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.”
When Paul Stenzel and Chris Clark wanted to see the country outside their upstate New York town, they bought an RV.
They haven’t been back home since June.
Their stops included Deadwood, S.D., Cody, Wyo., and Ocean City, Wash. On Thursday (March 26) they were parked at the American Heritage RV Park in James City County., Va., according to The Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
The two are among millions of RV owners who take to the roads each year.
But the recession has taken a toll on the RV industry, as shipments decline and consumer confidence wavers.
“There is some level of buying, but not what the industry was seeing three or four year ago,” said David Body, general manager of Affinity Events. “Sales are down. The RV industry is impacted like every other industry.”
Affinity hosts about 50 RV shows nationwide a year. While sales are down nationally, people are still coming to local shows, RV experts say.
About 10,000 people attended the Affinity RV show in Hampton, Va., earlier this month. That number was consistent with attendance in 2008, Body said.
Motorhome sales were down 42% nationally in 2008, compared with 2007, according to Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). Travel trailer sales were down 23%.
“RVs are somewhat a discretionary business – our business slows when the economy does,” said Ingrassia. He said the decline in the availability of credit poses a problem for both dealers and consumers.
“I think that right now for customers there is generally a good selection out there and dealers are willing to wheel and deal a little bit because business has been slower than normal,” Ingrassia said.
The RV season typically runs from March to August. At Dodd RV in York County, Va., business is good.
During the first 10 days of March the company’s sales were higher than during the same time in 2008. “One thing that we’re seeing is that the warm weather in the last few weeks has accelerated the pace significantly,” owner Jamie Dodd said.
Smithfield resident Rob Davis purchased a trailer from Dodd last week. Davis bought the vehicle to travel to his 14-year-old daughter’s softball games.
“If you look at the cost of a hotel room and eating out, I actually think it’s more economical for us,” Davis said.
Although the recession has slowed sales nationally, RV experts say many dealers are offering lower prices to move the product – something that Davis and other buyers have run into.
“Now is as good time as any,” Davis said. “If you’re going to purchase, go ahead and do it sooner than later because I think the economy is going to bounce back and the special deals may not last.”
RV shipments in 2008 were down 32% nationally from 2007, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The industry shipped 237,000 units in 2008. According to the association, the decline was due to tight credit conditions, higher interests rates and falling household wealth.
The association projects that RV sales will continue to be slow in 2009. An estimated 130,100 units will be shipped nationally this year.
“When credit markets are restored, the RV industry will rebound,” said association spokesman Kevin Broom.
Dixie RV in Newport News has seen an influx in traffic in the service and parts department, by owners who want to maintain what they have. That trend is also occurring at local auto repair shops.
Even with more people taking care of their RVs, Dixie vice president Layne Forrest says the economy has taken its toll on RV business.
“When people tighten up their pocketbooks, we’re definitely one thing that gets cut quickest,” he said.
People have continued to pack the American Heritage RV Park, in James City County, despite tough economic times.
The park’s attendance is up 20% from 2008, according to co-owner Bill Rhoads, who said 2008 marked the park’s best year.