Almost a full year after announcing he was stepping down as the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) president and CEO, Mike Molino has launched a new venture. According to a press release, his new position is president at Mike Molino LLC, a firm for association and business consulting.
“With over 40 years in the roles of CEO, COO, planner, instructor, facilitator and human resources staffer, I believe I have the breadth of experience and the communication skills to help executives and managers refine their own strategic planning, leadership and management skills,” said Molino. “My new mission is not very different from the mission I followed in military service and at RVDA – to use my broad range of success and experience to help CEOs, executives and managers shape their future, become better leaders, solve problems, improve teamwork and achieve their vision.”
Molino will assist clients from not-for-profit associations and government agencies along with for-profit small businesses, especially those blending family members into their staffs.
As a certified association executive, Molino is qualified to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and has extensive use with the DISC and the Caliper Assessment.
“It is exciting to offer my experience to other organizations, helping them gain new energy and ideas,” he said, noting he would continue in an advisory role for RVDA at least through June.
For more information visit www.MikeMolinoLLC.com.
The leadership of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) threw a party Tuesday night (June 12) for Mike Molino, former president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), who stepped down April 2 after 16 years of service with the Fairfax, Va.-based trade association. Pictured are Molino with former RVDA Chairman Jeff Pastore (left), and his father, former RVDA Secretary John Pastore, both from Hartville RV Center, Hartville, Ohio. Molino, known for his leadership in helping develop the Go RVing campaign as well as RVDA’s Model Dealer Agreement and Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey, was succeeded by Phil Ingrassia, RVDA’s former vice president of communications. Among those speaking during the dinner at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., emceed by former RVDA Chairman Bill Thomas, of Bill Thomas Camper Sales, Wentzville, Mo., were former RVDA chairmen Jerry Greer, of Jerry Greer RV near Columbus, Ohio, and Rick Horsey, of Parkview RV Center, Smyra, Del. Also paying tribute to Molino at the dinner, timed with RVIA Committee Week and an RVDA board meeting, were RVDA Vice President of Administration Ronnie Hepp, current RVDA Chairman Andy Heck of Alpin Haus, Amsterdam, N.Y., Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon and American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall. In his turn at the podium, Crandall presented Molino, who has been asked to provide some ongoing consultant services to RVDA, with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol on behalf of U.S. Rep., R-Va., Frank Wolf in “deep appreciation for the service you have provided to the nation.”
Although it’s not an official association-hosted function, the leadership of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) will be holding a celebration dinner June 12 at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., honoring former president Mike Molino.
According to RVDA, the evening will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m. followed by a sit-down dinner and program at 6:45 p.m. Cost for attendance is $100 and seats can be reserved through RVDA.
Molino stepped down April 2 after 16 years of service with RVDA. Phil Ingrassia succeeded him as president.
During his years with RVDA, the association extended its leadership role in RV industry affairs through development of the association’s Model Dealer Agreement and the Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey. Molino was a key leader in the formation of the RVDA Education Foundation, now known as the RV Learning Center, and also a strong supporter of continuing education and certification for RV dealership employees.
During Molino’s tenure, RVDA also played a key role in the formation of the Go RVing Coalition’s national advertising campaign, which is co-owned with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Molino is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and was elected to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2006.
Prior to his role with RVDA Molino served in the U.S. Army.
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino announced today (Feb. 9) that he will step down after 16 years of service as the CEO of the organization. The RVDA board named Vice President for Communications Phil Ingrassia as the association’s next president, effective April 2.
“Mike Molino’s impact on RVDA and the RV industry will last for years to come,” said RVDA Chairman Andy Heck of Alpin Haus in Amsterdam, N.Y. “He has been a strong advocate for RV dealers since he joined the association in 1988 and became the chief staff officer in 1996. Mike was instrumental in developing a strategic direction for the organization that will shape RVDA far into the future. We are fortunate to have an experienced successor in Phil Ingrassia, who is well qualified to manage a smooth transition of staff leadership and set the stage for continued success.”
“For over 50 years, I have been lucky enough to have had continuous employment with only two employers, the U.S. Army and RVDA,” Molino said. “The nature of the work in both organizations provided opportunities to work for more than 50 different bosses and with many great people. The staff at RVDA present and past stands out as the best team of colleagues that I have ever had. I can’t thank them enough for their loyalty and support. I am especially indebted to Vice President for Administration Ronnie Hepp who has been with us for 17 of my almost 24 years at RVDA and Vice President for Communications Phil Ingrassia whom I recruited 16 years ago when I became CEO. My life epitomizes the adage ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.’”
Molino continued “It is time for someone with new energy and ideas to head the staff of RVDA. Last year, I asked the RVDA Board of Directors to start the process of finding a new president. It makes me proud to know that they saw the same great value in Phil Ingrassia’s talents and skills that I enjoyed for the past 16 years. I am delighted with their selection. Although I plan to be active in a different type of work, I will remain available to assist RVDA President Ingrassia in any way possible for as long as he desires.”
During Molino’s years with RVDA, the association extended its leadership role in RV industry affairs through development of the association’s Model Dealer Agreement and the Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey. Molino was a key leader in the formation of the RVDA Education Foundation, now known as the RV Learning Center, and also a strong supporter of continuing education and certification for RV dealership employees. During Molino’s tenure, RVDA also played a key role in the formation of the Go RVing Coalition’s national advertising campaign, which is co-owned with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Molino is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and was elected to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2006.
Ingrassia has served as RVDA’s vice president for communications since 2002 and joined the RVDA staff in 1996. He supervises the association’s membership, industry relations, market expansion and communications programs. He serves as RVDA’s staff liaison to the Go RVing Coalition and also earned the CAE designation.
“I am honored that the Board of Directors has chosen me to help lead the next chapter in RVDA’s history,” Ingrassia said. “Mike Molino has been an excellent mentor to me as well as to others on the staff and within the RV industry. I look forward to working with our volunteer leaders, members, business partners, and staff to advance the RVDA and the industry.”
Jennie Molino (nee Tepedino) wife of the late Angelo T. Molino and mother to Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino passed away peacefully at the Willow Oaks Assisted Living facility in the presence of family on Jan. 23.
A viewing for family and friends will be held at the Everly Funeral Home, 10565 Main Street, Fairfax, Va., on Jan. 29 from 1-5 p.m. A Requiem Mass is planned for St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church, 7600 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield, Va., on Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. She will be interred with her late husband in Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to Wounded Warrior Project to honor the more than 100 years of active military service she supported as wife, mother, and grandmother. (Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Rd, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256), or the Birmingham Green Foundation (8605 Centreville Rd., Manassas, VA 20110).
Editor’s Note: The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) issued the following concerning the passing of long-time President Mike Molino’s mother on Monday (Jan. 23).
Jennie Molino (nee Tepedino), wife of the late Angelo T. Molino, passed away peacefully at the Willow Oaks Assisted Living facility in the presence of family on Jan. 23. Born on May 10, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York, she grew up with 12 siblings; all but one, her brother Louis, have pre-deceased her. She married Angelo “Tom” Molino on Sept. 18, 1938 and they were together for 49 years until his death on Jan. 9, 1988.
The Molino’s moved from Brooklyn to Bayonne, N.J., and then to Springfield, Va., in 1984. Jennie was active in the Vincent F. Atene Post #3230 VFW Ladies Auxiliary and the “Forty Niners’ Group” at St. Bernadette Parish. She is survived by her three sons, Mike (Barb), Tom (Mary, known as Cissie to family), and John (Eileen); seven grandchildren (Mike, Andy, Tim, Bill, Chris, Sara and Matt); and six great grandchildren (Bella, Isabella, Alana, Spencer, Emaline and Cooper).
A viewing for family and friends will be held at the Everly Funeral Home on Main Street in Fairfax (date TBA), and a Requiem Mass is planned for St. Bernadette’s RC Church in Springfield, Va. (date TBA).
She will be buried with her late husband in Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to Wounded Warrior Project to honor the more than 100 years of active military service she supported as wife, mother, and grandmother. (Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Rd, Suite 300, Jacksonville, Fla., 32256, or the Birmingham Green Foundation (8605 Centreville Rd., Manassas, Va., 20110).
When all is said and done, people will remember this year’s RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Oct. 3-7 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, for how upbeat it was in spite of the rampant negativity of today’s newspaper headlines, says Mike Molino, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Fact is, looking back at everything that transpired at the Con/Expo, from the pulse of the whole event – from the workshops to the trade exhibits, the Partners in Progress Brand Committee meetings and the all-industry gala at which RVDA presented its Quality Circle Awards for the first time — Molino suspects that the industry may well rebound from the nation’s current economic lull much quicker than a lot of people think.
RVBUSINESS.com touched bases with Molino this week regarding the Con/Expo, an event that was co-sponsored with RVDA of Canada and drew almost the exact same attendance as 2010 — a total of 1,078 registrants, half of them dealers. Here are the highlights of that conversation:
RVBUSINESS.com: So, Mike, now that you’re back in D.C. and have had a chance to reflect, how did the Con/Expo go in your estimation?
I was surprisingly pleased. It was much better than I expected as far as attendance. I knew we were going to have a good program. I knew we were going to have good speakers. I knew the change in the format and delivery was going to be very strong and make it a much better event. But I was pleased that we had almost as many people there this year with all the diversions. And, actually, from a business perspective, things were better than last year. And that pleased me very much.
RVBUSINESS.com: We particularly heard good things about the “Partners in Progress” brand meetings, a series of sessions involving manufacturers and their respective dealers that has become an RVDA industry exclusive – and one that seems to be gaining favor among industry players.
Yeah, they went well. They were better staged, better organized because of the efforts of the brand committee chairmen and my own staff people. The brand committee chairmen have much more experience now. I also think there’s a much better understanding between dealers and manufacturers on issues. The give and take that we had hoped for at many of the brand committees has started to take place and is moving along very well. You know, I don’t think it’s universal and that everyone unanimously feels the same way about the brand meetings, but I know it’s better in almost all of them – much less adversarial.
RVBUSINESS.com: The new Wednesday night dinner gala certainly brings a new twist to the Con/Expo, keying as it does on manufacturers’ Circle of Excellence awards.
It went well. You know, we had the same sort of growing pains that any new venture has as far as the presentations and how we staged it and that sort of stuff. But all in all, I think it was a good event. I was impressed by the number of people who paid extra to come to it. That was almost a surprise to us because with the cost of food in Vegas, it gets very expensive to include the dinner into the registration fee. So, we made it a separately ticketed event. We didn’t charge the full amount of the dinner if you were registered (for the convention), but we charged part of the amount for the dinner, and we were pretty well sold out. We couldn’t have done that without the support of the convention sponsors. They actually sponsored the dinner as well.
All in all, I think it went well. I think it showed a lot more respect for the manufacturers who won those awards (versus the way RVDA used to present the awards at the Louisville Show). And having that many recipients is really a testimony to the improvement that’s gone on.
We should point out that we didn’t raise the bar (for qualifying Circle of Excellence Award winners). We kept the bar at 80%. The first time we did the awards, we only had one manufacturer get over 80 (percent). And now, having 32 brand award winners based on at least 15 dealer reports each at 80% — and having the dramatic increase in participation this year — that shows me that the DSI (Dealer Satisfaction Index) program, the Quality Circle program, is very valuable.
Dealers consider them very important, and I know manufacturers are really beginning to consider them important, too. It’s helping to improve those things that the dealers deem important in a relationship, from the quality of the vehicle, vehicle design and also in the after sale service that the dealer has to be involved with. When we do it (the event) again, I would change some of the ways that we do it. But I think that the idea of making a presentation at a dinner at the dealers’ convention is a good idea that we intend to continue.
RVBUSINESS.com: What’s your sense of the industry’s general outlook right now with regard to 2012 and beyond?
Hey, let’s face it: No economist has ever predicted a boom in the RV industry, even though they’re pretty good at predicting downturns before they begin. And they’re not predicting one now. I mean, you’re not going to get that, although most would tell you after the fact that if you’d read between the lines you’d see that they had in fact predicted an upswing.
You know, we brought in (to the Con/Expo) two of the brightest young economists that GE Capital has, and the outlook reflected in their presentations at the convention was pretty dismal on the short term. On the long term, though, it was very, very optimistic.
Well those long term optimistic indicators may kick in earlier than people think and, before you know it, we’ll have manufacturers not able to keep up with the pipeline, not having product on their lots when the customer’s in there demanding it.
So, I see that could start happening tomorrow. It could start happening in the spring, and it certainly will happen by 2013. When it’s going to start, nobody’s going to predict that. You know, conventional wisdom – and I said as much recently in my presentation at the FRVTA convention in Florida – is not to expect anything next year because it’s an election year. And, right now, everybody’s expecting next year to be pretty bad or maybe pretty steady and normal. And I still think that this thing’s going to turn around a lot quicker than anybody’s predicting right now.
Editor’s Note: The following column was written and provided by Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and appears in the December issue of RV Executive Today under the headline, “Why Aren’t There More Certified RV Technicians?”
The past chairmen of RVDA are helping the staff and boards solve some big industry problems. Many of the past chairmen met by conference call to tackle a big question: Why aren’t there more certified RV technicians?
All agreed that dealers want qualified employees. No one disagreed when one of the past chairmen made a definitive statement about certified RV technicians. He said, given a choice between hiring a certified technician or one not certified, he believed that every dealer would choose the certified technician. If that’s the case, why isn’t there at least one certified technician in every RV dealership?
It is difficult for the group of past RVDA chairmen to answer those questions. It’s like asking the choir of a church why so many parishioners don’t come to church every week. The choir comes to church. RVDA leaders employ certified technicians. Both groups can only speculate about why the others don’t participate.
Where have we been? Let’s review some background. About 22 years ago, dealers, manufacturers, and suppliers under RVIA and RVDA met with a goal of improving the competence of RV technicians. Trying to solve the technician competence gap was a logical first step in improving industry professionalism. RVDA and RVIA invested the time, energy, and money necessary to develop technician testing and certification.
RVDA and RVIA staffs adapted RV employee testing and certification from programs in other industries, e.g., the automotive industry which has the “ASE Certified” program. RV industry experts (dealership technicians, service managers, dealer owners, and technicians in the service departments of RV manufacturers and suppliers) developed a curriculum (DACUM) with standards and tests.
By passing the test the job holder/candidate demonstrates that he/she has the knowledge required to do the job. How the person got the knowledge is not very important. There is no requirement to attend any specific training course.
The RVDA-RVIA RV Service Technician Certification Governing Board administers the program. RVDA and RVIA name six members each to the board. The Chairman is always an RVDA dealer. The vice chairman is always an RVIA member. Find more on technician certification at www.rvtechnican.com.
Many dealers have taken advantage of this program to improve the knowledge of their technicians and the efficiency of their service department. Most will tell you, it more than pays for itself in the first year or two. Improving knowledge improves efficiency. Faster diagnosis and fewer come-backs improve the bottom line. One dealer told us, there is at least a 30% difference between certified technicians and those who are not certified.
There are not enough certified technicians to meet the needs of the industry. Chart #1 (at left, top) shows the growth of certified technicians from 2005 to August 2010. Don’t get lulled by the growth, however. Chart #2 (at left, middle) shows the total number of RV technicians employed in 2008 and 2009. The 2010 number won’t be available until May 2011. The chart also shows the number of those technicians who held certification through August 2010. Roughly 1/4 to 1/3 are certified.
How many should be certified? Many dealers find so much benefit in having their technicians certified that they mandate 100 percent participation. To stay employed, a technician has to be certified or working toward certification.
Chart #3 (bottom) shows where the currently certified technicians work. It also gives an indication that non-dealers value certification more than many dealers. Does that mean they are taking work from dealers? We report; you decide.
The past chairmen will send some recommendations to the RVDA chairman soon. Other industry leaders, such as Richard Coon of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), are also working on recommendations. We expect the industry to soon have requirements for technician certification. Dealers who get their people trained and certified now will be way ahead of the “power curve.” They will also see improvement in the bottom line of the service department and in the true bottom lines of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Thanks for your support and may God bless you all.
The RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, scheduled for Oct. 4-8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., comes at a crucial time for the U.S. economy in general and the RV industry in particular as both work their way out of the tough recession of 2008/2009.
On one hand, the industry’s rebound has exceeded expectations in many ways, especially for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers aligned with the right towable recreational vehicle brands. On the other hand, however, the aftershocks of the Great Recession are obviously still with us in terms of unemployment, stock market fluctuations and a general discomfort among many Americans with regard to the general state of the economy.
And while most Americans assume that the worst is over, many of the nation’s durable good manufacturers – including RV builders — are still looking to bridge their way to the next year and the next level of recovery and to find a comfort zone in this new post-recessionary age.
“There is a consensus we have to recalibrate our definition of what is a good business environment,” said Mike Molino, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), lead sponsor of October’s annual Con/Expo. “We’re not going to get back to the 400,000-unit years any time soon. We’ll probably never return to that. The next couple of years will be tough, but doable. If dealers stay within the cash structure they have, they will survive. The consumer will come back — slowly. We won’t see a significant increase (in sales) until there is more certainty (about the state of the economy). I’m not so sure the election of 2010 will bring more certainty. That might just bring more confusion.”
But Molino, generally a realist, does tend to see the cup half full.
“The dealers who are still in business, for the most part, are the ones who will survive,” he maintained. “The dealers coming to the convention are in good shape. The shakeout is well on its way to being complete. But it’s not totally over. Dealers are telling me they have inventory but are paying more finance charges on the inventory they have than they used to, and retail financiers are very stringent on who they are lending money to, so the ability to buy a recreational vehicle, the threshold for buying, is higher and the ability to buy is a lot lower.
“Another dynamic is that there is uncertainty among businesses, both large and small, and that drives employment, and employment drives the mentality of the economy,” Molino continued. “When a consumer is hearing levels of unemployment we currently have (around 10%), it’s still not conducive to them going out and buying an RV, even if they can afford to get a loan for an RV. Until unemployment goes down and employment rises, we will have some issues.”
A New Era for the Industry As Well as RVDA’s Con/Expo
The RVDA is tackling this new era head-on with a refreshing revision of the annual convention, which is co-sponsored by RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.
A crowd of between 475 and 550 U.S. and Canadian dealers, with total registrations of about 1,100 attendees, is anticipated for the five-day event.
“I think it’s going to be the best convention ever,” adds Molino. “We’ve got a very, very active committee under (Convention Chairman) Peter Albano. Between him and my staff and the volunteers on the committee, I think they have put together the most pertinent program for dealers and the management level of staff I’ve ever seen.”
As ever, of course, there will be an aggressive educational component including workshops on everything from wholesale and retail financing options to new inventory management strategies and how to reach new customers through innovative marketing communications. And the 2010 convention will again feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s leading OEM and supplier companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability.
But attendees will notice significant changes, starting with the brand committee meetings, closed door sessions in which dealers meet as a group with representatives of the recreational vehicle brands they carry. RVDA’s “Partners in Progress” brand committees, among other things, will work on important dealer-manufacturer issues and address results of RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI).
“We’ve restructured the brand committees meetings, so they come early in the session,” Molino explained. “We tried to make it so there is no conflict between the committee meetings and anything else they want to do. I think it will enhance the experience for the dealers, especially the manufacturers.”
Before he took on the assignment of chairing this year’s convention committee, Albano confides, he talked with many dealers and asked them what they wanted with regard to the convention. “They said that we need to change and get some new blood into the system and see how we’re running the sessions, break it up and make it new,” Albano, owner of American RV in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Miss., told RVBusiness. “We’ve worked very, very hard at doing that.”
Former Interior Secretary Kempthorne Will Keynote
Albano predicts that convention attendees will especially enjoy the remarks of former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who will serve as keynote speaker at the first general session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
“Secretary Kempthorne has a track record of developing innovative approaches to meet the outdoor recreation needs of RV travelers and other outdoor enthusiasts,” Albano said. “As a long-time motorhome owner, he is enthusiastic about the future prospects for our industry. He will provide an inspiring message for everyone who makes their living in the RV business.”
Kempthorne continues to champion outdoor recreation and is an active RV traveler and motorcyclist. As Secretary of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration, he brought fundamental relational changes in the environmental, conservation and outdoor recreation arenas.
During his service in the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne led successful efforts to create a sustainable funding source for building and maintaining trails and to promote balance between resource protection and outdoor fun – which is among the reasons he received the 20th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award in 2008 from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).
A second general session, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, will feature an “RV Outlook Panel Discussion” for which panelists will include Ron Fenech, president of Thor Industries Inc.’s RV Group; Craig Kennison, analyst with Robert W. Baird, Inc.; and Pete Lannon, GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance.
Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., will chair the discussion, which will focus on minimizing risk factors with RV floorplan loans, a manufacturing outlook on the future of RV product development and distribution, financial markets and the impact the issues will have on the dealers’ bottom lines.
“This session is sure to be extremely informative for everyone attending the upcoming convention,” said Albano. “It will provide some important steps that dealers can take to reduce their risk and successfully meet the financial challenges we are all facing today. The Convention/Expo Committee secured an outstanding group of RV industry experts to participate in this event.
RVBusiness HostsTop 50 Dealer Awards Festivities
RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards during a Wednesday, Oct. 6, reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.
While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers – just as it was expanded last year to include Canadian retailers — the awards format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Go RVing Coalition Convenes at Con/Expo
Concurrent with RVDA’s convention agenda, the pan-industry Go RVing Coalition will convene 8-11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Rio’s Tango Room to continue discussions of topics raised during the coalition’s last meeting June 8 during RVIA Committee Week in South Bend, Ind. This will likely include campaign planning, 2011 funding levels and development of the Go RVing consumer leads prioritization system approved by the coalition in June.
Along with recent shipment and retail data, the coalition will rely on a new University of Michigan RV market forecast and new ad tracking research. “Go RVing’s 2010 ad tracking research will be complete, giving us a better handle on the impact of our media mix and the Ambassadors of Affordability creative,” reports Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the coalition’s staff liaison.
Additionally, LaBella says results of the new study of Go RVing leads over the past three years will be reported by The Richards Group, the coalition’s Dallas-based agency. “This study will enable us to better prioritize leads, to provide more information to users about the specific products and price ranges consumer are considering, the lifestyle attributes of our leads and which media are most effective in delivering them,” he said. “All of this information will be helpful to future Go RVing media and creative planning as well as industry marketing efforts.”
Editor’s Note: This column was written by Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), and appears in the current edition of RV Executive Today Online.
As we enter the holiday season, this is a good time to look for reasons to rejoice and be jolly. Anyone can find a reason to be gloomy. Doom and gloom are everywhere. For too long a time, the RV business has been sputtering. Few of us are doing really well, no matter what we do as our part of the business. Drive out gloom!
Last December, I wrote, “We need to celebrate. Just getting rid of 2008 is reason enough. Even the late great Frank Sinatra could not have made 2008, ‘a very good year.’” A year later, some will say, “2009 was even worse than 2008.” That may be true for many of us. The year 2009 was the worst year for new unit shipments in my 21 years with RVDA.
Still, don’t fall into the trap of pessimism. Look at that situation positively. It has to get better. For the first time in too many years, Dr. Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan is forecasting that the next year will be a better one for RV shipments. That is good news!
There are many positive signs to support Dr. Curtin’s forecasts. We see plant openings in Elkhart, a drop in the level of distressed RV inventories and positive late season occupancy reports from many campgrounds. Credit is not what it used to be, and probably never will be. There are signs of available credit, however.
Our members are an optimistic group. When we budgeted for dealer attendance at this year’s convention, we budgeted what we thought was a reasonable number. Our dealers greatly exceeded that number.
We also have reason to celebrate the participation of our associate members who exhibited. The convention drew well over 1,000 total industry people in a very bad year. Reason to rejoice!
As we do that, we need to remember that our industry works better when we work together. Quit the bickering and take the high road. Let’s work together to sell our industry and the RV lifestyle to our customers. Dealers and manufacturers must cooperate and build trust between them. If we don’t, we won’t survive.
Let’s look at the new landscape of manufacturing. Some of you dealers will be seeking new product lines. Many manufacturers will be looking for dealers. Before anyone agrees to anything, please do your due diligence. As President Reagan said, “TRUST but VERIFY!” It is part of my job to warn both dealers and manufacturers on the relationship. Please consider the following as warnings.
My first warning is to both dealers and manufacturers: Be careful before you make the deal.
Warnings for Manufacturers:
Don’t expect a dealer to develop an instant service department, if he doesn’t have one. If a dealer’s culture is to sell on price to anyone from anywhere, don’t expect that dealer to take care of your mutual customer after the sale. If a dealer has a history of not properly preparing units for delivery, why do you expect the future to be different? If a dealer has dealt badly with one manufacturer, like using buyback requirements arbitrarily in order to manage inventory, what makes you think it won’t happen to you?
Warnings to Dealers:
If a manufacturer does not have a parts system in place, why would you expect instant correction?
If a manufacturer’s culture is to grind out every warranty claim, why would you expect that to change because you signed up?
Under-resourced manufacturers will be rolling out “dazzling” new products with low price points and looking to take on dealers. Before you buy in, make sure the company is in a position to provide an adequate “logistical chain” for repair parts and warranty payments.
Don’t expect RVDA, RVIA, or any of the national or state associations to make bad actors behave. Make sure you know what you are doing, before you make the deal.
We’re going to have a good year in 2010. It may not be a great year, but it’s certainly going to be a good year, and its certainly going to be better than 2009. So, let’s all look forward to that. Thanks for your support!
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) contends that its hands are tied with regard to the issue of RV manufacturers being forced — under various circumstances — to buy back product from dealers.
So the national trade association, based in Fairfax, Va., isn’t taking a concrete stand one way or the other in what is becoming a major issues within the RV industry.
”We are a national dealers association made up of dealers from many states,” said RVDA Chairman Larry Troutt, owner of Toppers Camping Center in Waller, Texas, in a Q&A session with RVBusiness due for publication next month. ”It’s not our position to take a position on what the states do.”
In a March 9 letter to RVDA President Mike Molino, Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), asked RVDA to support amending or defeating ”buy back” legislation pending in 17 states, warning that RV manufacturers and dealers alike could be put out of business by the slew of legislation.
However, Molino immediately dismissed the request and has continued to do so as recently as a meeting held this week.
At issue are what RVIA characterizes as onerous provisions requiring inventory, in some cases regardless of age, to be repurchased by manufacturers ”with or without cause,” along with ”blue sky” requirements that would mandate manufacturers to compensate dealers for the value of their businesses and ”facilities assistance” for up to three years.
”The dealers in the different states will take initiatives (that) we will support, possibly reinforce, at their request,” Troutt told RVBusiness. ”But we do not think it is appropriate to take initiatives as a national dealer organization that would cause dealers in different states to have to abide by some ‘law’ that they didn’t initiate or address themselves within their states. It’s a state’s rights thing.
”I’m not aware of any (dealer) who disagrees with that.”
RVDA Treasurer Andy Heck, president of Alpin Haus, Amsterdam, N.Y., said coordinating state laws would be too large a task for RVDA to muster.
”Each state has different laws,” Heck said. ”(Buy back laws) just happen to be one of them. For RVDA to get involved at the state level would be a gigantic task.”
Debbie Brunoforte, RVDA 1st vice chairman and owner of Little Dealer, Little Prices in Mesa, Ariz., said dealers are ”reasonable (and) fair-minded” and that manufacturers should communicate directly with dealers about state laws that concern them.
”The difference between RVIA and RVDA is that most of the manufacturers are in Indiana and a couple of other places,” Brunoforte said. ”Yet, (RVs) are retailed throughout the entire country. So RVIA has to have a more political view and I understand that. At RVDA, we have dealers in every single state, and we’ve always felt that dealers in a particular state should choose how they want to do business.”