Auto Shows Featured Story

Congress Centre RV show features the stuff that dreams are made of.

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

This weekend over at the Congress Centre on Dixon Road just off the western 401, the Ontario Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association is selling dreams.

These dreams come in the form of Class A motorhomes that sell for north of $250,000 and tent trailers worth a little less than $10k. And then there’s the Fifth Wheels – trailers the size of your living room that you pull along behind your SUV or light truck and which can set you back between $30 -and-$40,000.

About 300 of these RVs, plus displays of camping equipment, kitchenware, maintenance products, lounges and more are all at the annual Toronto RV Show and Sale that opened Thursday and runs through the weekend till Sunday afternoon at 5.  Doors open at 10 a.m. except Sunday, when they don’t open till 11. Closing time varies too. You can browse around and shop Friday and Saturday till 7 but only till 5 on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased for $7.50 Friday and for $15 Saturday and Sunday. Kids under 16 get in free if accompanied by an adult.

Got all that? There will be a test later.

Oh, and as well as admiring the RVs that are there, you can buy them on the spot. Finance them, even. This is a show and sale, remember?

Now, when I say dreams, I mean the ones every older Canadian experiences from time to time, particular now when it’s frigid cold outside: six months in Florida and six months at the cottage. Except with one of these RVs, you don’t need a cottage north of Kingston, or a condo in Sarasota. These are motor homes, or house trailers, which means you take your residence with you every time you drive off down the road. Find a campground near the ocean in the Sunshine State, or one in a provincial park in summer, and you’ve got it made.

“We’re selling lifestyle now,” says Bob Verway, who owns the Owasco RV Centre, north of Hwy  401, just east of Oshawa. {Officially, it’s in Clarington, but nobody knows where Clarington is and most people know all about Oshawa, particularly these days.}

Bob Verway (right) and Norris McDonald clown around at the Toronto RV Show and Sale.

“Instead of buying a cottage, we say buy an RV. You don’t have to stay in one place, you can travel around, and it’s an awesome way to spend your leisure time.”

In conversation, Verway said the RV business has changed dramatically in recent years and that the demographic is getting younger.

“When I got in the business, and we’ve been at this show, or shows like it, for more than 30 years, I was looking to sell to baby boomers who were retiring and had some money. Our average customer now is in their 40s. They start out with a trailer, or a used motor home, and they work their way up.”

Verway, who I’ve known for years, was just getting warmed up.

“We took a trip to the East Coast,” he said. “You know, when you do that, you check into a hotel every night, and you pull everything out of your car, and you take everything in, and then the next morning you have to put it all back in the car?

“This way, everything stays in the RV. You want lunch? You don’t have to eat out; you pull out your barbeque and cook your lunch. I cooked two lobsters once night for dinner. I parked overnight in the tourist parking lot in Peggy’s Cove. Do you know that Wal Mart will let you park in their parking lots overnight? Do you want to go swimming? You stop and go swimming. Afternoon nap? Pull over and doze off.”

The businessman, who also owns automobile dealerships and has served as the president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and the upcoming Canadian International AutoShow, said the Ontario economy continues to be in good shape, which bodes well for RVing.

“Cottage prices are going way up,” he said, “so people are being priced out. And people like to travel, they like to do different things and they have disposable income. Interest rates aren’t going up, which is a good thing, because you can finance these things over 25 years and you often don’t have to make a down payment. It’s just like the payment on your mortgage.

“We just built a new 35,000-square-foot facility, so I have every confidence the RV business will continue to grow.”

Between 14,000 and 22,000 people are expected to pass through the doors of the Congress Centre during the run of the show, according to Bruno Tombari Jr., president of the ORVDA and owner of Bella Vista RV Centre in Hawkstone, Ont., just north of Gasoline Alley between Barrie and Orillia.

A large part of the show is devoted to aftermarket items and,

A large part of the Toronto RV Show and Sale is devoted to aftermarket suppliers,

unlike the automobile aftermarket that consists primarily of add-ons, the RV aftermarket is everything you see in the RV, other than the chassis itself.

Said Rob Edwards, director of sales for ntpstag Canada: “We supply replacement parts as well as accessorizing the lifestyle.” Added Roland Goreski, of Campkin’s RV Centre in Myrtle Station, Ont.: “In the car business, you buy parts from the manufacturers; in our business, we buy parts from suppliers. It’s better for consumers.”

I asked some of the dealers if anything funny had happened at the show. I was hoping somebody would tell a story about some guy who went into a motorhome to take a look around and locked the door and nobody could find the key to let him out. No such luck.

But I did hear why they tape down the toilet seats. I’ll leave the reason to your imagination.

And the day the TV show, the Naked News, showed up to tape a segment? I’ll leave that to your imagination too.

Meantime, I have my eye on a motor home that’s on sale for a little more than $100,000. Spending my time driving around to car races and golf tournaments and not having to worry about finding a motel for the next couple of months sounds really attractive, doesn’t it?

Other than the fact I have to work for a living, there’s nothing standing in my way.

See you at the show, everybody.