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RV SLOWDOWN SEEN AS 'SHORT-LIVED'.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

LANCASTER - The founder and CEO of Rexhall Industries expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that the slowdown in recreational-vehicle orders prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be short-lived.

Saying orders for RVs dried up following the Sept. 11 attacks, Rexhall Industries announced Tuesday that it had laid off about 200 of its workers, slightly more than half of its Lancaster work force. William Rex, the company's founder and chief executive officer, is taking a 20 percent pay cut and other company officials are taking a 10 percent pay cut in light of the slowdown.

``No one's got a crystal ball, but the majority of us (RV manufacturers) believe it will be short-lived,'' Rex said of the slowdown.

The company, which had manufactured more than 100 RVs a month, is now building them at a rate of 20 to 30 a month.

Rex said it appears that customer traffic at RV dealers remains relatively strong, but dealers are reluctant to stock inventory until the political and economic conditions stabilize.

There was a similar slowdown in the RV industry during the Persian Gulf War. Potential RV customers did not abandon their plans to buy a vehicle, but instead deferred them, Rex said.

``The thing about our industry is when it comes back it comes back stronger than before because of the pent-up demand,'' Rex said.

The company should get a feel for how the market will shake out in the next few weeks at trade shows, including one at the Fairplex in Pomona beginning Oct. 12.

``We're trying to be optimistic,'' Rex said. ``We've all got to hang in there and not let them hurt our economy.''

The RV industry is eyeing the Pomona show, which is open to the public, as a gauge of how Southern California consumers will respond to recent events. The industry is also looking toward its national dealer show in Louisville, Ky., as bellwether of how things will shake out.

``Since Sept. 11, forecasts have become awfully cloudy,'' said Robert Bryan, vice president of administration for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

Thus far, reports to the RVIA indicate consumers are still willing to buy, Bryan said.

``Retail sales have held up quite well,'' Bryan said. ``Orders placed before the attack have been filled. The reports are quite favorable.''
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 4, 2001
Words:386
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