Bank of America Merrill Lynch has added a $5,000 donation to the RV Learning Center’s 2013 Annual Campaign, bringing the firm’s lifetime total support to $173,000. The goal for the annual fundraising campaign, which concludes in June, is to ensure high quality education for the industry at affordable rates.
“We are in the homestretch of our yearly fundraising efforts and this generous gift from Bank of America Merrill Lynch provides a great boost to our campaign just when we need it,” said RV Learning Center Chairman Jeff Pastore in a press release. “Their commitment to the RV Learning Center will ensure that education for RV dealers and their staff will stay on the cutting edge of technological advances and make our industry better. It will help us continue to fund the excellent programs, products and services for which the RV Learning Center is known.”
Donations to the RV Learning Center fund a diverse array of programs including webinars on current topics, training and certification for dealership staff, essential publications and learning guides, and the Convention/Expo. Convenient online donations as well as a printable form that accommodates customized pledges and donations have simplified giving for 2013.
The RV Learning Center is supported by dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and other RV industry members committed to dealership education and the high levels of customer service provided by educated employees.
For more information go to www.rvlearningcenter.com. The RV Learning Center is a tax exempt organization as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions may be tax deductible as charitable donations.
National wholesale and retail lender Ally Financial Inc. made its presence known at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky., with stand-alone booths and desks within the displays of Thor Industries Inc. with whom Ally established a “preferred lender” relationship earlier this year.
“We wanted to be in Louisville to support the industry. If you are going to be a major participant in it, there are obligations to support the industry event,” stated Tim Russi, Ally’s executive vice president for North American Operations, who was joined at the show by more than 20 associates from the Detroit-based lender.
“With the announcement that we are getting into wholesale financing — and knowing the season that we are about ready to get involved in from an RV perspective — we want to make sure the dealers have us on their minds,” said Russi.
Indeed, Ally has its sights set on becoming a major factor – a national-scale RV industry lender – along with GE Capital and Bank of America. And that’s pretty big news, considering Ally Financial extended $22.3 billion in U.S. auto consumer financing for the first nine months of 2010, making it likely the No. 1 ranked provider of new car financing in the U.S. in 2010.
“We want to be part of the upswing of this industry,” Russi, a former Bank of America executive who oversees Ally’s automotive and RV lending services in the U.S. and Canada, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Some lenders have left the market while others in it are potentially retracting, and there are not many providers in the industry. So, we think the time is right to enter the market.”
In a way, Russi points out, Ally has been in automotive financing as GMAC for a long time. Formerly the captive finance company of 90-year-old General Motors Corp., Ally became an independent financial services company in 2006 and a bank holding company in 2008, launching Ally Bank in May of 2009. Ally’s parent company changed from GMAC Inc. to Ally Financial Inc. in May, followed by the rebranding of its automotive finance business in July.
In 2009, meanwhile, President Obama named Ally Financial as preferred financial provider for Chrysler Group LLC. “We have preferred provider relationships with GM, Chrysler, Saab, Fiat, Suzuki and Thor,” said Russi. “And we’re looking to expand our relationship with other OEMS as well, which is an important concept as we diversify our book of business from what was historically almost 100% GM. As a bank, what you’d like to see is a diversified business.”
Ally Financial offers a variety of auto-financing products, indirect retail financing for new and used vehicles and RVs, auto leasing as well as wholesale financing and remarketing services.
Leading the RV industry lending team are some familiar faces, including the bulk of the former Thor Credit staff. Industry veteran Ed Arienti runs the retail sales force for the RV sector as director of recreational finance sales and teams with Rich Morrin, commercial operators leader, for RV dealer wholesale financing.
Also key is Mark Manzo, who, as vice president of alliance sales, manages OEM relationships, including that between Ally and Thor.
Ally’s RV industry entry started with an April announcement by then-GMAC Financial Services that it would provide RV consumer financing, working with Thor Industries Inc. as a preferred retail lending provider.
Then, on Nov. 23, right before the Louisville Show, Ally announced that it would diversify into wholesale financing, focusing from the outset on Thor’s dealer network.
“We benchmarked current options and needs in the industry and will offer a very competitive wholesale financing product for RV dealers,” Russi stated. “Our program is tailored to the recreation vehicle business with attractive terms and flexible credit lines that will accommodate the seasonal fluctuations in RV inventory. We view our retail and wholesale financing, along with remarketing tools, as a full-service offering for dealers.”
Qualified dealers may obtain wholesale financing from Ally Financial for all or a portion of their inventory, reported Ally, which currently extends retail financing through dealers in about 40 states and plans to expand its RV retail financing nationwide by the end of the year.
“The way we like to create a relationship is a full spectrum relationship credit offering through the dealer,” Russi emphasizes. “Everything centers around the dealer. The more we do with them, the better our value proposition is.”
So, is the Thor relationship exclusive to Thor dealers?
“We are not exclusively Thor,” said Russi, “but because of our relationship with them we obviously are going to focus on their dealer network needs first. That’s our entry point into the industry. Keep in mind that Thor dealers — and I think they number 1,200 — represent about 75% of the RV space. We think by focusing there, we are going to build relationships with the majority of the industry.”
When a Thor dealer has multiple brands and sells non-Thor brands, he noted, Ally will still provide retail or wholesale financing for the products of those other branded companies.
Is Ally in it for the long haul?
“We wouldn’t have entered it to exit it,” added Russi. “We’ve got plenty of auto business. We are not going to run out of capacity. We’d like it (the RV segment) to be substantial. We’d like to systematically grow our book.”
The fact that Ally has a dedicated RV sales staff based in Orange County, Calif., is also a testament to Ally’s commitment, adds Russi. “But we also intend to leverage our entire structure into the space,” adds Russi. “If we don’t have someone conveniently located from an RV sales perspective, we will leverage the existing sales force, which is a national sales force of about 200.”
Prominent Tucson, Ariz., dealership Beaudry RV Co. has suspended operations as bankruptcy creditors say the company’s recent sale has forced its real estate loans into default, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
All the company’s employees have been laid off, with some saying they haven’t been paid for their last two weeks of work.
The inventory has been cleared from its sales lot on East Irvington Road near Interstate 10. A chain and padlock hold the doors to the guest lobby closed.
Customers who dropped off recreational vehicles to get service with the company were left in limbo for days, wondering if they’d have access to their coaches.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Comerica Bank — creditors in Beaudry’s 2008 bankruptcy — filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court saying they were surprised by the recent sale of Beaudry to an investors group.
They’re asking for immediate appointment of a liquidating trustee, arguing the sale violated loan documents and real estate loans in default. That liquidating trustee would have sole authority over the company’s real estate collateral, the motion says. Beaudry filed two years ago for Chapter 11, or reorganization bankruptcy protection.
A group of investors led by Greg Harrington and Peter Workum completed a series of transactions in mid-September to acquire Beaudry RV’s properties and operations in Tucson and Chandler. Harrington said at the time the new investors had plans to expand the company.
Those plans quickly hit a snag. The turnaround proved impossible because of Beaudry’s current legal situation, the RV market and budget constraints, the investors group said Thursday.
When asked if the company’s temporary shutdown could become permanent, Harrington said he couldn’t address that issue at this time.
Clive Bowden, who lives in Green Valley, said he was getting close to pursuing criminal charges against Beaudry as he hadn’t heard anything from the company since mid-September. He had left a 42-foot coach at Beaudry’s Tucson location for body work and additional service.
Bowden was able to get his vehicle Thursday afternoon, he said, though others are still working out the details to get their RVs back.
“There are other people in the same situation as I was,” he said.
The scene is the same at Beaudry’s Chandler location, said Bud Bates, who bought an RV there early in September.
“Anybody who’s got a vehicle in there is totally befuddled,” Bates said.
Bates said he’d left the RV he purchased with Beaudry as he’d been out of the country for a few weeks. He went to the Chandler location Monday and found it completely shut down.
With Harrington’s help, Bates said he was able to get his coach back and only has to make sure the proper paperwork has been filed with Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division.
Harrington said he’s working to make sure everybody who left a vehicle with Beaudry gets back their property.
The company’s roughly 100 employees are also dealing with the fallout.
The workers, who’ve survived several rounds of layoffs at the financially struggling RV dealership, were notified of the temporary suspension toward the end of last week.
Dennis Cotton, a service manager in Tucson, said the employees were told the company would reopen by the end of the year and they might have the ability to do some contract work in the meantime.
On Monday morning, though, workers learned there was no authorization for any offer of temporary employment, Cotton said. There was also no money for the employees’ last paychecks, he said.
Workers haven’t been compensated for work they performed between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30, he said.
Even without the incentive of a paycheck, some employees have been helping customers get their vehicles, Cotton said. But they’ve done so in Tucson without much guidance from the new investors, he said.
As for his immediate plans, Cotton said there’s a lot of uncertainty about how he’s going to earn a paycheck.
“I’m still trying to accept and realize what’s happened,” he said. “I’ve got some feelers out at this point, but I’m really not sure what we’re going to do.”
Manheim Specialty Auctions has introduced “Platinum RV Collection Sales,” a new opportunity for dealers to exclusively buy top-quality, highline RV units valued at $75,000 or more.
The new monthly sales, currently held at two Manheim locations, are also accessible nationally through Manheim Simulcast, according to a news release. The combination of in-lane and online buying opportunity gives dealers convenient, targeted access to the cream of pre-owned luxury RV inventory, saving them time and hassle in the process.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to improve the auction experience for our customers by listening closely to their unique needs,” said Karen Braddy, general manager, Manheim Specialty and Heavy Truck & Equipment. “Our highline RV buyers and sellers have told us that the diversity of products within the RV category often means they waste valuable time searching for just the right configuration – and that feedback drove the creation of our Platinum program.”
The first Platinum Sale was held at Manheim Lakeland, Fla., in February of this year, and strong sales results prompted an expansion to Manheim Tucson in June. Based on the success of these sales, additional locations are expected to be added in the coming months, including Manheim Dallas-Fort Worth.
More than 160 buyers participated in Manheim Tucson’s first sale both in-lane and online via Manheim Simulcast. Commercial consignors, such as Bank of America and GE Money reported blue-ribbon days, with Bank of America selling 100% of its inventory.
“Our customers have told us that the key to successful customized sales is having enough specialized inventory to make attendance worthwhile,” said Jeanie Hinz, general manager, Manheim Tucson. “The positive results from our first sale confirm that Manheim is definitely meeting the needs of these buyers.”
Kelly O’Banion, purchasing/pre-owned manager, Motor Home Specialist, located in Alvarado, Texas, agrees that specialized sales save time for everyone. “As a buyer, one benefit of having the Platinum units sold at a separate event is definitely that it takes less time to get to the units you’re interested in buying. My target inventory is late-model units $100,000 and up, so these events decrease the amount of time that I have to spend away from my lot.”
Sellers also benefit from the targeted marketing, red-carpet presentation and dedicated buyers of Platinum Sales units.
“Manheim understands that there is a unique set of buyers for highline RV units,” said Martin Smith, vice president, remarketing, Bank of America. “When the Platinum units are sold at separate sales, my target buyers from all over the country travel to attend the sales or purchase units online. The higher quality of buyers ensures that I maximize my return.”
Manheim Specialty Auctions’ Platinum RV Collection Sales are hosted monthly at each of the designated locations. Manheim Lakeland hosts its sale the first Tuesday at 2 p.m. and Manheim Tucson presents Platinum RV units the fourth Tuesday at 3 p.m. Transportation options are available for dealers located outside of the normal pick-up area for these locations.
For more information, visit www.manheimspecialtyauctions.com and click on the RV tab.
A sprawling RV service center in Wildwood, Fla., built in 2003 near the junction of I-75 and the Florida Turnpike by now-bankrupt Monaco Coach Corp., has become a full-service motorized and towable RV dealership.
Alliance Coach Inc. opened in September under new ownership — 10 days after the 62,000-square-foot service center went on the auction block during Monaco Coach Corp’s. Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
”When Monaco built this, they needed a factory service center on the Eastern Seaboard,” said Cy Whisnant, Alliance Coach general sales manager, who for 15 years was vice president of Tennessee-based Buddy Gregg Motorhomes overseeing that company’s sales operation in Lakeland, Fla., until it closed.
The new owners are Brett Howard and Carolyn Champion, who had operated the facility as Monaco employees, and Holiday Rambler motorhome owner Alan Shapiro, all of whom teamed up to bid on the property.
”With his help, they bought the entire facility and the ground around it and formed an alliance, hence the name,” Whisnant said. ”Over $1 million in parts came with the building.”
The facility sits on 30 acres and has 40 indoor and 26 outdoor service bays along with a 40-site campground.
Alliance Coach initially operated as a service center. But the company in December took on the Monaco McKenzie and R-Vision towable lines from Monaco RV Inc., a new company created when certain Monaco Coach assets were purchased by Chicago-based truck and engine builder Navistar International Inc.
Alliance Coach later obtained the local Holiday Rambler and Monaco motorized franchises, and expects the first shipment of Monaco motorhomes to be delivered by early July. More recently, the dealership added Holiday Rambler towable brands.
Currently, Alliance Coach has $1.8 million in Monaco RV motorized and towable inventory, and in addition to new models, also is selling used RVs, some on consignment.
Alliance’s sales department is open six days a week, while the service center, headed by Michael Hawkins, operates Monday through Friday. Dennis Burke will join the company as F&I manager on Monday.
Currently, Alliance Coach will service any brand of motorhome or towable RV and is certified to provide warranty work on Tiffin motorhomes and Workhorse and Spartan chassis.
As a service center that can do collision repair, Alliance Coach also has its own metal fabrication, woodworking and upholstery shops in addition to two 65-foot paint booths. Alliance Coach employs 35 people, 25 of whom are service technicians.
”It’s incredible what we can do here,” Whisnant said. ”We can do everything here for an RV but build them.”
And good fortune came quickly, he reported.
”Since the day they opened here, it’s just been absolutely packed,” Whisnant said. ”And here it is in the middle of summer, which isn’t the high season in Florida, and the shop is nearly full.”
Since Alliance Coach opened as a Monaco RV dealership in March, business has steadily increased, Whisnant said, with floorplan and retail financing arranged through Bank of America.
”Sales have been picking up and we are seeing people putting more significant amounts of money down to get financing in place and a lot of cash buyers have been coming in who don’t need any financing whatsoever,” Whisnant said. ”Right now, we are exclusively Monaco RV, but we are leaving our options open.”
Alliance Coach plans an open house Friday and Saturday (July 2-3). An updated website — www.alliancecoachonline.com — will be completed by the end of July.
Bank of America’s decision last week to discontinue its indirect retail lending through marine dealers sent a ripple of concern throughout the marine business. However, Bank of America, a heavy-hitter in the RV business, will continue to offer direct consumer financing on marine products through its online e-lending channel at bankofamerica.com, according to Soundings Trade Only.
“We remain committed to the industry and continue to offer wholesale, or floorplan, financing to marine dealers,” Bank of America spokesman Jefferson George said in an e-mail to Soundings Trade Only. “In addition, the above change does not affect our origination process for auto and RV dealers.”
But despite the bank’s assurance of its commitment to the marine industry, some dealers say they will be hurt by the move.
“It’s devastating. It continues to shrink the available markets for consumer lending,” said Larry Russo Sr., of Russo Marine. “As the largest boat dealer in New England, we’re down to two sources. A couple of years ago, we had a dozen retail sources for our customers; we’re down to two. Ouch. And Bank of America was getting half of our business.”
Though the dealership may continue to process loans through a third-party broker, Russo said Bank of America’s decision just adds another layer to the loan process for consumers and makes it more complicated.
“That really hurts because we’re the one on the street, face-to-face with the customer, and a lot of boat dealers have enough volume to earn a dealer-direct relationship and not have to push the customer through a third-party broker,” Russo said. “It just layers the process. It makes it more difficult for us and it certainly reduces our profitability because now we have to share it with a broker.”
Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America, said it’s just another obstacle dealers have to face at a time when they don’t need any more challenges to doing business.
“It seems like whenever we open one door a little bit, another one slams behind us,” he said.
Bank of America, Keeter said, is a large funding source for consumer loans, possibly accounting for 20% to 25% of the nationwide total.
But not all dealers are adversely affected by the changes.
Darren Plymale, from Galati Yacht Sales, says his dealership lends for Bank of America on a direct and indirect basis, so it’s one of a handful that won’t be hurt by the changes.
“We’re one of the few dealerships that have that ability. I’m probably one of maybe five dealers in the country that will not be affected,” he said. “Anytime you have an indirect lender that is exiting the industry it’s always a concern, but I understand their reasons. They’re trying to curb their losses.”
Wolters Kluwer Financial Services announced today (March 15) that Bank of America’s Dealer Financial Services unit will join its AppOne platform to automate and help simplify the marine and RV finance process.
Bank of America’s Dealer Financial Services unit provides retail loan financing and commercial banking services to auto, marine and RV dealers across the U.S. AppOne automates the indirect lending process for lenders and dealers by providing credit application workflow automation and compliant document preparation.
AppOne enables lenders and dealers to more easily connect for applications as well as funding packages nationally. AppOne helps lenders and dealers deliver quicker application response times and faster loan transactions with its DocOne document printing engine and validation tool. DocOne allows dealerships to print loan documents from a standard color laser printer onto plain paper at the point of sale and finance at the dealership location. DocOne also helps ensure that loan documentation is accurate and compliant before reaching the lender for funding consideration. DocOne utilizes Wolters Kluwer Financial Services’ Bankers Systems line of documents, which is built upon more than 50 years of experience and is protected by Wolters Kluwer Financial Services’ industry-leading compliance warranty. DocOne provides data merging and population of these forms through a centralized Web-based delivery source.
“Not only does AppOne automate the finance and credit approval processes, but it also provides forms that are covered by the industry’s leading compliance warranty to document every marine and RV loan,” said Deborah Nunnally, senior vice president of fulfillment at Bank of America’s Dealer Financial Services unit. “Current and accurate loan documents that can be easily reviewed and processed help increase efficiency and improve the dealer/lender experience.”
“Our relationship with Bank of America provides great opportunity for marine and RV dealers to simplify the lending process,” said Lee Domingue, CEO of indirect lending at Wolters Kluwer Financial Services. “Dealers working with Bank of America are now able to more easily connect with this lender through the AppOne platform, which helps them serve their customers faster and more efficiently.”
Bank of America announced on Friday (Aug. 14) its intention to curtail arbitration in a wide array of consumer accounts. The change covers the company’s credit cards, consumer recreational vehicles and marine loans and banking customers.
The announcement came after the Obama administration’s proposal to ban arbitration clauses from credit card agreements as part of a wider push for consumer protection. The administration has already passed sweeping regulations that prohibit widely criticized credit card practices such as arbitrary interest rate hikes and unfair penalty fees, according to Zacks Investment Research.
Although banks more commonly use arbitration to go after unpaid debts, it also provides an important shield against costly class-action cases. Opening the door for class-action and other lawsuits would push up the costs of banks’ legal costs, which in turn would be passed on to consumers.
Unknown to many consumers, card agreements typically include an arbitration clause that waives a card holder’s right to sue. This gives banks the ability to use the clause defensively to protect themselves from lawsuits or offensively to go after debt collections.
Consumer advocates faulted the arbitration process saying that if the arbitrator or the arbitration forum depends on the corporation for repeat business, there may be an inherent incentive to rule against the consumer.
Other banks scrambling to comply with the new law includes American Express, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Capital One Financial Corp. and Discover Financial Services.
Makers of recreational vehicles and mobile and manufactured homes fared well on Wall Street on Wednesday (Aug. 5), led by RV maker Thor Industries Inc. and by Drew Industries Inc., a maker of parts primarily used in travel trailers and fifth-wheel RVs, according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Thor climbed for 13 consecutive sessions through Wednesday, gaining 30% in July and 14% in August.
On Tuesday, the Ohio-based company said second-quarter earnings fell 92% to 4 cents, a full 60% below consensus views. Revenue dropped to $415.5 million, 41% below year-ago levels.
Despite the miss, the stock climbed 6% Tuesday and another 6% Wednesday in huge trade.
The trigger appears to have been a rising backlog of undelivered orders.
Thor’s total backlog rose 45% to $588 million by July 31, its highest level in two years.
Thor’s RV segment backlog was $298 million, up from $146 million a year ago.
The increase suggests RV dealers have worked through the bulk of an inventory reduction imposed by their lenders, primarily Bank of America and GE Capital, says analyst Bret Jordan with Avondale Partners.
That could mean increasing orders for manufacturers, Jordan says, but it doesn’t show an increase in consumer demand.
Drew, which reported July 31, saw second-quarter earnings drop 71%. That was 300% above analysts’ consensus views.
But the company says most of the surprise came from low-end, towable products, rather than its higher priced fifth-wheel RV lines.
“The RV category is not dead,” Jordan said, “but the consumer has sort of traded down.”
Bank of America reported today (July 17) that profit in the second quarter slipped slightly but exceeded analysts’ expectations — yet mounting credit woes may dampen that superficially good news, according to AOL Daily Finance.
Net income of Bank of America fell 6% to $3.2 billion, after removing the effect of paying some $805 million in dividends on preferred stock, the lion’s share of which was held by the U.S. government. That’s compared with a $3.4 billion profit a year ago.
Income from retail banking and wealth management fell compared with a year ago, and B of A’s credit card business swung to a massive loss. But like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase earlier this week, a surge in revenue from investment banking fees and the trading desk helped Bank of America post a profit.
Meanwhile, more of the company’s borrowers fell behind on payments. Bank of America said it had $31 billion in non-performing assets on its books at the end of the second quarter, an increase of nearly 69% over last year. The percentage of loans charged off as uncollectable also surged, from 1.13% a year ago to 3.31% now.
To cushion future credit losses, Bank of America set aside $4.7 billion in the quarter, it said.
“Difficult challenges lie ahead from continued weakness in the global economy, rising unemployment and deteriorating credit quality that will affect our performance for the rest of the year and into 2010,” said CEO Ken Lewis.
Bank of America is under intense government scrutiny. Regulators’ stress tests, completed during the quarter, found it needed to raise an additional $33.9 billion in capital to withstand the recession. And, as The Wall Street Journal reported, it has been operating under a secret agreement with Washington that mandated an overhaul of its board, among other things.