The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) leadership went calling on Wednesday (June 10) to members of Congress and the Senate from eight states as part of RVIA’s 7th Annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with RVIA Committee Week.
And the reception, by most accounts, was warm.
“We talked about the status of the industry, and clearly credit was the lead item,” reports Jay Landers, RVIA senior director of government affairs. Also top of the mind among RV industry opinion leaders is securing state sales and excise tax deductions on federal taxes for the purchase of travel trailers — as was the case with the tax break on the first $49,500 that buyers pay for motorhomes that was included in the $787 billion stimulus package signed in February by President Barack Obama. “If there is going to be another bill, we need to get travel trailers in there as well,” Landers said.
However, Indiana legislators were the primary targets of RVIA’s 17 Advocacy “lobbyists,” who held 38 meetings on Capitol Hill. Those solons, whose northern Indiana district accounts for more than 60% of the RV industry’s annual production, included Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly and Republican Reps. Mark Souder and Mike Pence. Legislators and staff from Idaho, California, Arizona, Mississippi, Colorado, Kansas and Tennessee also were the subject of meetings.
Bayh, Donnelly and Souder received RVIA’s National Legislative Award for their ongoing advocacy on behalf of the RV industry, particularly with regard to stimulus legislation and Small Business Administration rule changes that now allow RV dealers greater accessibility to federally guaranteed floorplan loans.
“Our ‘asks’ aren’t terribly heavy, and I think were were really embraced,” said Landers. “Sen. Bayh, particularly, made a commitment to double back and try to get towables into the excise and sales tax deductions that were given to motorhomes. He’s definitely interested in getting towables included. We also talked a little bit about the industry going ‘green,’ and the PFK study that shows that CO2 emissions are reduced 50% compared to fly-drive vacations.”
Regular attendees noted that this was the first time that Bayh had met personally with RV industry representatives to discuss their concerns.
“I think that we made a lot of headway,” Public Relations Committee Chairman BJ Thompson told RVBusiness. “We were well received by Congressman Souder, who spent an unusual amount of time with us, talking about the challenges that we’re facing as a general economy and as a specific industry. I might add that I detected some overt energy and enthusiasm in supporting the industry by Congressmen Souder and Donnelly and even by the unusual appearance of Sen. Bayh. I found him to be friendly and affable, and he was very interested in what we were doing and what our needs were.”
Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, Mishawaka, Ind., says Donnelly and Bayh have made the RV industry a “priority,” and he feels that Obama’s Feb. 9 attendance at an Elkhart town hall meeting has played a key role in all that. “By coming to Elkhart,” said Thompson, “Obama made an overt move to support the RV industry and the Elkhart community. And Congressman Donnelly and Senator Bayh have not let the administration and the Obama staff and others in Congress forget that President Obama has put a stake down and said, ‘the Elkhart business community is a sign of how well I’m going to do.'”
The Recreation Vehcile Industry Association’s (RVIA) board capped an intense week of activity at Committee Week, June 8-11, by approving an increase in the RVIA seal price to $35 to help address the growing pressure on the association’s budget caused by the reduction in show and dues income because of the downturn in the RV market.
“This decision was given very serious consideration by the RVIA executive committee and board of directors,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “There was overwhelming support for the action to avoid any further program cuts or staff reductions that would have compromised RVIA’s mission to promote and protect the interests of our membership and the RV industry.”
Two rounds of program and staff cuts in September 2008 and February 2009 saw a $3.2 million lowering of the RVIA budget and the loss of nearly 25% of association staff, RVIA reports in a Friday afternoon (June 12) release. More cuts would have been needed in the fiscal year 2010 budget due primarily to a severe decrease in association revenue caused by the declines in exhibit space reservations at the association’s two RV shows. The wholesale National RV Trade Show is currently down nearly 35% while the consumer California RV Show has seen a nearly 70% reduction in demand for show space.
“The increased seal cost is needed to cover a significant shortfall in RVIA income,” explained RVIA Chairman Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive. “This will not yield a net increase to the very conservative budget we’ve operated under for the past year. In fact, even with the new seal revenue, the association will be operating with $2.5 million less than we did in 2008. From the board of directors’ perspective, the increase was essential to preserve the viability of the association. We did not want to suffer any further reductions in services at this critical time when the industry needs RVIA the most.”
The $30.95 seal fee increase will apply to all member manufacturer vehicle types and, added to the existing $4.05 cost, brings the total now to $35 per seal. In addition to the RVIA seal cost, the per unit assessment for Go RVing remains in place at the current levels of $46 for folding camping trailers and truck campers, $61 for travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers, and $74 for motorhomes. The new seal costs take effect July 1.
In other action during its June 11 meeting in Washington, D.C., the board:
- Amended the association bylaws to encourage greater member participation on the RVIA board. Through the revisions, those holding a past chairman seat on the board may elect to serve indefinitely in a non-voting seat designated as “Past Chairman Emeritus.” This will allow another representative from their member company to serve on the board in a voting capacity. Additionally, association members who hold more than one classification of membership (i.e., a separate manufacturer and supplier membership) may have voting member representatives from each of those respective classifications on the board.
- Voted to hold a combined Annual Meeting and Committee Week event in South Bend, Ind., in June 2010 with the intent of returning the Committee Week event to Washington, D.C. in 2011. Additionally, RVIA will hold its spring board meeting and a related Capitol Hill Advocacy Day event in Washington, D.C., in March 2010.
- Approved the recommendation that Tim Tiffin of Tiffin Motor Homes replace Bob Tiffin as a member of the RVIA board.
- Adopted the CARB implementation timeline for Phase 2, based on the date of manufacture.
- Voted to allow any RV manufacturer that had purchased space in the California RV Show by March 30 the opportunity to purchase up to 50% more space at a rate of $2.00 per square foot on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, vehicles to be displayed at the show are limited to each manufacturer’s current and previous model year, not including 2008 models, and the previous model year may only consist of up to 50% of the total number of units.
- Increased the availability of “be-back” tickets to manufacturers and dealers exhibiting at the California RV Show and added an additional dollar admission day to the event, bringing the total number of dollar days to four.
- Approved the FY2010 RV Market Expansion and Reinforcement Program proposed by Barton-Gilanelli & Associates, subject to budget considerations. This consists of the RV Top-of-Mind Awareness Program, including national electronic and print media outreach, social media initiatives, RV media luncheons and RV spokesperson activity.
- Approved a motion to be forwarded to the Certification Governing Board modifying the continuing education requirements from 48 to 40 credit hours, or completion of a Trouble Shooter Clinic or the Certification Test Prep Course.
- Approved the creation of a two-tier RV technician career path with the development of the supporting DACUMS to be completed in early 2010.
- Established a standing technical Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs to the Standards Steering Committee.
- Commissioned a task force of the Supplier Committee and National Show Committee members to explore methods to showcase innovative technologies and future trends at the National RV Trade Show.
- Named the following as RVIA representatives on the RVDA-RVIA Certification Governing Board: Jeff Rutherford (Certification Governing Board vice chairman), Carefree of Colorado; Garry Enyart, Onan/Cummins Power Generation; Jack Tierney, Thetford Corp.; Dave Eash, Jayco Inc.; Steve Evenson, Winnebago Industries Inc.; and Janae Kurtz, Damon Corp.
The recreation vehicle industry’s shipments are projected to total approximately 169,500 units in 2010 – a 24% increase from the 136,500 predicted for 2009 – according to a new forecast by RV industry analyst Richard Curtin, released at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Membership Meeting today (June 9).
Seasonally adjusted shipments reached their low point in the first quarter of 2009, and gains are expected over the next two years as the negative financial factors that caused the steep drop in RV sales will slowly give way to improved conditions in the market.
Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, which produces the closely watched monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment, briefed RVIA members on his analysis of the industry’s future at RVIA’s annual Committee Week, being held this week in Washington, DC.
“The persistent appeal of the RV lifestyle as well as the good economic value provided by this form of recreation will energize future growth in the RV market, once again driving the RV market to higher levels,” said Curtin.
In addition, RVIA President Richard Coon addressed key issues critical to the industry’s long-term profitability, including the need to continue RVIA’s work to secure sufficient RV wholesale and retail financing, vehicle fuel economy, and the growing “green” movement.
Curtin said there is considerable uncertainty about the future course of the economy as well as future RV sales. This uncertainty means that RV shipments in 2010 could as much as 15% more or less than his forecast.
“This is the longest and deepest U.S. recession of the past half century,” said Curtin. “However, while fluctuations in sales are expected, there has been no change in the strong preferences expressed by consumers for the RV lifestyle.”
Consumer confidence has surged in recent months because of optimism about the Obama administration’s economic stimulus efforts and financial reforms, which RVIA worked hard to be sure included the RV industry. While these programs will aid consumers, Curtin said the pace of gains in RV sales will be more gradual than in the initial phase of past recoveries because of lingering effects from the credit crisis, slow economic growth and higher levels of unemployment. In addition, the priorities of many consumers have shifted toward debt repayment and restoration of savings and retirement accounts.
Curtin emphasized that economic adversity has caused consumers to postpone the purchase of an RV but not to forsake their commitment to the RV lifestyle.
“The RV industry is in the business of helping families form lasting bonds and having a great time getting outdoors,” said Coon. “Those are core American values that will endure and create a lasting demand for RVs.”
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) members will visit U.S. senators, representatives and key legislative staff during the association’s seventh annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, during Committee Week.
“Advocacy Day is vitally important to our efforts to increase awareness of the RV industry on the federal level,” said Jay Landers, senior director of RVIA’s Government Affairs Department, in a news release. “Congressional visits help strengthen relationships between RVIA members and the members of Congress who represent their states and districts. These relationships have proven to be very valuable in recent months as we have been lobbying on many issues to help the RV industry.”
RVIA Government Affairs staff schedule appointments with elected officials, provide briefing materials and accompany members on visits. The program also gives participants the opportunity to have photos taken with congressmen and senators.
Advocacy Day begins with a morning meeting during which RVIA members are briefed on the issues they will be discussing with members of Congress. The briefing includes role-playing exercises that help RVIA members practice discussing key issues before they set out to meet elected officials.
Potential topics for discussions with members of Congress and their staffs include RVIA’s ongoing efforts to:
- Secure a possible sales/excise tax deduction for RV trailers.
- Suggest modified terms and conditions for Term Asset Backed Loan Facility (TALF) floorplan loans for RVs.
- Request that Congress continue to encourage Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) recipients to lend to small businesses and consumers.
In addition, Advocacy Day attendees will give congressional staff an update on the “greening” of the RV industry, including sharing the results of a study that favorably compares the carbon footprint of an RV vacation to flying vacations.
For more information on RVIA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, contact Jay Landers at (703) 620-6003 ext. 354.
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) members will gather at the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., for Committee Week 2009, set for June 8-11.
During the event, the association’s standing committees, executive committee and board of directors will meet to develop strategies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year. On Wednesday, June 10, RVIA members will visit U.S. senators, representatives and key legislative staff during the association’s annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.
The Go RVing Coalition is also scheduled to meet in conjunction with Committee Week on Monday, June 8.
The deadline to make room reservations for Committee Week at the Willard is May 15.
For more information about Committee Week or to register for the event, contact Doreen Cashion in the Meetings and Shows Division at (703) 620-6003 ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on RVIA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, contact Jay Landers at (703) 620-6003 ext. 354
A schedule of meetings and events is below.
Monday, June 8
8 a.m. to 12 noon, RVST Industry Education Council
12 moon to 1 p.m., Chairman’s Luncheon
1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Industry Education Committee, Go RVing Committee, Lawyers’ Committee, Market Information Committee.
(Previously scheduled meetings of the Committee on Excellence and the Annual Meeting Committee have been canceled.)
Tuesday, June 9
8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Public Relations Committee*
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Standards Committee
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., National Show Committee and Public & Legislative Affairs Committee
12 noon to 2 p.m., RVIA Membership Meeting/Luncheon
2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Financial Services Committee
2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Suppliers Committee
4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Membership Committee
*The PR Committee welcomes all Committee Week attendees from 8 am. to 8:30 a.m. for the latest “RVTV” — 30 minutes of the best and most recent coverage of RVs.
Wednesday, June 10
8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Pre-Capitol Hill Briefing
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Advocacy Day Event on Capitol Hill
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Long Range Planning/Executive Committee
Thursday, June 11
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Board of Directors
12 noon to 1 p.m., Board of Directors Working Luncheon