspicuous consumption, few things are larger than the RV, the multi-ton vehicular brontosaurus that has taken generations of families on the great American highway adventure.

But in the worst economic crisis since the Depression, the RV is facing perhaps its gravest challenge as sales have plummeted, manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy or gone out of business, and lofty expectations of a grander profile for recreational vehicles have been drastically cut.

Even the most pessimistic economy watchers will acknowledge that someday people will begin buying cars again, only because they have to. That assumption, though, does not apply to RVs, which are not essential purchases, can easily cost a quarter of a million dollars and are relentless binge drinkers of fuel.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Robert Olson, chairman and chief executive of Forest City-based Winnebago Industries Inc., the market leader and the brand synonymous with RVs. “But you always have to look at a silver lining. . . . I think the industry will come back.

“It’s a culture. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a maker of memories,” Olson added.

LA Times

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