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.