Bank of the West is a Gold Sponsor for the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Oct.1-5, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The convention is sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.
“We thank Bank of the West for demonstrating its commitment to the Convention/Expo and supporting continuing education for RV dealers and their employees,” said RVDA Convention/Expo Committee Chairman Peter Albano of American RV in Olive Branch, Miss. “Through the years, Bank of the West has been a leader in providing dealers and their customers with financing that is such an important part of the RV business.”
“We at Bank of the West are pleased to, once again, be a major sponsor of the RVDA Convention. We encourage dealers to come by our booth during the convention to discuss all their commercial and retail financing needs. Most of our management team will be there and are honored to speak with the attending dealers,” said Mark Beecher, Bank of the West’s senior vice president of sales & marketing, Consumer Finance Group.
San Francisco-based Bank of the West is an FDIC-insured bank that customers have entrusted with their money for over 135 years. Through holding company BancWest Corp., the bank is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, one of the six highest rated banks in the world.
To make the convention as affordable as possible, the registration fee for dealership employees is the same as last year. RVDA is also offering special registration plans, including an easy-pay plan of four payments and the ability to lock in early bird savings for additional employees with one paid convention registration.
Themed “The Road to Opportunity,” the convention will feature educational super sessions designed to help dealers navigate the issues and opportunities they face today, strategies to reach new customers through new technology and to harness the power of social media, and a new series of fixed operations workshops for service and parts managers to improve efficiency and profitability.
The 2012 convention will also feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s top companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability. RVDA’s Partners in Progress Brand Committees will also meet to work on important dealer-manufacturer issues.
Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities and exhibitor information can contact RVDA at (703) 591-7130, ext 103 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Visit www.rvda.org and www.rvlearningcenter.com to register for the convention and for regular updates. You can also get convention updates on LinkedIn and Facebook.
To help small businesses cope with the cumbersome tasks of preparing and paying invoices, $61 billion-asset Bank of the West, San Francisco, is working with CashEdge to develop an online invoicing and payment solution for its small business customers that will help them automate these typically manual endeavors, according to banktech.com.
“We can take some of the complexity out of the payment requirements and the infrastructure businesses need to send payments,” says Matt Macomber, Bank of the West’s multi-channel banking manager. Small business owners make an average of 20 – 50 payments per month, and most payments are made via check or wire transfer.
The new site won’t require small businesses to use their account number to log in — they can use an e-mail address or a phone number as a token ID. The site include a payables dashboard that will show all of a company’s outgoing and outstanding payments. When a customer sends payments, he can attach an email with his company logo and payment information and he can also send out official-looking invoices, logo and all. The service will accommodate multiple payment options, including batch and recurring, and it will allow customers to manage payees and roles. Recipients can pay the invoices using CashEdge’s PopMoney service.
The new service will be embedded in Bank of the West’s small business banking website and integrated with its checking account system. Macomber views this technology as critical to growing the bank’s small business segment.
Although banks commonly offer online bill payment to consumers, they’re just getting their feet wet in offering such services to small businesses. “Banks have been focusing on consumer online banking and at the other end of the spectrum, because of the organizational structure, they focus on the larger end commercial market,” says Catherine Palmieri, global head of product and marketing at CashEdge and former executive vice president and general manager at Citi, where she was responsible for Citibank.com, Citibank Direct, and CitiMobile. “In some ways, small businesses were caught in no man’s land. They weren’t commercial and they have greater needs than the consumer.”
CashEdge will provide a risk management feature that monitors transactions and compares them against a database of multiple financial institutions’ activity to find fraudulent transactions and patterns of behavior, ideally identifying and stopping risky transactions before they’re able to conclude.
Bank of the West is working on entitlement features for the new service. “Often you want your accountant to be able to see things and pay bills, but you might have an employee you want to give read-only access to,” Macomber says.
On the critical matter of security, Macomber says he derives comfort from working with CashEdge, which processed $50 billion in fund transfers last year. “We’ll continue to offer the same security we do on existing platforms,” he says. “Security is always a concern, and certainly when you’re talking about payments and ACH you have an added level of concern.”
The bank stresses to small businesses that they must keep their antivirus software up to date. It has other steps planned (but is not publicly talking about yet) for helping small business customers to keep their computing environments more secure that it will roll out in advance of the new platform debut sometime in the first half of next year. “Banks should be consistently reminding their customers, business and consumer, to keep their security mechanisms up to date,” he says.
Bank of the West and the Pacific-10 Conference announced Friday (Sept. 10) that Bank of the West is the “Official Bank of the Pac-10.”
The bank launched radio and television advertisements during Pac-10 games starting this past weekend, Bob Wolff, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based lender, told the San Jose (Calif.) Business Journal.
Among other things, the bank will provide banking and investment services to the Pac-10 Conference, have promotional signage at certain conference events, and be the presenting sponsor of the annual Pac-10 basketball tournament.
Wolff would not immediately disclose how much Bank of the West paid for the sponsorship.
The bank already sponsors the athletic departments of the University of California at Berkley, UCLA and future Pac-10 member University of Colorado. It also sponsors the Bank of the West Classic professional tennis tournament at Stanford. Current Pac-10 member schools are located in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona.
Bank of the West, which has $61 billion in assets, is owned by Paris-based financial giant BNP Paribas.
“Bank of the West and the Pac-10 Conference share a commitment to excellence and rich histories deeply rooted in the Western United States,” said Michael Shepherd, chairman and CEO of Bank of the West, in a news release. “This relationship builds on our bank’s current sponsorship of university athletic programs, while bringing us closer to all of the Pac-10 schools, their fans and the communities we serve.”
“Excellence is certainly a core value of ours and Bank of the West is known for its excellence in customer satisfaction and delivering the highest quality of personal service. We’re delighted to have them join us as the official bank of the Pac-10 Conference,” Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “They will support us in many ways, including being the presenting sponsor of the Pac-10 Hall of Honor at the Pac-10 Basketball Tournament and will provide all banking and investment services for us. We are very excited about the dynamic future for the Pac-10 and having outstanding partners like Bank of the West is a big part of that.”
The Pac-10 was represented in the transaction by Pac-10 Properties, a division of Fox Sports Net, which represents the Pac-10 Conference for all their sponsorships and is responsible for creating, selling, and activating this partnership.
Bank of the West has a presence throughout the entire Pac-10 Conference footprint, as well as Colorado and Utah, host states of two additional schools slated to join the conference – the University of Colorado and the University of Utah.
“This sponsorship leverages the promotional power of the ‘Conference of Champions’ – the strongest college athletic conference brand in the nation,” said Andrew Rosen, chief marketing officer for Bank of the West. “It will provide positive exposure for the Bank of the West brand through expanded media coverage and sponsor privileges, with an audience that is closely aligned with our key market segments.”
As the Official Bank of the Pac-10, Bank of the West will have access to brand exposure through entitlements including broadcast and print media coverage, on-site signage for select conference events and promotions throughout its 19-state footprint and nationally.
Bank of the West will also provide corporate banking services to the conference through its National Banking Office in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Top financing experts will explore the current RV retail lending environment during a special panel discussion at the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 6 in Las Vegas.
The four-day Con/Expo (Oct. 4-8) is sponsored by the National Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.
During “Retail Lending 2010-11,” the panelists will discuss lenders’ current and future attitudes toward making RV retail loans, the nature of various loan “buy boxes,” book value trends, and other important issues, according to a news release. A partial list of planned questions for the panelists is available at www.rvlearningcenter.com.
Panel participants include moderator John Fulmer of Leisure Consulting, Mark Beecher of Bank of the West, John Haymond of Medallion Bank, Lenny Sims of NADA Guides and George Steinsky of RBC Financial Group.
During this workshop, attendees will learn:
- Strategies to identify, establish and maintain relationships with retail lending partners.
- How and why the retail lending landscape is changing, and what’s in store for the future.
- How to better position RV dealerships to face today’s retail lending realities.
“Retail financing is a critical issue facing the RV industry right now,” said RVDA Convention/Expo Chairman Peter Albano of American RV Center in Olive Branch, Miss. “This panel will provide RV dealers with valuable information that will help them understand what it takes to get more deals funded moving forward.”
Registration is open for the Con/Expo. Companies interested in exhibitor information can contact RVDA at (703) 591-7130, ext 103 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dealers registering by Sept. 3 can save up to 41% off the registration price. Visit www.rvda.org and www.rvlearningcenter.com to register and for regular convention updates. You can also find updates on Linkedin and Facebook.
RVBusiness magazine is launching the Third Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards — a quality-focused program that sets the bar for best business practices in the RV industry. A gala reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas will announce the winners Oct. 6 during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.
This year, RVBusiness expanded the awards to include recreational park model manufacturers, reflecting how significant their contributions have become in a rapidly changing marketplace. The awards name 10 Blue Ribbon retailers, and one organization receives the Dave Altman Award, the equivalent of RVBusiness’ “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
RV manufacturers nominate the best and most professional dealers for aftermarket parts stores, sales lots, service work, F&I departments and personnel matters in addition to civic and charitable contributions. Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), the parent company of RVBusiness and the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events to the North American RV and outdoor enthusiast market, then invites nominated dealers to submit applications. Applications are independently reviewed by a panel of industry experts, none of whom are directly associated with RVBusiness or Affinity.
RVBusiness recognizes the Top 50 award winners in the October edition, on RVBUSINESS.com, and in dealers’ local and regional newspapers. Winners also receive RVBT50 window decals, rights to use the RVBT50 logo in their advertising, plus exposure to millions of active RV enthusiasts in the pages — and on the websites — of Affinity’s RV-focused consumer magazines, including Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
Supporting the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards this year are the following “Leadership Alliance” sponsors: ADP Lightspeed, Bank of the West, Blue Ox, Cummins Onan RV Generators, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., RV America Insurance, RV Trader Online and Protective.
“We felt that the pursuit of professionalism and top-notch consumer care finds an even more receptive ear this year than it did during the dregs of the recession, and the Dealer Awards sets the bar for best business practices,” said RVBusiness magazine Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “Looking around at the state of the industry, we realize just how much we have to be thankful for. The current upbeat atmosphere within the commercial sector beats the heck out of where we all were at this time last year.”
RVBusiness previously announced special celebrity guest, conservative Republican columnist and bestselling author, Ann Coulter, as the keynote speaker during the award ceremony. Coulter will talk about a variety of hot political topics including the “Tea Party” movement and related conservative themes.
The Con/Expo is sponsored by the U.S. Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). Tickets for the dinner are $139 ($119 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests), and are available at the convention or at RVBusiness.com.
About the Top 50 RV Dealers Program:
The program’s purpose is to showcase credible role models and establish best business practices benchmarks at the retail level of the RV industry in terms of staff training, performing warranty and service work, managing aftermarket stores, superior consumer care and being good citizens of their respective communities. The dealerships were selected among those nominated as the best by the nation’s RV manufacturers. The program was founded and coordinated by RVBusiness magazine with additional support provided by the Leadership Alliance.
Affinity, www.affinitygroup.com, is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American recreational vehicle (RV) and outdoor enthusiast market. By providing information, insights, and resources, the company champions the fun, freedom, and adventure of recreation in motion. The company works to enhance its customers’ recreational experiences and build the communities that share and promote their fun and adventurous lifestyles.
On the premise that the pursuit of professionalism and top-notch consumer care may find an even more receptive ear as the recession lifts, RVBusiness magazine is moving ahead with its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards — a quality-focused program culminating Oct. 6 at an upbeat reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.
“While we realize that recognizing 50 U.S. and Canadian recreational vehicle dealerships above all the rest is a tough and highly subjective matter,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, “we feel that the process of nominating, selecting, honoring and promoting those who generally do the best they can throughout North America is in itself a worthy exercise that brings to the forefront the quality themes outlined by the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.”
North American RV manufacturers have already completed their nominations for this year’s awards by forwarding the names of their best and most professional dealers with regard to aftermarket parts stores, sales lots, service work, F&I departments and personnel matters in addition to civic and charitable aspects.
“One key change for 2010,” said Goldenberg, “is that RVBusiness is expanding its program to include recreational park model manufacturers, realizing just how significant their contributions have become in a rapidly changing marketplace. Although their businesses haven’t fully recovered from the recession yet, the accommodations sector of the RV park and campground arena has been shifting somewhat to more destination-style cabins and lodges at parks throughout the U.S. and Canada. So, we thought it was time to include them.”
Nominated dealers are invited to submit applications by mid-July to BJ Thompson Associates, a northern Indiana agency that oversees an independent review of those applications by a panel of industry “experts,” none of whom are directly associated with RV Business or its parent company, Affinity Group Inc. (AGI).
Multi-store operations are again limited to one award, regardless of how many outlets they have, and the Top 50 dealers will not be ranked, although ten Blue Ribbon retailers will be named and one individual will be singled out for the Dave Altman Award, the equivalent of RVB’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
In addition to the recognition offered at the October dinner during this year’s RV Dealers International Con/Expo, sponsored by the U.S. Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada), those selections ultimately will be announced in the pages of RVBusiness and on RVBUSINESS.com, both of which are owned by Affinity Group Inc.
Again this year, RVBusiness has invited a special celebrity guest to dinner to provide some thought-provoking table talk: Conservative Republican columnist Ann Coulter. An author of seven New York Times bestsellers, including “Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America” (January 2009) and “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans” (October, 2007), Coulter more than likely will focus in her remarks on the nation’s anticipated, off-year electoral shift to the political right, including the “Tea Party” movement and related conservative themes.
A lawyer and frequent guest on ”Hannity” and ”The O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News cable channel, Coulter will field audience questions after her remarks. Meanwhile, her appearance, along with that of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, keynote speaker at RVDA’s Tuesday (Oct. 5) general session, should lend a crowd-inducing national spotlight to this year’s Con/Expo.
“We chose Ann Coulter not because we endorse any one political viewpoint, “ said Mike Schneider, AGI president and CEO, “but because we wanted to bring a thought-provoking speaker to the podium in Las Vegas who might give us all – left, center or right – a chance to think and an opportunity again this year to enjoy a dinner with friends and industry peers along with a high-profile national celebrity.”
After the Con/Expo, RVB will promote the Top 50 award winners within the industry and in dealers’ local and regional newspapers. They’ll get RVBT50 window decals, rights to use the RVBT50 logo in their advertising plus exposure to millions of active RV enthusiasts in the pages – and on the websites – of AGI’s RV-related consumer magazines – Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.“
Supporting the RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards this year are the following “Leadership Alliance” sponsors:
ADP Lightspeed : With ADP Lightspeed, dealers can steer their businesses with more precision than ever before. The integrated modules in the Salt Lake City, Utah, company’s LightspeedEVO RV dealer management system include comprehensive sales and F&I tools, real-time accounting functions, service tracking, automated parts inventory management and rental unit management. For more information, visit http://www.adplighspeed.com/rv/index.phpwww.adplighspeed.com/rv/index.php.
Bank of the West: Bank of the West, with more than $60 billion in assets and community bank roots dating back more than 135 years, has more than 700 commercial and retail banking locations throughout 19 Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in San Francisco, Bank of the West originates commercial, small business and consumer loans and leases and provides a range of other individual and commercial deposit, cash management, trust, and investment products. For more information contact a Bank of the West account manager or look on the web at www.bankofthewest.com.
Blue Ox: Blue Ox, a leading manufacturer of towing and hitching products, attributes its success to its dealer partners and the vital interest this Nebraska company takes in their success by providing education, innovative new products and support that’s invested in serving dealers’ needs long after the sale. This approach has been paramount in developing the strong partnerships that have made the company’s dealers “True Blue.” For more information, visit www.blueox.us.
Cummins Onan RV Generators: Cummins Onan RV Generators are built by Cummins Power Generation, Minneapolis, Minn., the global leader in generator design and construction. For nearly 80 years, Onan generators have been providing reliable stationary and portable power for cities, hospitals, shopping centers, military vehicles and fire engines around the world, as well as for the U.S. RV industry. For more information, visit www.cumminsonan.com.
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.: Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) manufactures diesel chassis for walk-in vans, motorhomes, school buses, and commercial buses and enjoys market share leadership in all addressable industries. Established in 1995 in Gaffney, S.C., FCCC chassis provide customers with exceptional performance and reliability. More than 400 dealers in the U.S. and Canada provide sales and service, and FCCC offers 24/7 customer support at 800-FTL-HELP.
RV America Insurance: RV America, headquartered in Simi Valley, Calif., has provided some of the lowest rates for specialized recreational vehicle insurance for more than two decades, and each of its companies is rated “A, Excellent” or higher by A.M. Best Company. The company works hard to find clients the best rate and coverage for their travel trailer and motorhome insurance needs. For more information, visit www.RVAinsurance.com.
RV Trader Online: Available at RVTraderOnline.com is an extensive selection of classified ads, with more than 60,000 recreational vehicles to choose from and more than 800 dealership listings. More than 640,000 serious buyers visit RVTraderOnline.com — more than any other source – each month, company officials state. RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., also offers video advertising, web services, lead management, mobile search and several new tools and lead-generating opportunities. Whether you are looking to buy, sell or research recreational vehicles, RVTraderOnline.com is the No. 1 resource for all RV enthusiasts, manufacturers and dealers.
Protective: Chesterfield, Mo.-based Protective offers XtraRide RV extended protection programs exclusively endorsed by RVDA and designed to meet recreational vehicle dealership needs. Building customer loyalty, increasing repeat business and generating customer referrals are among the added benefits XtraRide brings to its dealership partners. For more information, visit www.protective.com.
For more information, contact BJ Thompson Associates Account Executive Barb Riley by phone at (574) 674-6300 or by email at email@example.com. Goldenberg can be reached at (574) 457-3370 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), will join an industry panel discussion examining the current economic factors affecting the RV industry during the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
The panel, titled “RV Market: Rebound in Sight,” will be led by RV industry’s retail scorekeeper Tom Walworth of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 2:30 p.m., according to a release from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Rogers currently focuses on strategic partnerships and corporate growth for KOA. KOA offers more than 55,000 RV, tent, and Kamping Kabin sites at more than 450 U.S. and Canadian campgrounds.
In addition to Rogers, the panel of industry experts includes Mark Beecher, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Bank of the West, and Derald Bontrager, president and COO of Jayco Inc., Middlebury, Ind. The group will focus on the mindset of today’s RV traveler and what products they will buy, how these trends will impact the market, and how dealers can better position their dealerships for success.
“We are fortunate to have these knowledgeable people in the RV industry join us for what will be an interesting and informative session as we prepare for the recovery that we know is coming,” said RVDA Education Foundation Chairman Rick Horsey.
This is just one of the workshops planned for the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo featuring the RV Learning Center, which will be held Oct. 6-9. For special advance registration savings, register by Sept. 4. For more information and to register, visit the convention section of www.rvda.org and follow the RV Learning Center and convention on Facebook and Linkedin.
Meanwhile, advance registration for the event is exceeding expectations.
With the deadline on Friday to take advantage of discounts, RVDA has 280 people from 163 U.S. dealerships and 59 people from 34 Canadian dealerships registered, according to Phil Ingrassia, RVDA vice president of communications
“It’s better than we thought,” he told RVBUSINESS.COM. “It’s not up to last year (when 560 dealers were registered). But to be honest with you it’s better than what we had budgeted for. We’re very pleased with this turnout but we would like to get it higher.”
He said RVDA would mount a big push this week to urge dealers to sign up to take advantage of the best rates to attend.
“We knew it was going to be a tough year, but we think we have put together a good value proposition for dealers,” he said. “We have good workshops, good hotel rates at the Rio and tried to keep all costs down. It will still be a very important meeting.”
RVDA has tracked 160 dealership closings since 2008, but with RV production picking up across the U.S., there are signs that the worst is over.
“That’s what we’re hearing from a lot of dealers,” Ingrassia continued. “You’ve got to feel like it will be better in 2010. but some dealers are still having a lot of issues. We’ve built the (Expo) program around that — financing, business planning and human resources. These are issues dealers have to look at when they get ready for the recovery.”
RV manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, lenders and campground owners each had their moment in the sun during the 36th Texas RV Association (TRVA) Annual Membership Convention held over the weekend at the Hyatt Regency Townlake in Austin, Texas.
“I was pleasantly surprised with everybody’s attitude,” said Clark McEwen, TRVA executive director. A sense of tension could have existed among the 150 attendees, he said, but what he found was “an upbeat feeling that, ‘Yes, we’re going into some difficult months but we will get through this sometime next year.”‘
As members of an industry panel discussion, Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., Goshen, Ind., and audience participant Claude Donati, vice president of Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind., brought encouraging news from the manufacturing sector, McEwen said.
McEwen said the thrust of their comments were three fold. First, they’re working leaner than ever before. Second, they have concerns that when the market turns, will they be able to gear up production quickly enough. Finally, “They are pleased with Texas. We’re certainly more stable than most of the country,” McEwen said.
Indeed, Texas is now the nation’s largest market for RVs. The state passed California last year and moved into the No. 1 spot in RV retail sales with 7.2% of the market and stands to hold down that spot again this year, he said.
With some 100 RV dealers nationwide going out of business in the past year, the manufacturers also talked about being more selective in choosing the dealers they work with in the future, McEwen said.
McEwen concluded that manufacturers and dealers might not make the same errors they made two or three years ago when times were better and sales were easier to make.
Mark Beecher, national sales and marketing manager for the Consumer Finance Group Bank of the West, updated his audience on financing.
“Nothing draws more attention right now than financing,” McEwen said, “and they (lenders) understand the pain the dealers are feeling.”
McEwen said Texas dealers, who comprise about a third of TRVA’s membership, didn’t express resentment toward Beecher and other lenders present and seem to believe the financial institutions are trying to help.
“They’re trying to open the lines of credti and lower interest rates on floorplans and trying to get people financed at a lower credit rating,” he said, summarizing Beecher’s talk. “But, again, we may not go back to where we were three years ago where anybody could buy anything. Everybody saw that as a wonderful period, rather than ask themselves, can it sustain itself.”
“Beecher does not want to walk away from the RV industry. They want healthy dealers, customers and buyers,” McEwen said.
TRVA also engaged in first-time roundtable discussions. On the style of a “20 Group” but smaller, these roundtables allowed TRVA members to sit down across the table with other Texas business people, sometimes competitors in their own market, and frankly discuss their business, McEwen said.
The feature proved to be successful and will be repeated next year, he said.
Campgrounds seem to be the one segment of the RV industry that has fared well throughout the recession, McEwen said, based on reports at the convention. Texans are taking shorter camping vacations, which means they’re staying in-state more. Destination parks are doing well and in some cases are exceeding their 2008 results, he said. State parks also report good seasons, he added.
On the down side, McEwen regrets that the manufacturer participation was not greater at the convention, but he understands the reasoning behind it. Texas had the strongest franchise laws in the country protecting RV dealers heading into 2009 and the state Legislature passed legislation this session, with TRVA’s support, that only strengthened those laws, he said.
The event concluded with the annual business meeting and election of officers Monday morning. New officers are: President, Steve Spearing, Crestview RV, Buda; Vice President, Dean Nelson, Professional Sales RV, Colleyville; Treasurer, Kevin Ketner, Ancira Motorhomes, Boerne; and Diana LeBlanc, PPL Motorhomes, Houston.
The RV industry’s “retail scorekeeper,’ Tom Walworth of Statistical Surveys Inc., will lead a panel discussion examining the current economic factors affecting the RV industry during the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) International Convention/Expo Oct. 6-9 in Las Vegas.
The panel of industry experts will include Mark Beecher, Bank of the West senior vice president for sales and marketing, and Derald Bontrager, president and COO of Jayco Inc. Panelists will focus on the mindset of today’s RV traveler and what products they will buy, how these trends will impact the market, and how dealers can better position their dealerships for success.
The panel discussion, titled “RV Market Rebound, Are You Prepared?” is set for Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 2:30 p.m. Another high-profile panelist will be announced in the next few weeks, according to a press release.
“We are fortunate to have three of the most knowledgeable people in the RV industry join us for what will be an interesting and informative session as we prepare for the recovery that we know is coming,” said Rick Horsey, RVDA Education Foundation chairman.
This is one of the workshops that are planned for the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo featuring the RV Learning Center, which will be held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
For more information and to register, visit the convention section of www.rvda.org and follow the RV Learning Center and convention on Facebook and Linkedin
Editor’s Note: Here is the latest installment by MSNBC.com on its look at Elkhart County, Ind., and the RV industry.
If you want to see what a credit crunch looks like, head south on Indiana State Road 19 out of Elkhart, Ind., – past the strip malls, bank branches and restaurants to the still-beating heart of “the RV Capital of the World.” There, scattered along a 2-mile stretch of Nappanee Street, you’ll find a ragtag assortment of RV dealerships that are in many ways symbolic of the nation’s crazy-quilt lending landscape.
One has lost the battle for survival after its credit lifeline was pulled, as its vacant showroom attests. Others are hanging by a thread, trying to outlast an RV industry downturn that has been exacerbated by a lack of credit for manufacturers, dealers and customers. Still others contend that their credit problems have largely disappeared and that business has picked up substantially in the last few months.
The availability of credit, it seems, depends largely on perspective.
For the owner of Elkhart County RV, the situation remains “brutal,” following the sudden withdrawal of big national banks from what’s known as the floorplan financing market.
“I cannot buy any new product unless I use my own money,” said Tony Gaideski, who is down to seven units and can’t secure financing to purchase more RVs. “None of the banks in this town will lend me money, and I don’t know anywhere in the country where anybody is doing any financing for RVs. ”
Just up the road, however, Rob Reid, president of Great Lakes RV Center, said he still has the same $3 million floorplan credit line he had before the recession. He said his biggest problem is getting would-be buyers qualified for loans.
“The biggest thing is retail credit,” he said. “They have to start giving the customers money to buy. That’s what’s going to get the whole thing going again.”
A block to the south, International RV World General Manager Dave Titus said business at the company’s three lots in Elkhart, northern Michigan and Florida is up 15-20% this year. That’s in part due to decreased competition, he said, but also because his company never relied on lenders to buy inventory.
“We planned ahead for a slow time,” he said. “A lot of businesses didn’t .”
Some in the industry see opportunity in the chaotic credit situation.
RV manufacturer Thor Industries Inc. this week launched its own credit service to provide retail financing for purchasers of its units, much as GMAC does for autos.
“So many lenders exited or dramatically scaled back their RV lending that Thor saw it as a need and a benefit to its dealers,” said Ed Arienti, president and CEO of Thor CC Inc., which is initially licensed to operate in eight states.
In Elkhart County, however, bankers willing to talk on the record about the credit situation insist they have money to lend.
‘Still making loans’
“We’re still making loans to qualified buyers, but that’s been part of our philosophy all along,” said Jim Hyatt, president of the First State Bank of Middlebury, which extended credit to Reid’s dealership after his previous bank, Goshen Community Bank, called in his line of credit. “We’re also seeing opportunities with some very good, very solid companies, where they have banked at other banks and are now saying, ‘We want to do business with someone who’s going to be around to take care of us.’”
His comments were echoed by Tom Stark, a commercial loan specialist with Lake City Bank.
“To be honest, we’ve been very busy with (businesses) who have been asked to leave other institutions,” he said. “They’ve had a couple tough years, but they’re going to come back and we’re going to help them as much as we can.”
Dallas Bergl, president and CEO of INOVA Federal Credit Union, a 67-year-old institution that was founded by employees of Miles Laboratories, the manufacturer of Alka-Seltzer, said his organization is limited in its ability to provide big commercial loans but is actively courting would-be RV buyers.
“We’ve done a whole marketing campaign around, ‘We do have money to loan if you’re looking to purchase a home or a car,’” he said. “The mortgage side has been fairly robust, but we haven’t seen much in autos or RVs.”
But another local banker, who spoke to msnbc.com on the condition of anonymity, said his bank won’t be making new RV loans until there is solid evidence the local economy is reviving.
“Because of the uncertainty in our area, I almost have to project future losses over the next nine to 24 months,” the banker said. “If I’m not going to see profits, my capital will go down. If I fear I’m going to be undercapitalized, either I have to go get more capital or shrink my balance sheet. So, no, the situation hasn’t gotten easier yet. If anything, it’s getting more difficult. Until the economy picks up, until my commercial customers are making money again, I can’t really free up the credit.”
Strange as it seems, all of these representations may be true, given the uneven ways the credit squeeze has affected homeowners, would-be homeowners, prospective purchasers of big-ticket items, credit card users, retailers, investors, banks and just about anyone else with a stake in the economy.
‘It’s hard to make sweeping statements’
“It’s hard to get our arms around it because you’ve got different situations in different parts of the country,” said Phil Ingrassia, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). “Just like with the overall economy, it’s hard to make sweeping statements that it’s getting better.”
That is borne out by conflicting signals being sent by federal agencies and senior officials in recent weeks.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a banking group on May 13 that the national lending picture is improving. Two weeks later, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. warned that “the credit picture remains grim,” The Wall Street Journal reported. And on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that credit could tighten again if the U.S. does not begin to get its fiscal house in order. (Click here to watch a CNBC video on a new Standard and Poor’s report on the state of credit in the U.S.)
Most experts and government officials say the credit freeze has slowly been thawing nationwide as a result of massive infusions of federal money into the banking sector.
That meshes with the experience of many small business owners in Elkhart.
Thad Naquin, owner of Naquin Chevrolet-Cadillac-Nissan, said that his problems qualifying buyers for auto loans, which began in the fourth quarter of 2008, largely vanished in March, when $5 billion was released to GMAC for lending.
And Carl Higley, owner of Higley TV & Appliances, said his difficulties ended in early April when he changed buying groups and gained access to a new preferred lender. Independent retailers like Higley often join together in such groups to better compete with the big chains. “We had three (loans) approved in one day last week,” he said. “That’s huge.”
But the RV industry has proven to be a tougher nut to crack.
“Most dealers are OK with retail lending right now, but there still seems to be a big problem on the wholesale side,” said Mark Bowersox, director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council. ” It’s one thing to make a loan to a consumer; it’s another thing to open a $5 million credit line to an RV dealer.”
Tom Walworth, general manager of Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), which tracks RV industry sales, said the inability to get product to the showrooms has played a large part in the demise of nine RV manufacturers in the last year and a half.
He said that as of March, wholesale sales of towables – fifth-wheels and trailers – were down 60.9% from a year earlier, while motorized RVs were off by 78.2%. But at the retail level, the declines were far lower, at 43% and 55%, respectively.
“You can lay the lack of wholesale activity at the feet of the lack of wholesale flooring,” he said.
An exodus from the market
Walworth said the absence of wholesale financing was created by near total pullout from the market late last year by the big banks that controlled most of the market, including Textron Financial, GE Capital, Bank of America, KeyBank, U.S. Bank and Bank of the West. That’s a big problem for an industry in which 79% of motorhomes and 72% of towables were purchased with financing in 2005, according to statistics from the Go RVing Coalition.
And floorplan lending is not a niche that local and regional banks or credit unions can easily fill, because it is a labor-intensive practice that requires the lender to carefully evaluate the quality of the collateral, which means it typically takes a high volume to make it profitable.
The Small Business Administration has moved to address the situation, expanding an existing loan program and initiating a pilot inventory lending program, which will take effect on July 1.
But Gaideski, the owner of Elkhart County RV, said neither of those programs will solve his liquidity woes.
“From what I understand they’re only offering a 75% (loan guarantee), which means I’d have to go even deeper in debt to come up with the rest,” he said.
Gaideski also feels that he got a bad shake from his former floorplan financier, Textron Financial, saying that the company suddenly sent him a letter on Dec. 30 withdrawing his line of credit.
“It said, ‘Here’s how we’re going to help you out, we’re going to pull our line … and we’re going to allow you to sell the inventory that you have on hand.’”
(A Textron spokeswoman did not return a call from msnbc.com seeking comment.)
Credit extended to some dealers
But several other dealerships contacted by msnbc.com said they were able to continue pre-existing credit lines with GE Capital and KeyBank, even as the companies were pulling back in the floor financing market and turning away new customers.
Dan Davis, owner of RAD Transport, an Elkhart company that delivers RVs to dealers around the nation, said GE Capital has simultaneously been weeding out other dealers. “GE Capital has foreclosed on a lot of dealers … taking their inventory and shutting them down,” he said. “Some of the factories are actually having to buy back the inventory.”
Ned Reynolds, a spokesman for GE Capital, acknowledged that the company made some “adjustments in the first quarter in terms of its credit program,” but said it intends to remain active in providing floor financing for the RV industry.
“We think this is a viable business for us,” he said. “We’re just making the best of a tough environment and working through this cycle.”
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and NBC Universal, which is 80% owned by GE Capital’s parent, General Electric.)
Big national lenders weren’t the only ones yanking credit lines when the freeze was at its worst last winter.
Steve Riegsecker said Goshen Community Bank pulled the plug on his business, rescinding his $350,000 line of credit and thereby forcing him to default on a $1 million floor plan loan from Textron that he had used to purchase inventory for his 20,000-square-foot showroom in nearby Middlebury.
“I was struggling at the time, but I was making my payments,” Riegsecker said. “But they always wanted to know, ‘How are you going to make it?’ Then they came in on a Tuesday night about 5 o’clock and handed me a letter (rescinding the credit line), and that was it.”
Reigsecker didn’t declare bankruptcy and is instead working to pay off the outstanding debt, though he’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to.
“I’m starting completely over, selling cargo trailers and mini-pontoons (small boats),” he said. “That’s how I started my business, and that’s how I grew it.”
Goshen Community Bank President Doug Johnston cited privacy laws in declining to comment on matters involving individual customers and said he had no comment as to whether the bank had rescinded credit lines extended to local RV businesses.
Survivors have a different view
Survivors of the RV retail downsizing see it in a different light.
“My opinion is that they simply culled the ones that weren’t operating good businesses,” said Todd Cornell, president of Tiara RV of Elkhart.
And Titus, the general manager of International RV World, said, “The (dealers) who are hollering about floor plans, sad to say, they shouldn’t have had them to begin with. There were guys out there with $10 million floorplans who couldn’t buy you lunch.”
While RV industry players are divided on financial strategies, they stand united in taking a bullish view of long-term prospects.
“Manufacturers are burning through inventory, and the dealers have developed new local credit sources like credit unions and regional and community banks,” said Walworth of SSI. “That’s going to pay dividends in the future.
“I’ve seen this industry go down in the early ’80s, in the late ’80s, in the early ’90s and after 9/11, and each time it’s come back stronger than it was,” he continued. “There’s been so many times when people have shoveled dirt on this industry, but it comes back every time.”
Keith Leggett, a senior economist with the American Bankers Association, said that even if demand for RVs picks up, it will take a while for the credit market to catch up.
“As the economy weakens, banks see a deterioration of their balance sheets,” he said. “But those sheets tend to lag the economy, so while most economists are looking for some recovery in the second half of the year, it’s going to be at least a year before you start seeing an increase in credit quality.”
That may be too late for Gaideski, owner of Elkhart County RV. He said he’s not sure how much longer he can last without being able to buy new inventory.
“My dream is to stay in business – I love what I do,” he said. “But the reality is a different story.”