Mesa RV company cruising - East Valley Tribune: Business

Mesa RV company cruising

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Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2004 7:12 am | Updated: 5:24 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Cruise America, a rental and sales recreational vehicle firm, is expanding operations and adding two locations on the East Coast to reach out to customers and meet the growing demand for RVs.

Based in Mesa, the company is the nation’s largest RV rental company and has more than 150 rental and sales locations across the United States and Canada. The firm recently opened an outlet in Manassas, Va., and will open a New Milford, Conn., store next month, said Randall Smalley, chief executive officer.

Smalley said the goal is to help feed a blossoming demand for recreational vehicles in the East.

"The West coast is pretty well developed. The big opportunity is in the Northeast where they are only starting to discover them. It’s a very under-served market," Smalley said.

In addition to an indoor showroom and service center, the company at 11 W. Hampton Ave. also handles Internet and telephone reservations and operates a 24-hour motorist assistance hotline from the Mesa location.

"We also inventory parts to service our entire national operation," Smalley said.

Leaders expect a banner summer season because demand for the firm’s services has not waned even as gasoline prices have ticked upward, Smalley said.

"It’s a huge psychological barrier. But even if gas prices double, you’re cost goes up about $50 per tank. It’s not something that’s going to keep someone from taking their vacation," Smalley said.

To help overcome that barrier, the company also offers a pro-rated discount upon checkout so that the price customers pay for gas is equal to the national average of a price of unleaded gasoline. Currently, that amounts to about a 6 cent per gallon discount, Smalley said.

Meanwhile, with a fleet of more than 4,000 RVs, retail sales are an important part of the firm’s operations. After being refurbished at the Mesa site, the vehicles are sold at a significant discount compared to new RVs, Smalley said.

While a new RV typically costs about $65,000, the firm sells RVs that cost between $20,000 and $30,000 and offer extended warranties, Smalley said.

In addition to a cost savings, the firm’s RVs are custom-made to fit the company’s needs and buyers won’t find the same features elsewhere, Smalley said.

Every RV has two independent electrical systems that separately power the RV and the vehicle. The RV’s battery is recharged by solar panels on the roof and its systems are all electronic and operated by buttons. That means that matches aren’t needed to light the gas stove and its septic tanks are easy to empty. In addition, the wheel base is longer and rear bumpers are shorter so that drivers don’t clip fire hydrants or stop signs as they maneuver through tight corners.

"We do things differently because we recognize our customers are primarily first-time users. This is 30 years of live and learn," Smalley said.

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