What's new. What's hot. Notes from the RVIA Show.

James and Stef Adinaro James and Stef Adinaro  |  01.01.2017

Hi all, in early December James and I made a trip to Kentucky where we attended the annual RVIA trade show in Louisville.

This is a significant show for the RV industry because it’s where manufacturers like to roll out new models and updates to current ones.

It’s where we get to see what’s hot and what’s not in the RV world. It’s an industry-only show though, so since the public couldn’t attend, I’ll try to give you a feel for some of the significant trends we saw.

The first thing we noticed is that the industry as a whole is paying much more attention to social media and increasing brand awareness. We heard this at the Truma-sponsored industry breakfast where the RVIA itself presented a video highlighting how Facebook and Twitter audiences have grown significantly on GoRVing’s channels.

Even suppliers are getting into the act.  We saw this at the Dometic booth, where their PR Manager Amanda (with me in pic below) explained they were launching a rebranding and a completely new social media presence.

We’ve experienced the power of social media ourselves first-hand. I run a Facebook group for fellow Travato owners, over a thousand members strong. Suggestions that have repeatedly emerged from group members are finding their way into newer model year Travatos. For example, when group member Greg Schultz added an exterior light above the hookups to make night set-up more convenient, others started to follow. Guess what’s now standard on all current Travato models?  You got it, a dump light.

Another exciting trend  is the focus on increased technology in RVs.

Winegard (who we all know for their RV TV products) has picked up on this trend and has started to bring out products for Wi-Fi at the show.  Most intriguing is their ConnecT, which is a wireless access point for your RV that claims to pull in weak wi-fi signals through three external antennae. It bridges your devices to the external Wi-Fi without reconnecting all of them at every stop. This is an exciting shift from where the RV tech world used to be. RV technology now means something more than just 35 different ways to watch satellite TV.

You wouldn’t think I’d be talking about refrigerators as a technology item, but we’re finally starting to see more and more compressor driven (meaning, non-absorption) refrigeration options.

Thetford was showing off a new compact compressor-driven fridge model that caught our eye.  It went beyond refrigerators: we were excited to see other compressor-driven refrigeration options at the show (including lots of 12 volt coolers!).

We think running your RV refrigerator from a renewable (and free!) resource is the wave of the future.  While we’re not calling the time of death for propane refrigerators just yet, it’s good to see some forward-thinking options becoming available and accepted.

As for things that were “bleeding edge” technology a few years ago, we now see them becoming more and more common in RVs.  Multiplex wiring is a great example of this, and Winnebago is working it into their ERA models as it refreshes each of them.  Solar options are everywhere, and even becoming standard.  You wouldn’t have found a single lithium battery at the RVIA show – except in someone’s cell phone- in past years.  These days, they’re everywhere!  They offer what James calls a “greater energy density” than regular RV batteries. Lithium batteries also offer a number of other advantages like greater “depth of discharge”.  But the battery isn’t the exciting part.  What’s exciting is what you can do with all that energy!  Cue the inverters:

Inverters take that battery power and convert it to regular household current so we can run the air conditioner or use the microwave without a generator or being plugged in!  We are seeing more and more inverters in RVs.   We even got the chance to catch up with our friends from Xantrex, who make the Freedom SW inverter that we installed in our own RV, Lance.

Here’s something else we found curious. This year more than ever there seemed to be a lot more Europeans at the show, and I’m not just talking about the team from the German company Truma.  At first we thought it was just an isolated incident, but as the show went on, we couldn’t help but notice.  Perhaps this is the flip-side of companies like Winnebago attending the Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf?  Perhaps there are more European suppliers interested in providing their products to the North American RV market?  We don’t know, but whatever it is, we’re excited to see this kind of cross-ocean pollination of ideas.

Another huge change at this year’s show was the RVIA presence itself….or at least their public side, GoRVing. RVIA is hard at work to make the show more exciting, and to reflect the changing face of RVing.  They had several “experience zones” set up throughout the show.

These zones had lots of things going on to entice show attendees to swing by. There were Power Talks by industry experts, interactive displays showing products of tomorrow, games like RV Trivial Pursuit, campfires to relax around and hear live story-telling, and many other fun draws.  Some of the zones were even (gasp) active zones where participants could tee off with an LPGA champion, throw footballs, etc.

And finally, we can’t talk about the RVIA show without talking about our favorite RV manufacturer Winnebago.  Winnebago seemed to be going in a very different (and very cool) direction from other manufacturers with their display.  Rather than being set up like a typical RV show with row after row of RVs, it was set up as a camp site – complete with trees and landscaping that gave the impression you really were out camping…as long as you can imagine the crowds were invisible, that is.

It was the booth of all booths at the RVIA show, and it took them days to set up. They brought a sampling of all their rigs from towables on up to diesel pushers, and of course our personal favorites…the campervans:

Since I found myself with nothing to do the day before the show, I ended up helping with pre-show setup. There’s an excitement in the air before a big show. It was fun getting to take part behind-the-scenes.

Winnebago had a stage in their display so their CEO and a few VPs could give talks throughout the show. James and I made it to a few of these talks. Winnebago has big goals for themselves to grow, improve, and continue to be industry leaders.

So, those were some of the highlights of our time at the show. We left pretty excited about the direction the RV industry is headed. Wouldn’t it be great if we could look into a crystal ball and see where the industry is in 10 years? I have a feeling we’d like what we see!


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7 Comments

  1. Gene Posted on 01.06.2017

    Two thumbs up on this article ! Thanks for giving us the inside view of this show. I hope they are listening, we are a couple in our mid 40’s, we have no children and currently own a Winnebago Adventurer. As we love our Adventure the interior styling is very dated. We have looked at newer models of most of the major brands, sadly Newmar interiors are at the top of the list and they are just OK at that. I have asked this question at a lot of RV shows to the manufacturers representatives. “Why not design the interior as you would your house?” I don’t recall ever seeing a window with valances (more or less wooden) on top and on the sides of windows, wooden panels and mirrors on the ceiling, cabinets as glossy at countertops, opposing seating that makes it look like a waiting room at a doctors office, wooden columns around the slides, frameless windows that do not allow air to circulate, harsh LED lights, awning lights that would light up a football field (you really want to be camped next to that). I would love to see more European styling. We will head the the Edison RV show in NJ in a couple of weekends, we will chat to some of the representatives, I like to hear their stories, last year one salesperson told us that the trailer has an optional 10,000 watt solar system, I questioned him and he showed me the brochure, yep, 10,000 watts! They even showed the panel to me, it was a big as or dining room table. He said we could run everything off the battery, no need for electric hookups or generator ! Two words, proofreading and education were not with this manufacturer. Happy New Year and thank you again for all you articles, FB posts and exercise tips. Gene

  2. David Karol Posted on 01.10.2017

    Great overview! You two are the best and good for the RV industry and Winnebago. Our 2017 Travato has many of these upgrades thanks to Russ Garfin’s forward thinking. He is certainly on the right track. And, I think you will be seeing more electrical set ups like James did on Lance going forward. Stay healthy and keep us up to date on the RV advances.

  3. clay floyd Posted on 01.21.2017

    What about tankless water heaters? Will they become the norm.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 01.21.2017

      In European RVs they are the norm and I think you’ll see that trend growing especially with the smaller Class B and C products where water capacity is limited and instant hot water systems (like Winnebago’s new always hot recirculation plumbing in the View/Navion models) waste less water.

  4. Joseph Ruiz Posted on 01.22.2017

    Thank you for the article. Great to hear about all the new innovations and a bit disappointed with the lack of interest in developing satellite internet connection technology. By now I thought this would have been available from Dish or Direct TV so we can wean from the sometimes hard to find cell towers.

  5. Gary Posted on 01.23.2017

    Now we finally got dump lights, how about a bright backup lights that stay on when I shift the RV in into “Park”. I would hop out to check and the back of the RV would be black.

  6. Mike Pleman Posted on 01.23.2017

    Excellent stuff ! I liked the article on inverters &
    Lithium batteries.