A Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) member benefit program has been expanded to cover 41 states, including Alaska, allowing more member dealerships nationwide to purchase propane from Suburban Propane at discounted rates.
According to a press release, in addition to discounts on propane, Suburban Propane is offering RVDA members safe equipment for refilling most propane cylinders, 24-hour service, on-site training of dealership personnel, signage and a periodic review of filling stations by experienced safety experts.
RVDA member dealers in the following states can benefit as Suburban has expanded its reach: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Dealers in 19 states already served by Suburban will see expanded services. Those states include Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.
To get your dealership involved in this cost-saving RVDA member program, contact Suburban by phone at 1-800-643-7137 or send an email to: email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: The following is a column that appeared in the August 2012 issue of RV Executive Today by RVDA Chairman Andy Heck. It outlines some key ways consumers benefit from dealer-assisted financing.
This fall, as we all know, is a presidential election year, and there are also many races for Senate and Congress. The individuals who are elected will play a role in certain aspects of how we run our dealerships.
One issue that continues to be on the forefront for all of us is dealer-assisted financing. We have talked often about this subject at our convention and through RV Executive Today during the past couple of years.
Some groups, including the Center for Responsible Lending, are pushing lawmakers and regulators for additional restrictions on vehicle financing – restrictions that could hurt RV dealers and the entire motor vehicle industry.
A new white paper by Northwood University calls dealer-assisted financing for vehicle purchases a “wonderful example of a free and competitive market which adds multiple choices for consumers.”
The study says dealers often gather all of the important and necessary financial information from the customer during the sales process, saving the customer the effort of a separate trip to a financial institution to provide the same information.
Gathering this information up front reduces the financial institution’s cost of processing the loan. Dealers also absorb the direct and indirect costs of marketing, transacting, and meeting federal and state point-of-sale compliance regulations that accompany financing. In short, says the study, dealers reduce the loan’s retail distribution cost.
“In many cases the customer would not save money by obtaining financing via a direct loan from a financial institution,” according to the study. “In fact, dealer-arranged financing rates are often more competitive than those offered by direct lenders. In order to serve their customers’ financing needs, dealers must be prepared to meet or beat the lowest APR offered to their customers by direct lenders.”
My dealership has had many customers who wanted to do loans through their local banks. But some of those local banks don’t have an RV program, so the customer, by financing through us, saved lots of money.
Many of you will have the opportunity to meet with national-level candidates. It’s important to tell them about the impact that some of this proposed legislation would have and about how dealers do, in fact, help customers.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) is keeping members abreast of possible changes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its online disclosures guidance that would affect advertising and selling products on the Internet.
On May 30, RVDA’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Brett Richardson attended an FTC full-day workshop in Washington, entitled “Advertising and Privacy Disclosures in the Digital World.” According to RVDA, the workshop was intended to provide guidance to the public concerning the FTC’s advertising requirements and to solicit input from the public for updates to the FTC’s existing online advertising guidelines, “Dot Com Disclosures” (DCD).
The original FTC guidelines were developed in 2000 as the Internet was just coming of age, and before the advent of social networking along with smart phones and their apps. “What a difference a decade makes. When Dot Com Disclosures was issued, who could have imagined the world we live in now?” said FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen.
The FTC is expected to formulate new guidelines and RVDA and its allies, including the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA), will actively work to make any new rules “as least onerous as possible” for motor vehicle dealers.
It appears the FTC will be addressing some new areas in its upcoming guidelines. Generally speaking, the FTC will likely address two broad categories impacted by new technology: (1) what is expressed and (2) what is collected. How do traditional “clear and conspicuous” standards play out on a small mobile device such as a smartphone? How can advertisers effectively disseminate disclosures on such devices?
A greater concern expressed by the FTC and consumer groups is the development of consumer online (and sometimes offline) behavior tracking. This permits advertisers to customize specific ads to targeted consumers, which might be very profitable for companies selling this data, but a consumer privacy nightmare. RVDA reported that there was talk about the FTC pushing industry to develop a framework for implementing do-not-track mechanisms that would allow Web users to opt out of behavioral targeting and other online data-collection across a broad network of advertising firms.
The FTC hosted several panels on various subjects related to online advertising. However, it seems that most panelists and the FTC itself would prefer to see that industry self-regulate itself by creating best practices for online disclosures.
Bank of the West is a Gold Sponsor for the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Oct.1-5, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The convention is sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.
“We thank Bank of the West for demonstrating its commitment to the Convention/Expo and supporting continuing education for RV dealers and their employees,” said RVDA Convention/Expo Committee Chairman Peter Albano of American RV in Olive Branch, Miss. “Through the years, Bank of the West has been a leader in providing dealers and their customers with financing that is such an important part of the RV business.”
“We at Bank of the West are pleased to, once again, be a major sponsor of the RVDA Convention. We encourage dealers to come by our booth during the convention to discuss all their commercial and retail financing needs. Most of our management team will be there and are honored to speak with the attending dealers,” said Mark Beecher, Bank of the West’s senior vice president of sales & marketing, Consumer Finance Group.
San Francisco-based Bank of the West is an FDIC-insured bank that customers have entrusted with their money for over 135 years. Through holding company BancWest Corp., the bank is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, one of the six highest rated banks in the world.
To make the convention as affordable as possible, the registration fee for dealership employees is the same as last year. RVDA is also offering special registration plans, including an easy-pay plan of four payments and the ability to lock in early bird savings for additional employees with one paid convention registration.
Themed “The Road to Opportunity,” the convention will feature educational super sessions designed to help dealers navigate the issues and opportunities they face today, strategies to reach new customers through new technology and to harness the power of social media, and a new series of fixed operations workshops for service and parts managers to improve efficiency and profitability.
The 2012 convention will also feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s top companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability. RVDA’s Partners in Progress Brand Committees will also meet to work on important dealer-manufacturer issues.
Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities and exhibitor information can contact RVDA at (703) 591-7130, ext 103 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.rvda.org and www.rvlearningcenter.com to register for the convention and for regular updates. You can also get convention updates on LinkedIn and Facebook.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced this month that the agency has permanently increased its RV dealer size standard to $30 million in annual revenue. Previously, only RV dealers with annual revenue under $7 million qualified for SBA programs, according to a news release.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) worked with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and other trade groups to secure a temporary increase in the SBA size standards to $30 million in revenues during the recession. RVDA staff discussed size standards several times with SBA staff, including a joint industry meeting with SBA Administrator Karen Mills. RVDA was able to explain the industry’s need for the larger annual revenue classification due to the high cost of RV dealer inventories.
RV dealer SBA size standards primarily apply to SBA loan and other financing programs. SBA recently broadened and enhanced its 7(a) Business Loan Guarantee Program making its financing terms more favorable for small businesses, including RV dealers.
As part of that effort, SBA extended its 7(a) Business Loan Guarantee Program to Dealer Floor Plan Financing. This will enable more than 90% of RV dealers to participate in SBA’s financing programs as that program is reconfigured to be more effective and useful for banks and dealers. For questions or more information on the change in size standards, or the SBA Dealer Floor Plan Financing program, visit the RVDA Lenders Toolbox at www.rvda.org or send an e-mail email@example.com.
There are a lot of positive signs out there in the marketplace right now, Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino told attendees Saturday (Sept. 12) during the general session of the 29th Annual Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) Convention — including plant openings in Elkhart, a drop in the once-burgeoning level of distressed U.S. RV inventories and positive late season occupancy reports from many campgrounds.
But it wasn’t really news to any of the 175 individuals in attendance at FRVTA’s Sept. 11-13 meetings at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs that the industry continues to face a difficult time.
“It’s tough out there right now,” said Molino. “The most impressive thing I’ve seen is those who are here today and the fact that when we budgeted for the dealer attendance at our convention, which is coming up Oct. 6 in Las Vegas, we budgeted what we thought was a reasonable number. And the dealers have already exceeded that in their registrations.”
Molino, moreover, mirrored general industry sentiment in saying that he looks forward to a better business atmosphere next year. “We’re going to have a good year in 2010,” he said. “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.”
In remarks preceding those of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Vice President Gary LaBella’s, Molino said a recent survey of RVDA’s membership revealed that retailers aligned with the national dealer association expressed three main areas of concern:
- Perhaps the most serious among RVDA’s members is the continuing scarcity of credit. No matter what RVDA tries to do at the national level in concert with a variety of other national associations in this and other allied fields — including RVIA — to try to lobby for legislation that would help dealers and the industry, it simply hasn’t resulted in the hoped for result of an easing in financing. “We worked on things called TARP, TALF and the SBA prgram — three major programs to help get financing for consumers and for dealer floorplans,” said Molino. “Nothing’s been successful on the implementation, and we’re still trying to find out why.”
- “Under-resourced” manufacturers, some of whom are new on the scene and are rolling out “dazzling” new products with low price points but aren’t in a position to provide an adequate “logistical chain” for repair parts and general warranty. Molino, as a result, warned dealers to “be careful who you deal with.”
- The very survival of key industry components, including the dealer association itself, which, like RVIA, has been dipping into its reserves to sustain itself. “We have been spending money we’ve put away to spend for a rainy day over the last couple of years, and, boy, if it isn’t raining now, I’d hate to see when it is. So, we are spending some of that money. But we are in good financial condition.”
“Believe it or not, as weird as it may seem, the government we have in place right now is pro-RV,” he added. “It could be a lot worse. It could be like the Carter administration where RVs were portrayed as the enemy. We don’t have that now, and that’s good. And for that we have to thank the great PR effort on the part of RVIA and Mr. (Gary) LaBella here.”
Molino also credited the ongoing efforts of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the northern Indiana congressman who has been a “major player” in consistently stepping up and supporting the industry throughout the “Great Recession” in its efforts to secure financing alternatives.
“But it hasn’t worked yet,” he said. “and we’re still trying to figure out why, and there are people in government trying to figure out why. If you guys see that it’s working, please tell us because we’re looking for signs of that. But right now, the banks aren’t lending.”
Molino said there are indeed signs of increasing credit availability.
“But it’s not as good as it was before (the credit crunch,” he said.
“And until it gets better, the industry’s recovery is going to be slow. So, you’ve got to talk it up to your congressmen and senators and bankers. Try to find out what the problem is. You know, the government is making their money available — and insuring the money — and yet we can’t get it out there to the consumer and to the dealer.”
Broward County, Fla., RV dealer GiGi Stetler has drawn inquiries from hundreds of distressed RV dealers and appears to be making some progress with her lawsuits against financial institutions, claiming overcharges on the interest dealers have had to pay for floorplanning.
Stetler is the owner of RV Sales Broward in West Palm Beach and Davie. Her lawsuits against major RV lenders claim that they’ve unfairly charged dealers interest on inventory, long before dealers’ inventory arrived on their lot. Stettler is not mentioning the lenders’ names.
Like many other RV dealers, Stetler says, “I was getting invoiced for units 10, 20 and 30 days before I ever received them. And, very often, when you get the unit, it needs extra work before you can sell it. So you’re also forced to pay interest until it’s even ready to sell.”
Stetler cited one motorhome “that came in leaking. I was stuck with it, and paid $32,000 in interest before it was finally returned to the factory. The factory sent somebody down here three times to fix it. They finally agreed to take it back, but never reimbursed me the $32,000 in interest.”
Time lags between ordering and receiving units are normal. A manufacturer typically requires several days to complete a unit and turn it over to a delivery company that, depending on how busy it is, may require up to 30 days to deliver that unit to the dealer’s lot.
Stetler says dealers are fully aware of the time lags in getting units, but that the ambiguity of key contract language makes it impossible for dealers to accurately account for such delays in calculating interest. According to dealer security agreements, interest begins on the invoice date. “But nobody has been able to define ‘invoice date,'” Stetler says. “Nobody knows whether it’s shipping date, ordering date, building date. It’s whatever they feel like putting on invoice. That’s the problem.”
One dealer, who requested anonymity, said it was up to the dealership to reconcile the monthly bank statement to its inventory. “If you’re hit with an interest statement on a unit that you never got until 30 days later, you have to be proactive and tell the lender ‘you can’t bill us until this hits the ground,'” he points out, while noting the variances in dealer and lender practices in the industry.
But Stetler says she did catch it on the very first statement. She says she started protesting unfair floorplanning practices, beginning in August 2005 and continually got the runaround when seeking reimbursement, with manufacturers and lenders each telling her to talk to the other.
Stetler adds that, in 2007, when she finally threatened to switch lenders, a representative of her financing institution agreed to change her plan. “What we agreed on saved me $25,000 a month in interest. Over a period of two years, it (the previous plan) had cost me $600,000 in overcharges. They told me to chalk it up to the cost of doing business, and said I was one of only four dealers they’d made these concessions to.”
Currently, Stetler is operating without benefit of floorplanning, having lost her two lenders. She operates by paying cash for units at auctions, a few at a time, and from consignments and rentals. Floorplanning normal inventory would be self-defeating, anyway, she adds: “When my floorplanning was pulled, I was losing deals like crazy because the very financial institutions I was doing business with were selling $90 million worth of inventory through the auctions, which they were buying back (from distressed or failed dealers) for $50,000 and $60,000 less than I could sell them for.”
Stetler says discussions are taking place with lenders in her suits. She’s seeking a refund of all the interest overcharges to every dealer, and says whatever concessions she obtains will apply to even those dealers who have gone out of business. She adds that she’s fully aware of – and prepared for – a long, drawn-out legal battle due to the enormity of the stakes, potentially billions of dollars.
Based on dealer responses, many others share her views. Stetler says she’s gotten 480 e-mails and over 100 phone calls from dealers since initiating her lawsuits, “97% of them in the same boat I’m in. They’ve had time floor checkers doing inventory and found units they were being charged for before they arrived from the factory.”
The issue of when dealers begin paying floorplan interest has been ongoing, as Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), Fairfax, Va., points out. So too, have “a number of issues with regard to the contracts that dealers have with lenders.”
RVDA Legal Council Brock Landry recently reviewed several dealer financing agreements and also noted several RV dealers who said they had negotiated acceptable agreements with their lenders
Overall, says Landry, dealer agreements “run the gamut from extremely one-sided, unreasonable agreements putting all of the risk with the dealer to those that are somewhat more reasonable (although as with most financing agreements, the balance is usually in favor of the finance company). I would urge all RV dealers to have these agreements reviewed carefully by their counsel.”
There are a number of provisions found in these agreements which could have “harsh and unfair results for the dealer,” he adds, citing the following examples:
- Some of the agreements permit the finance company to sign the dealer’s name on any document it deems necessary to fulfill the objectives of the agreement.
- Another agreement allows the financing to be placed back with the dealer if the manufacturer does not perform its obligations.
- Some agreements require the dealer to warrant that the purchaser is of legal age and has other qualifications rather than using its best efforts to determine this.
- Some provisions regarding dealers repossessing the units are also very harsh.
“I hope these examples will highlight the need for careful review of the contracts and a full assessment of the contractual obligations that the dealers are undertaking when they enter into these arrangements. The fine print can lead to some real problems,” Landry concludes.