“Rain in Phoenix? While they said it wouldn’t happen, fortunately we had an indoor plan locked and loaded,” said Route 66 partner and co-founder Dave Francis in a press release. “Regardless, those who attended not only enjoyed the Hyatt Gainey Ranch, but also left with a renewed understanding of ‘WE >ME’ and what role we all play in strengthening the Route 66 brand.”
The network’s lead announcement was about the creation of a new lifestyle documentary television series under the working title “RV There Yet? “
“This new, half-hour TV series will capture engaging stories from actual RVers to convey the importance of unplugging from ‘normal living’ and connecting with friends and family in an RV and the outdoors,” said Steve Francis, partner and co-founder of Route 66. “The show will be shot, directed and produced by Little Village Films, a Los Angeles-based film company that specializes in telling travel-related stories in an artistic, accessible and unique fashion. In addition, we’re very excited to welcome Jayco on board as one of the project’s title sponsors.”
Several other brand-related announcements included the introduction of the industry’s first stand-alone 24/7 technical support hotline called Route 66 Tech24. Also, the network’s proprietary website and software development company, Amdia Software, announced several new website features and support services to enhance the lead-generating performance of their network-exclusive dealer website platform. Route 66 also launched 2448 Productions, an in-house video production company, created to not only support network communications and branding efforts, but also serve the video needs of all dealerships in Route 66.
The network management team is closely supported by an active advisory board of North American dealers who are involved in all programs and efforts undertaken. The advisory board members for 2014-2015 include:
Steve Swanson – Hilltop RV Superstore (Michigan)
Jack Stewart – RV Connections (Florida)
Kevin Jones – Access RV (Utah)
Chris Hoover – Ron Hoover RV & Marine Centers (Texas)
Paul Gurtler – Clear Creek RV Center (Washington)
Lynn Butler – Setzer’s World of Camping (West Virginia)
Gloria Morgan – The Trail Center (South Carolina)
David Sothan – Apache Camper Center (Nebraska)
Brian Bent – Bent’s RV Rendezvous (Louisiana)
Troy Jenkins – Bish’s RV Super Center (Idaho)
Ken Friedenberg – Arrkann Trailer & RV Centre (Alberta)
Andre Levesque – Roulettes A.S. Levesque (Quebec)
Jason Johnstone – Smith’s RV Centre (Ontario)
ROUTE 66 noted in a press release that all locations did not represent new dealerships, but that the “aggressive expansion of our existing ROUTE 66 dealers in both the U.S. and Canada is a great sign of the times for both the network and the industry as a whole.”
“If you’re going to promise RVers that, ‘Wherever the road takes you … you can count on us,‘ you must be able to deliver on two major fronts,” said Rob Merrill, ROUTE 66 partner. “First of all, you must have service and parts store locations where RVers travel, and secondly, these locations must be a unified team of service-minded dealerships. While this was central in our original network vision, we’ve been very blessed watching it emerge over the last 11 years resulting in very satisfied RV customers.”
New locations include:
• Bent’s RV Rendezvous, Brian Bent, Boutte, La.
• Freedom RV, Devin Murphy, Tucson, Arizona.
• Freedom RV, Marana, Ariz.
• Hub City RV, Gord Bragg, Lantzville, British Columbia.
• Humphrey RV, Brad Humphrey, Grand Junction, Colo.
• Railside Sports & Marine, Jason Johnstone, Dreyden, Ontario.
• Rex & Sons RV, Rex Creech, Hampstead, N.C.
• Roulettes A.S. Levesque, Andre Levesque, Saguenay, Quebec.
“The strength of the ROUTE 66 RV Network is definitely in the sum of it’s parts,” said Dave Francis, ROUTE 66 partner. “As stand-alone dealerships, each member of the network team is well-respected in their market area for their unwavering attention to delivering excellent customer service. When traveling customers discover that they actually do experience the same high level of service at any of the other 155-plus locations they visit.”
Comments from dealers included:
• Brad Humphrey, owner of one of the network’s newest member dealerships, stated, “Located in Grand Junction on the western slope of the Rockies we have many traveling RVers pull into our dealership with a service concern either after coming through the mountains from the east or heading into the mountains from the west. Needless to say, service bay availability is at a premium. As a ROUTE 66 dealer we’ll prioritize those travelers who are customers of a network dealership because we know they’ll all do the same for our customers.”
• New dealer Devin Murphy offered, “RVing is a year-round activity here in Arizona. In fact, with the snowbird population that comes in from the northern U.S. states and Canada in the winter months, our service business never seems to slow down. Now that Freedom has joined ROUTE 66 we see ourselves on a team with the best dealers in North America who are ready and willing to serve each other’s customers to ensure they are the most satisfied RVers in the industry.“
“While there are certainly individual financial benefits for each network dealership through our 40-plus dealer programs, we look for dealers who are willing to adopt a network ‘We’ mindset alongside their Independent ‘Me’” said Merrill. “Those that internalize the ’We,’ realizing they’re stronger together, than they are apart, ultimately realize greater gain being a member of ROUTE 66.”
The ROUTE 66 RV Network, one of North America’s largest independent dealer network, experienced strong growth in the last 12 months, according to a press release.
“2013 was a very good year for the network and our member dealers,” said Dave Francis, a ROUTE 66 partner. “Not only did our dealers enjoy a healthy bounce in sales, but the network ‘s footprint of dealerships grew and the ROUTE 66 brand continues to gain value in the eyes of the RVing community.”
Aside from the first 10 Canadian locations that joined and were announced in January, 2013, ROUTE 66 has added 12 new locations in the last 12 months. This increase continues to strengthen the ROUTE 66’s ability to serve RV customers as they travel the highways of North America.
The latest dealership additions include:
• B&R Camper Sales – The Fisher Family – Theodore, Ala.
• Cold Springs RV Center – Scott Silva – Weare, N.H.
• Dreamchasers RV of Burlington – Raymond Goda – Burlington, Wash.
• George M. Sutton RV – George & Martha Sutton – Eugene, Ore.
• McGovern’s RV & Marine – Dwain & Val McGovern – Grande Prairie, Alberta.
• Roulettes A.S. Levesque – Andre Levesque – Ste-Helenes/Trios-Rivieres, Quebec.
• Outdoor Travel – Ken & Andy Whiting – Hamilton, Ontario.
Roulettes Gilbert – Andre Levesque – Chateauguay, Quebec.
• Smith’s RV Centre – Jason Johnstone – Thunder Bay, Ontario.
• Terry Frazer’s RV Center – Terry Frazer – Eldridge, Iowa.
• Thunder RV – Dan & Moneta Woollard – LaGrande, Ore.
“These dealerships are all built on the same foundation that our other 150 dealerships are built on – excellent customer service, quality products and high integrity,” said Rob Merrill, ROUTE 66 partner. “These are the qualities that not only set our dealers apart from the pack, but also define the ROUTE 66 RV Network.”
A couple of key initiatives that were launched this past year created two new branded programs, the ROUTE 66 RV Club and ROUTE 66 Roadside/Tech24.
Steve Francis, in his unique position of being both a ROUTE 66 dealer and network partner, noted, “When my dealership sells an RV, the customer is always very interested in how we are going to support them after the sale. Our network of dealers along with RV Club and Roadside/Tech allow us to offer them peace of mind, as well as money-saving benefits at KOA campgrounds, hotels, golf courses and other RV travel-related services. The very best part is that these customer benefits are unique to my dealership as a ROUTE 66 dealer.”
Since its formation in 2003, ROUTE 66 now sells nearly 40,000 units per year, has over 1,200 service bays/techs, and offers 41 custom programs that will positively impact a dealership’s bottom line in the areas of financing, insurance, service contracts and Internet services or parts. The ROUTE 66 RV Network, located in Overland Park, Kan., is comprised of over 155 full-service independent RV dealership locations in 42 states and provinces coast-to-coast.
The Route 66 RV Network drew 235 dealers and partners to its 10th Annual Rally in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 4-6. With nearly 155 locations in the United States and Canada, Route 66 has “grown well beyond the founding partners expectations,” according to a press release.
“In 2003, while laying the foundation for the network, we talked about how cool it would be to one day have 66 locations across the country,” said Route 66 partner Steve Francis. “Quite honestly, in those first couple of years the network grew so fast that no one even noticed when we blew by bringing on dealer No. 66.”
Partner Dave Francis noted, “The rally has evolved over the years into what feels like a large family reunion. These relationships between dealers, partners and the network’s management team are in large part why the network has enjoyed so much success. There’s a true sense of unity and partnership. In fact, many of the partners who attend the rally will say they really enjoy coming to this event and is one of the best and most productive marketing events they attend every year.”
With 34 network partners and the lion’s share of the network’s dealer principals from both the U.S and Canada present, the this year’s rally continued to “strengthen the ties that bind the network together,” according to partner Rob Merrill.
“While the what’s and how’s of the network have kept pace with our evolving industry over the last 10 years, our why’s have not changed,” said Merrill. “The network’s original vision and consumer promise of ‘Wherever the Road Takes You … You Can Count on Us’ remains the same. We continue to be a network of best-of-class dealers and partners focused of ensuring our customers enjoy the best RVing experience possible.”
During the gathering, Jim Rogers, CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), addressed the entire group in the rally’s opening session, highlighting KOA’s partnership with Route 66. “We couldn’t be more excited about our growing relationship with the Route 66 RV Network,” said Rogers. “As local Route 66 dealerships and KOA campgrounds begin working together, campers will quickly experience the benefits of these two brands aligned.”
In addition, several ROUTE 66 dealer principals shared their perspectives of being members of ROUTE 66, including:
• Randy Ketelsen, Ketelsen Campers, Wheat Ridge, Colo., stated, “It’s the best of the best … people who in their hearts have their customer’s best interest first. That’s the people I want my dealership to associate with.”
• Sylvia Thistle-Miller, Triangle RV, Sidney, British Columbia, said, “A lot of our customers go south, so being a part of a North American network with dealers who have similar business operations and ethics is really important and a huge bonus.”
• “We work better as a team. We’re all in this together,” saud John Meyer, Apache Village RV, Hazelwood, Mo.
• Randy Biles, Pikes Peak Traveland, Colorado Springs, Colo., noted, “Looking at the network dealer list, everyone of them is top notch. I’m not sure why any customer-focused dealer wouldn’t want to be a part of Route 66?”
Strengthening the Route 66 consumer brand and the many associated products continues to be a major focus for Route 66. Current members programs include: RV Club, Roadside/Tech24, Classic Coverage Extended Service Agreements, Certified Pre-owned RVs, Parts 66 Protection and RV Smart Sites.
“Looking ahead at the next 10 years, Route 66 is fully committed to continue growing our footprint of quality dealers throughout North America, strengthening our programs and relationships with our current and new supplier partners and ensuring our dealers’ customers are the most satisfied RVers on the road,” says Dave Francis. “We know that as a network we’re only as good as the company we keep, and we’ve been very blessed with a great team of dealers and partners.”
For more information contact Merrill at rmerrill@Route66RV.com.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada has agreed to partner with Danzy Distributors/Robert Thibert Inc. in Mercier, Quebec, to offer its growing team of RV dealerships a group buying program for parts and accessories.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to announce this new partnership with Danzy Distributors. Being our first in a number of Canadian partnerships we intend to forge, we were very impressed with the quality and professionalism of their management team,” said Dave Francis, ROUTE 66 partner. “After carefully evaluating our options, we concluded that Danzy’s nationwide sales and distribution system was extremely well suited to meet the current and future needs of our ROUTE 66 Canadian dealers.”
Marc Yvan Loiselle, sales director of Danzy’s RV division, noted, “We are proud and honored to be a partner with an organization like the ROUTE 66 RV Network. Through this relationship-building process we have learned that they share our same values and we are certain that both companies and all of their Canadian ROUTE 66 dealers will benefit greatly from this association.”
Francis said the partnership agreement goes into effect immediately and all ROUTE 66 dealership parts managers will continue to maintain their current Danzy sales representative relationship. Danzy will also participate in the 10th Annual ROUTE 66 Rally scheduled this fall in Texas.
Danzy is one of Canada’s largest RV parts and accessories distributors with sales and distribution warehouses coast-to-coast. The ROUTE 66 RV Network is North America’s largest network of independent RV dealerships with nearly 150 locations in 44 states and provinces
Partners from The ROUTE 66 RV Network held a meeting last week in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with a team of Canadian dealerships to finalize the formation and launch of the ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada.
“This is the network’s latest step in delivering on our consumer promise that ‘Wherever the Road Takes You … You Can Count on Us,'” said Rob Merrill, ROUTE 66 partner, in a press release. “Given the considerable amount of travel between Canada and the U.S., this move will ensure any ROUTE 66 customer who crosses the border will always have a friend they can count on.”
Two Canadian dealers will be taking lead roles in helping establish and grow ROUTE 66 in Canada – Sylvia Thistle-Miller, owner of Triangle RV Centre in Sidney, British Columbia, and Ken Friedenberg, general manager of Arrkann Trailer & RV Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. According to ROUTE 66, they have identified around 10 other dealers from across Canada who have expressed an interest to joining ROUTE 66 RV Network of Canada.
“Like the formation of the U.S. network in 2004, these charter dealers will be very instrumental in the direction and growth of ROUTE 66 across Canada,” said Dave Francis, partner at ROUTE 66. “We will work closely with them to define any Canada specific programs, as well as integrate the group with our roughly 140 U.S. ROUTE 66 dealer locations.”
Thistle-Miller of Triangle RV, 2012 British Columbia Dealer of the Year, said, “We’re excited about this opportunity to lock arms with ROUTE 66 in the states. It is not only a terrific opportunity for our dealership but it offers an unparalleled value to our traveling Canadian customers in terms of RV service and camping at KOA.”
Friedenberg added, “As far as I know, this is the first time in the RV industry that dealers have reached across the border to work together and serve one another’s traveling customers. It will not only benefit our dealership but also offer our customers great security and peace of mind when they RV in both the United States and Canada.”
Additional dealers will be added to the ROUTE 66 RV Network in Canada with the recommendation from these charter dealers and other member dealers. Each dealership’s territory will be clearly defined to ensure every dealership enjoys market exclusivity in offering the network’s dealer and consumer program benefits in the U.S. and Canada.
ROUTE 66 RV is planning to have an informational meeting in Louisville, Ky., during next week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., for those Canadian dealers interested in learning more about ROUTE 66 RV Network – Canada. For more information regarding the time and location of the meeting contact Merrill at (913) 908-3066 or rmerrill@Route66RV.com.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network presented Mark ‘Mick’ Ferkey, owner of Greeneway RV Sales & Service in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., with the 4th Annual Larry Coker Commitment Award at its recent 2012 rally held in Peachtree City, Ga.
According to a press release, the annual award is named in memory of Larry Coker, a long-time RV industry colleague and ROUTE 66 employee who unexpectedly passed away in February, 2009. “Larry was committed to making the vision of the network a reality,” said Rob Merrill, partner in ROUTE 66. “His faith, sense of humor, optimism, humility and dedication were evident to everyone he met.”
The Larry Coker Commitment Award is given to the ROUTE 66 RV Network dealer who best reflects “Coker’s total commitment to building the ROUTE 66 brand.” ROUTE 66 partner Dave Francis noted, “Greenway has been a member of the network for over six years and Mick, along with his entire team, deeply embrace what it means to be a ROUTE 66 dealer. Not only is that evident in the dealership’s culture and participation, but during a recent visit to the dealership I noticed as I stood in one place that I could count 28 ROUTE 66 shield logos in their parts store and showroom alone.”
Ferkey expressed his gratitude for the award, stating, “I am honored to be a ROUTE 66 dealer and humbled to receive this prestigious award. Larry was passionate about ROUTE 66 and the values it stands for. I am proud to be among dealers who share my values. While I certainly see my employees as family, I also view the people of ROUTE 66 as an extension of my family.”
In addition to the dealership recognition that this award delivers to the recipient, it also donates the dealership’s total annual network membership fee to a college education fund in their name to support Coker’s daughter who is currently a college freshman.
As a further reflection of Ferkey’s commitment to the ROUTE 66 family, after learning Stephanie Notter, a ROUTE 66 employee, had unexpectedly lost her husband, Rick, to a heart attack, he was moved to launch a fund to help her finish restoring a 1969 Firebird that they were working on. Learn more about the fund at www.RicksFirebirdFund.net.
The ROUTE 66 RV Network recently completed its 9th Annual Rally in Peachtree City, Ga., with network dealers and partners touting the gathering as “the best rally yet,” according to a press release.
Overland Park, Kan.-based ROUTE 66 reported that attendance at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center was over 200 strong, representing nearly 90% of the network’s dealerships and 30 vendor partners.
“Our rallies are designed to deliver good golf, good food and a great relationship-building opportunity for our dealer management teams and our partners,” said Rob Merrill, partner in the ROUTE 66 RV Network. “And this year you could sense a unity and commitment to the team like no other past rally.”
While many new programs and initiatives were launched during the Sept. 10-12 meeting, the major announcement was the partnership with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), as previously reported on RVBUSINESS.com.
Dave Francis, ROUTE 66 partner, noted, “Suffice it to say, you’ll be seeing the classic ROUTE 66 shield and famous yellow KOA logo together quite a bit in the months and years to come. When you pull the best and largest campground network together with the best and largest RV dealer network like we’ve done, you can’t help but positively impact an RVer’s overall experience and satisfaction.”
Lorne Armer, KOA’s vice president for brand development, attended the rally and addressed the dealers shortly after the formal announcement. “This partnership is a step in the natural evolution KOA has seen occur in camping over the last 50 years,” Armer said. “KOA and ROUTE 66 are always looking for new ways to evolve the industry forward to better meet the needs and serve today’s camper. Quite honestly, our challenge moving forward will be to determine what are the best of the great ideas on the table and focus our efforts there.”
Another major topic of conversation focused on the Internet side of a dealership’s operation. After two-plus years of intensive web development based on dealer input and fine-tuning, ROUTE 66 detailed the performance of its “RV SmartSites” web platform including visits, leads and sales generated.
Steve Francis, ROUTE 66 partner and RV dealer who has led the development of this proprietary platform, stated, “RVSS is doing exactly what is was designed to do for our network dealers who are currently on the platform. Nearly every critical analytic you track and evaluate is up at least 50% over last year’s numbers and still climbing.”
Other announcements during the rally related to the network’s expanding brand promise of “Wherever the road takes you … you can count on us” by introducing an enhanced ROUTE 66 RV Club and new Roadside/Tech24 program. Dealers were also offered a way to not only continue to increase their dealership’s program rebates but also maintain their participation as a branded ROUTE 66 dealer with no annual membership fee.
“The unanimous sense from this year’s rally was overwhelmingly positive,” said Merrill. “Everyone left Georgia with high expectations and an enthusiastic charge to make 2013 our best ever.”
The ROUTE 66 RV Network currently includes 140 dealer locations in 41 states. For additional information contact Merrill at (913) 317-6678.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the ROUTE 66 RV Network are partnering to extend benefits to members of both companies, according to a press release.
Under the new partnership, KOA’s 350,000 Value Kard Rewards Program members will receive 10% discounts on parts and accessories at all ROUTE 66 RV Network locations. In return, the more than 150,000 campers who carry the ROUTE 66 RV Network membership card will receive 10% discounts on camping at any KOA location.
In addition, KOA Value Kard Rewards members will have access to special monthly product offerings at Parts66.com, the online store for ROUTE 66 RV Network, as well as camping content and tips from the ScenicROUTEOnline.com website. KOA campgrounds will also be listed on ROUTE 66 RV Network websites and online applications.
All ROUTE 66 RV Network dealers will receive a KOA dealer kit that includes the KOA directory as well as other materials to distribute to members; free listings on the world’s most visited camping website, KOA.com; and integration with KOA’s growing online social media and KOA Kompass email newsletter communities.
“This is a great opportunity to expose both KOA’s and ROUTE 66’s services to customers that haven’t had access to before,” said KOA Vice President for Brand Development Lorne Armer.
Dave Francis, partner for ROUTE 66 RV Network, noted, “This is truly a win/win situation for both companies as well as all of our loyal guests and customers,” Francis said. “KOA and ROUTE 66 RV Network are a perfect fit.”
KOA is the world’s largest network of family-friendly campgrounds with 488 locations throughout North America. ROUTE 66 RV Network, with headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., has nearly 150 dealer locations in 41 states.
A slate of new programs and initiatives will be rolled out to an anticipated record attendance during the 9th Annual Route 66 Rally, which opens this evening (Sept. 10) at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center just south of Atlanta.
Route 66 partner Dave Francis reported that over 200 dealer personnel representing around 90% of the network’s dealer locations would be on hand for the event, which runs through Wednesday.
“We’re extremely excited about this year’s rally,” Francis said. “In addition to a ‘State of the Network’ report we will be announcing a number of new programs and initiatives set in place by the management team and the adviser’s board.”
Around 30 Route 66 “partners” will also be in attendance, representing service companies and suppliers that support the network’s programs.
“There will be a Partner Expo where dealers can interact with the different companies that support the network,” Francis said. “But the partners will also be involved in all of the activities planned during the rally.”
The annual golf outing will kick things off this afternoon. Francis said that in addition to daily meetings with dealers, several social events were planned.
“We have a full agenda,” Francis said. “The weather is beautiful and we’re looking forward to a great gathering.”
The ROUTE 66 RV Network has grown into a network of around 140 independent dealership locations in 40 states. For additional information on the Route 66 RV Network call Rob Merrill or Dave Francis at 913-317-6678.