RVDA Celebrates 40th Anniversary at Con/Expo

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October 8, 2010 by   Comments Off on RVDA Celebrates 40th Anniversary at Con/Expo

Members of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) welcomed a new slate of officers during the association’s annual meeting held Thursday (Oct. 7) during the RVDA 2010 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

The association also celebrated its 40th anniversary with a brief slide presentation during the meeting at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, followed by RVDA President Mike Molino’s assessment of key issues facing RV dealerships and the industry and an update on the Go RVing media campaign.

Outgoing RVDA Chairmwoman Debbie Brunoforte welcomes incoming chairman Tim O'Brien

Outgoing RVDA Chairmwoman Debbie Brunoforte welcomes incoming chairman Tim O'Brien

“The purpose of this annual meeting is to give you a good overview of your association’s activities over the past year, as well as what’s ahead for the next 12 months,” noted outgoing RVDA Chairman Debbie Brunoforte in gavelling the meeting to order.

Following brief remarks on the association’s financial audit, which will be completed and presented at the RVDA board meeting during the 48th National RV Trade Show Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., Brunoforte welcomed RVDA Past Chairman of the Board Larry Troutt, chairman of this year’s Nominating Committee.

Trout presented the membership with a list of recommended nominations for new officers and at-large directors. The newly elected 2010-2011 slate of nominees includes:

  • RVDA Chairman — Tim O’Brien, Circle K RVs, Lampeer, Mich.
  • First Vice Chairman — Andy Heck, Alpin House, Amsterdam, N.Y.
  • Second Vice Chairman — Jeff Hirsch, Campers Inn of Kingston, Kingston, N.H.
  • Treasurer — Bob Been, Affinity RV Service & Sales, Prescott, Ariz.
  • Secretary — Mick Ferkey, Greenway, Inc., Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc.

The 2010-’11 board will also include directors John McCluskey (Florida Outdoors RV Center, Stuart, Fla.), John Myers (Myers RV Center, Inc., Albuquerque, N.M.), Steve Plemmons (Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, N.C.) and Bill White (United RV Center, Fort Worth, Tex.). Additionally, Brunaforte will serve through the coming year as immediate past chairman.

Much of the meeting, however, was given over to Molino’s State of the Association report.

Debbie Bronoforte

Debbie Brunoforte presents the James Summers Award to Jeff Pastore (left) while Mike Molino looks on.

“After more than three tough years for the entire industry, I am impressed to find that most RVDA members are beginning to see recovery, or at least, see the route to recovery. Our definitions of recovery have changed. There is a ‘new normal.’ Almost everyone makes it clear to me that they have adjusted their attitudes and their perspectives to a new normal. They are optimistic about achieving and exceeding that new normal.

“There is at least one other reason for optimism. Granted, it is a bit convoluted: It came to me at the start of this convention. One of your board members reminded our Vice President for Communications, Phil Ingrassia, that no economist has ever predicted any of the major sales increases experienced by this industry over its past. They just seem to happen. On hearing this, another of my leaders commented that most economists have predicted 10 of the last two downturns.

“Don’t worry about the economists’ predictions,” Molino noted. “Be ready — the next boom in RV sales is not far away!

“RVDA shared in the tough times. Our association’s financial situation, after adjusting to the new normal, is also showing signs of recovery. At the June board meeting, our projections for the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2010) were barely tolerable even using the new normal. Well, we had a great final month — and beat both last year and the projections for this year in every category.

“We expect to be very close to break even with our cash flow in this fiscal year. That is something we have been looking forward to for some time. “Your association is returning to health.”

Association Works to Exempt Towable RVs From Finance Reform Law

According to Molino, the association also worked strenuously to help gain an exemption for towable RVs from a key piece of legislation this year.

“The Finance Reform law, sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, creates a new Federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that will have sweeping power over consumer financing,” Molino pointed out. “The National Automobile Dealers Association — which has a massive lobbying and Political Action Committee and worked closely with a former car dealer who serves in Congress — got language passed in the House excluding car dealers from the bill.

“The language was narrowly written to include motorized dealers only — so all of us towable dealers had the specter of this new federal agency to regulate how we sell and arrange financing for our customers. It was imperative that if towable RVs were going to get included in the exemption, it would have to be done in the Senate.”

It was, Molino outlined, a multi-pronged effort, combining resources from major automotive, marine and RV associations.

“Working with our allies at NADA, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Marine Retailers Association, and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RVDA mobilized dealers across the country to contact their Republican and Democratic U.S. Senators.

Former RVDA executive David Ayers (right) is introduced at the Con/Expo.

Former RVDA executive David Ayers (right) is introduced at the Con/Expo.

“The result was a big victory for RV dealers — and both towable and motorized RV dealers have a specific exemption from the oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.”

As Molino noted, however, that victory doesn’t mean that the association and its members should drop their guard.

“I wish I could tell you that the threats to accessible RV loans and dealer F&I revenue are over. The Obama Administration and powerful members of Congress continue to set their sights on vehicle financing.

“Special interests continue to threaten the core business processes of RV dealers through legislation and additional regulation. That’s why we will continue to be vigilant, and we need to stay united as dealers and as an association. This helped give birth to a new program. RVDA’s advocacy communications program supports the association’s vision of positively influencing the business environment affecting its members by demonstrating RV dealers’ economic impact on the U.S. economy to policymakers and industry stakeholders.”

Another venue, Molino pointed out, was the “ARV Dealers: A Driving Force in the Economy” campaign.”

“(It) allows members to supplement their dues payments with additional voluntary contributions to an advocacy communications program,” Molino said, while instructing members to look for more information from the RVDA staff as the program develops.

Larger Go RVing Media Budget Pays Off

Substituting for Go RVing co-chairman Tom Stinnett, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting due to business matters at his dealership, Molino also provided members with an overview of RVDA’s involvement in the Go RVing campaign.

“Along with RVIA and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, RVDA works hard to make the Go RVing campaign the best it can be for dealers and the entire industry. I am pleased to report that Go RVing’s high-impact spring and summer ad buy this year helped attract more buyer prospects to the industry — while boosting RV interest and demand during the high selling-and-travel season.”

According to Molino, the website — which was updated with a new look this year, featuring the animated “Ambassadors of Affordability” characters as guides, and more interactive features — recorded 1.7 million visits from March through September, “82% more than those same months last year when our media budget was dramatically lower.” This year, Molino noted, a total of $8.2 million is being spent on media, compared to only $3.5 million in 2009.

“During the spring and summer months, the television ads ran regularly on Fox Sports Net Major League Baseball games, NBC Universal Sports, SPEED Channel, Travel Channel and ESPN. They ran on 33 additional national cable networks at special direct-response rates. The Discovery Channel and Travel Channel were the strongest television lead generators.”

Other Go RVing highlights Molino presented during the meeting included:

  • Since January, Go RVing has posted approximately more that 120,000 new leads for use by the 400 dealers signed up for Go RVing dealer program participants — 65% more leads than last year at this time.
  • Already (through early October) leads have surpassed the total for all of 2009, as a result of the new “Ambassadors of Affordability” TV ads and bigger ad buy.
  • On the Internet, new Go RVing banner ads featuring the “Ambassadors of Affordability” have been running on some 35 sites. Search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing have been the strongest leads generators.
  • The print plan was beefed up this year with the return of business-reply cards inserted into leading family and parenting magazines. Among 27 magazines on the plan, the strongest lead generator has been Family Circle.

“One of the most exciting developments for 2011 will be an enhanced lead delivery program for dealers and the industry,” said Molino. “We know that time and people are short, and this new effort, starting next year will identify the leads who — according to a sophisticated data mining program — are the most likely to buy.”

New RVDA Chairman Tim O'Brien dons a wig during his address at this week's convention.

New RVDA Chairman Tim O'Brien dons a wig during his address at this week's convention.

As Molino explained, the new system will deliver leads labeled in one of four categories: Highly Likely, Likely, Moderately Likely or Interested.

“Of course, all the Go RVing leads are potential buyers — but through new purchase intention modeling, Go RVing will categorize them better for you, so you can better prioritize your follow-up effort. We will have more details later, but this is a significant upgrade to the Go RVing lead program for next year.”

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