The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) leadership last week paused during its annual Committee Week proceedings long enough to pay tribute to one of its own – Jim Sheldon, immediate past chairman of RVIA and a Monaco RV LLC executive who is shown here with his wife Toni. Calling him a “true statesman” and “tireless volunteer,” RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore told attendees at a Capitol Hill reception that Sheldon, assistant to the president of Monaco who first entered the industry in 1970 with Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., had the essential “sense of diplomacy” and “inspired leadership” during his 2008-2010 chairmanship to help lead the industry through “some very dark days” in the wake of the global economic meltdown of 2008. And while Fore expressed the association’s “gratitude and appreciation” to Sheldon for having been there for the industry during turbulent times, Monaco President Kay Toolson said he couldn’t “think of a person who’s given more and who has cared more for our industry than Jim has” over the years. “It’s so fitting that we’re gathered together here at Capitol Hill to pay tribute to Jim because, without question, he is one of our industry’s true statesmen,” said Fore. “He’s a tireless volunteer who has selflessly served the industry and the association as a member of several RVIA committees, as the first chairman of the Committee on Excellence, as an RVIA board member, an officer on the executive committee and, finally, as chairman of the board from 2008 to 2010.”
Speaking to members at Recreation Vehicle Industry Assocation (RVIA) Membership Meeting at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind., Wednesday (June 9), RVIA President Richard Coon and Chairman Jim Sheldon detailed a number of long-term issues on the association’s radar screen as the RV industry begins to recover from the market downturn.
“These are important items and trends that need to be considered as the RV industry moves forward because they will play a factor in our continued success,” Coon said, noting that the RV industry is becoming more global, according to a press release.
“The RV lifestyle is no longer just a North American or European phenomenon. The industry continues to develop in China, Australia and South Africa, and this provides opportunities for the RV industry,” he said.
Among the other issues, he discussed:
In addition, Coon reviewed actions by the RVIA Board of Directors over the past year and detailed the make-up of the RVIA Board and Executive Committee for attendees at the meeting.
“We have an active, engaged Board composed of manufacturer, spplier and at-large members serving alongside the past chairmen of the association,” Coon said. “And, our executive committee members provide a tremendous amount of experience and expertise. As an association, we are fortunate to have such strong leadership.
Sheldon said that with the RV market beginning to rebound it was a fitting that the industry gathered in the South Bend and Elkhart, Ind. area for RVIA Committee Week meetings.
“It has been a tremendous week for our industry, coming together here in the RV capital of the world to celebrate the RV Centennial as the industry begins to travel the road to recovery,” Sheldon said.
He praised the RVIA Government Affairs department for success on several federal and statue issues, including their work on new light-duty truck mileage standards that preserve towing capacity.
“The new standards could have been much more stringent, but the fact that towing capacity has not been significantly impacted is a critical win for the industry,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon then detailed achievements in the Standards and Education department with notable highlights that included the development of the 2011 editions of the National Electrical Code, NFPA and ANSI standards for the RV industry; the development of an RV service technician standard that details the position’s skill and competencies; and the creation of an apprentice program that will provide a learning foundation and on-the-job exposure for potential technicians.
Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine and a regular panelist on the business show ”Forbes on Fox,” will be the keynote speaker at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) annual meeting June 9 during RVIA’s Committee Week at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind., according to RVIA Express.
In a talk titled, “U.S. Outlook: Is the Recovery Durable?” Karlgaard will give an outlook for stocks, home prices and asset classes while also discussing which sectors of the economy will benefit from increased government intervention and which will lose ground. He will examine how the results of the 2010 midterm elections might change the business landscape and which products and services, growth models and economic regions are likely to perform best in the immediate future and in the long-term.
Also at the meeting, RVIA Chairman Jim Sheldon and RVIA President Richard Coon will discuss the state of the association and speak on a wide range of topics including government relations, standards, industry education and RVIA-sponsored trade shows. RVIA Treasurer Bob Olson will detail the association’s finances.
In a presentation titled, “RVIA Public Relations: The New Consumer and the Road Ahead,” RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and Gary LaBella , vice president and chief marketing officer, will provide an analysis of the post-recession consumer, examine the new Harris survey findings on the factors that influence RV purchase decisions and give an overview of the media exposure created for the RV industry through the association’s public relations programs.
In “Go RVing: We’re Back in the Saddle Again,” Go RVing Co-Chairman Bob Olson of Winnebago Industries Inc. and LaBella will provide a briefing on the award-winning ad campaign. RVIA will also honor industry and association leaders by presenting a host of awards.
At a luncheon immediately following the membership meeting, economist Richard Curtin, director of the Consumer Research Center at the University of Michigan, will provide his outlook for the RV market for the upcoming year. Curtin has directed RVIA’s RV Consumer Demographic Profile research for 30 years and authors the association’s quarterly RV Roadsigns newsletter.
For more information on the RVIA Membership Meeting and the industry forecast luncheon, contact RVIA’s Meetings and Shows Department at (703) 620-6003 ext. 305 or visit www.rvia.org.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board of directors Thursday (April 1) will discuss reducing the seal fees members are charged for each unit they build. In addition, it will consider reopening discussions with the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) about a possible merger or reunification.
Originally scheduled for Feb. 11, the meeting at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C., was postponed by a snowstorm that buried the East Coast.
”I think it’s going to be an upbeat meeting from the standpoint that the industry is doing a lot better than a year ago or even when we met in Washington in June for Committee Week,” said RVIA Chairman Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive.
The fact that the RV industry appears to be in recovery mode following the worst economic slump in 30 years has prompted consideration of reduced seal fees. February wholesale shipments were the best they’ve been in nearly two years, and seasonally adjusted, represented an annualized total shipment rate of more than 231,000 units.
RVIA’s board last June increased the portion of the seal that goes directly to the organization — as opposed to supporting the industrywide Go RVing Coalition — from $4 to $35 per unit.
”At that time, the association was bleeding money,” Sheldon said. ”At the same time, the members didn’t want us to throttle back on dealing with the issues of concern to the association. We needed something to shore up our reserves, particularly because of what we thought would be reduced levels of show revenues from the Louisville and Pomona shows.”
With shipments increasing and retail RV sales recovering, at least to some degree, Sheldon said, the board will consider reducing the seal fee.
”Rather than saying that the new fees are the new paradigm, the board will be looking to see if we can reduce that fee somewhat because we are doing well.”
A recommendation on whether to reduce the seal fee will be made to the full board by the RVIA Executive Committee that will meet Wednesday.
Sheldon said he couldn’t say whether the board will vote to reduce the seal fee. ”I don’t want to second guess the board,” he said.
Surprisingly, the on-again-off-again question of whether RVIA and RPTIA will reunify follows a vote by RPTIA members to overturn a RPTIA board decision last November to ”cease all negotiations” with RVIA.
The talks had been going on for a year and their abrupt cancellation came as a surprise to RVIA.
Bill Garpow, RPTIA executive director, said the second vote occurred after some members argued there ”hadn’t been a straight up-or-down vote” on the question during initial balloting.
”We are saying that we would like to continue the discussions,” Garpow said. ”It was not a vote on whether we will merge with (RVIA) or reunify with them.”
Recreation park trailer manufacturers were RVIA members until October 1994 when they left the organization and formed their own group based in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Ga.
”(RVIA President) Richard Coon and I are both pleased that they have rethought their position and that they want to reopen the negotiations,” Sheldon said. ”Our board is already on the record of wanting to listen to what they have to say.”
RPTIA President Curt Yoder, vice president and co-owner of park trailer manufacturer Kropf Industries Inc., will speak to the RVIA board about reopening negotiations.
Also at the board meeting, reports on the association’s activities will be given by Sheldon and Coon, while RVIA Treasurer Bob Olson of Winnebago Industries Inc. will review the association’s financial standing and present the Audit Committee’s report for fiscal year 2009.
Also planned is a look at the RV market’s future from RVIA Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan, a report on RV Centennial activities from RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella and an update on legislative issues from RVIA Vice President of Government Affairs Dianne Farrell.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has made changes to its board of directors and executive committee following the resignation of Paul Eskritt of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. from his elected positions.
Fleetwood has appointed John Draheim, vice president of the Motor Home Division, to fill the company’s manufacturer seat on the RVIA board for the remainder of the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. Draheim will run for re-election to that seat during the association elections taking place in August.
Meanwhile, RVIA Chairman Jim Sheldon of Monaco RV has appointed RVIA board member Bob Olson, chairman, president and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., to fill the secretary position on the RVIA Executive Committee, filling the vacancy created by Eskritt’s resignation. Olson will hold that seat until the next RVIA board meeting, set for Sept.14 in Hershey, Pa., at which time the board will elect officers to the fiscal year 2010 Executive Committee.
In the current economic environment, the prospects for the upcoming year will be a prime focus of RVIA Committee Week next week (June 8-11) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
For one thing, economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan will present his 2010 retail sales forecast. ”A lot of people are going to be interested in hearing what Dr. Curtin has to say,” said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
About 170 people representing manufacturers, dealers and suppliers will attend the four-day meeting two blocks from the White House that will culminate with an RVIA board meeting Thursday during which it is expected that the future of the September retail California RV Show in Pomona and the December National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., will be high on the agenda.
“RVIA’s principal sources of revenue come from the Louisville and Pomona shows,” RVIA Chairman James Sheldon told RVBUSINESS.com. “Louisville will probably only be about two-thirds of what it was last year and the Pomona Show probably is going to be a third of the size it was last year.”
Although RVIA’s 2010 budget won’t be set until a board meeting in September, finances need to be addressed sooner than that, Sheldon said.
“One of the most critical issues we face as an association is how we fund the myriad of services we provide our members and still maintain the level of quality and responsiveness,” he said.
The board is likely to consider raising the cost of the RVIA seal which is affixed to towables and motorhomes that RVIA members build to let buyers know that they meet the association’s construction standards.
“The board is going to have to address the issue of our expenses exceeding our revenue,” Sheldon said. “We are rapidly burning through our reserves. This is going to test our mettle, but I have confidence that we will come up with the right answers to address these issues.”
Sheldon said that RVIA is sensitive to the state of the economy and the fact that many of its members face severe financial challenges. “We have to be very judicious about how we approach that subject so that we don’t harm the members in the process,” Sheldon said.
Seals currently cost $4.05 each with a $46 to $74 assessment added to each for the Go RVing market expansion campaign. Although Go RVing’s media budget has been trimmed from a high of $15.5 million in 2007 to $3.5 million this year, Coon said he doesn’t expect that the Go RVing assessment will be increased. “There might be some talk, but the proposal to do that didn’t fly with the board during the last board meeting (in March),” Coon noted.
Another major topic of discussion will be proposed franchise laws that have been wending their way through nearly two dozen state legislatures backed by state RV dealer associations. Although primarily aimed at protecting auto dealers from forced closures by auto manufacturers, most piggyback RV dealers and would require that RV manufacturers buy units back from dealers without cause, similar to a law in Texas that has been on the books for more than a decade.
“Most manufacturers feel this provision in the law in the various states is unfair,” said Sheldon, special assistant to the president of Monaco RV LLC. “It could become the most important issue that our industry faces. It literally could bring every RV company down to its knees.”
Sheldon said the RVIA board is expected to consider backing franchise legislation that applies specifically to the RV industry, a position it has taken in the past with only limited success.
During Committee Week, Sheldon will host the Chairman’s Luncheon on Monday to honor the service of Atwood’s Carl Pfalzgraf as chairman from 2006 to 2008, while Curtin will present his 2010 forecast during the Annual Membership Meeting during lunch Tuesday which will also will include reports on the state of the association from Sheldon, Curtin and Treasurer Don Walter.
The industry-wide Go RVing Coalition will meet Monday afternoon, and RVIA standing committees will meet Monday and Tuesday to act on recommendations that will be passed on to the board for consideration during its Thursday meeting.
Then, on Wednesday RVIA members will meet with federal legislators and their staffs for the 7th Annual Advocacy Day to discuss legislative issues.