Editor’s Note: The following is a letter from Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association President Phil Ingrassia offering an overview of Tuesday’s elections and initiatives moving forward.
Tuesday’s election results maintain a political status quo in Washington – with the White House and U.S. Senate controlled by Democrats and the U.S. House of Representatives led by Republicans.
In the short term, Congress and the president have only 49 days to reach consensus on billions of dollars in automatic tax hikes and federal spending cuts set to take effect in January. Congress is scheduled to return to Washington next week to work on the budget and the impending “fiscal cliff” issue.
In the long term, major issues that RVDA and its allies will continue to work on include:
• Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) – The election results mean the continuation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While RV and other motor vehicle dealers are specifically exempt from the bureau’s oversight, RVDA and its allies are deeply concerned that the CFPB will indirectly regulate RV dealer-assisted financing through joint rulemaking with the Federal Trade Commission. RVDA maintains that dealer-arranged financing is vital to the RV business, promotes competition, and provides multiple financing choices for consumers.
• Health Care – The election results mean that the health care overhaul will continue. Key provisions of the law go into effect in 2014, including a requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide affordable health insurance for their workers. What is not clear is how much that insurance will cost. Most states will set up exchanges where individuals and companies can buy coverage. RVDA members will be invited to participate in a free RV Learning Center webinar entitled”Employer Health Care Forecast — What’s Next for Health Care Reform and the Affordable Care Act” in December. RVDA will have more details on this event soon.
• State Issue – Right to Repair Passes in Massachusetts: Massachusetts Ballot Initiative 1 (Right to Repair) passed with 85% of the vote. The Right to Repair Ballot Initiative requires motor vehicle manufacturers to make diagnostic information on all makes and models of vehicles available to all citizens and independent repair shops. The ballot initiative definition of “motor vehicle” includes all RV types. Earlier this year, RVIA secured an amendment excluding all RVs from a compromise law negotiated by auto manufacturers and independent repair shops. However, the ballot initiative supersedes the enacted legislation. RVDA will work to clarify this issue’s impact on dealers.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) has endorsed TRA Certification International’s Certified Green RV program, adding the Elkhart, Ind.-based company’s program to its line of endorsed products and services for dealers.
TRA is the leading third-party green certification company and its Certified Green RV program measures, evaluates and certifies RV manufacturers and verifies vendors for energy efficiency and environmental friendliness.
“As an RVDA associate member, TRA has a long track record in the RV industry and its founder and president Tom Arnold is well-known for his expertise in RV standards circles,” said RVDA President Phil Ingrassia. “This endorsement will make it possible for dealers to help consumers make better informed decisions about their RV purchases, leading to increased customer satisfaction.”
Arnold noted, “We are extremely proud to have earned the RVDA endorsement and pledge to continue our company’s leadership role in evaluating and certifying construction practices that are not only easier on the environment, but more efficient for the companies producing RVs.”
For additional information regarding the TRA Green Certified RV program, and a list of manufacturers who have earned the TRA Green Certification, go to www.certifiedgreenrvs.com. To see a full listing of all RVDA-endorsed products and services, click here.
Some 320 dealers, sales managers and other employees participated in 10 brand committee meetings that took place on Oct.1-2 during the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, representing a 10% increase from last year.
According to a press release, brand committee attendance is limited to dealers who sell new units built by a particular manufacturer. The purpose of the meetings is to seek mutual solutions to issues that arise in the relationship between dealers and the manufacturers whose products they sell. The goal is to raise the level of customer satisfaction and, as a result, grow the industry.
Several manufacturers who participated in the meetings said they received valuable feedback from their dealers, which will help them improve operations and expand their market shares.
Brand committees meet in person during the annual convention and by teleconference when needed during other times of the year.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) named Jeff Hirsch as its a new chairman during this week’s RV Dealers International Convention/Expo in Las Vegas, which concludes today (Oct. 5). Hirsch is president of multilocation dealership Campers Inn headquartered in Kingston, N.H.
Speaking to convention attendees, Hirsch said he intends to emphasize the importance of RVDA membership. “One of my goals this year as your chairman . . . is to help RVDA continue to grow and evolve so that membership is seen as vital,” he said. “We need to reach out and connect with every dealer possible.”
Hirsch also expressed an interest in finding ways to reach the next generation of RV dealers by targeting younger executives and creating programs to serve their needs.
In a move to accommodate Second Vice Chairman Bob Been’s departure from the board due to an unforeseen family issue, Hirsch will serve for two years while Outgoing Chairman Andy Heck of Alpin Haus RV, Albany, N.Y., will remain on the board for another year.
Also, RVDA said that no first vice chairman would be named this year.
Other officers include: Second Vice Chairman John McCluskey, Florida Outdoors RV Center, Stuart, Fla.; Treasurer Brian Wilkins, Wilkins RV Bath, N.Y.; and Secretary Amy Pennington, RV Outlet Mall Georgetown, Texas.
Elected to serve on the RVDA board are Will Jarnot, Pleasureland RV Center Inc., St. Cloud, Minn., and Ron Shepherd, Camperland of Oklahoma, Tulsa.
Outgoing Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Andy Heck presented the Chairman’s Service Award to three dealers and one associate member on Oct. 3 during the RVDA’s annual meeting at the 2012 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo. In addition, Butch Thomas was presented with the prestigious James B. Summers Award.
According to a press release, the Chairman’s Service Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to RVDA and the industry and is presented at the chairman’s discretion each year.
Dealers receiving awards were Bob Been of Affinity RV Service and Sales, Prescott, Ariz.; Jeff Hirsch of Campers Inn of Kingston, Kingston, N.H.; and Tim O’Brien of Circle K RVs in Lapeer, Mich.
All three of the honored dealers have extensive records of leadership and service on RVDA boards and committees and Heck thanked them for their “incredible assistance” to him during a time when the organization was recruiting for and transitioning to a new president. “Since I was the chairman, I knew I could not work on the various issues that come with a change alone,” Heck said. “I looked to Bob, Jeff and Tim for support and guidance.”
Been has served as RVDA second vice chairman and as a board member in addition to leading the association’s Audit and Finance Committee. He is the chairman of the Keystone Brand Committee and is active in the Arizona RVDA.
Hirsch has served in every RVDA officer position and as New Hampshire state director. He was named to the board for the first time in the early 1990’s and was elected RVDA chairman during the Annual Meeting on Oct. 3, succeeding Heck.
Tim O’Brien was RVDA chairman from 2010-2011, served as past chairman for the last year and has held every officer position in addition to positions as an at-large delegate, Michigan state director, and chairman of the Industry Relations Committee.
Associate member Jim Musbach of The Coast Distribution System Inc. was honored for his strong support of RVDA programs over the years and his efforts to help make RVDA membership payment programs more flexible for some dealerships hit hard by the economic downturn. In addition, Musbach was noted for his arrangement of a special credit RVDA received that had the net effect of increasing RVDA’s revenue by $50,000 during the last fiscal year.
Thomas Earns James B. Summers Award
Thomas received the James B. Summers (JBS) award for 2012 at the RVDA Annual Meeting. He was honored for his long and close association with RVDA, including 30 years as a dealer member, service on the board and his current work promoting the value of the association to dealers.
After a successful career running an RV dealership, Thomas now serves the organization by making hundreds of phone calls to recruit association members. He played a key role in both the formation of the RV Rental Association and the Missouri RVDA.
“There are some people, when you see them or hear their name, you think R-V-D-A,” said RVDA President Phil Ingrassia. “For 30 years, Butch ran a successful RV dealership, until he sold the business in 2005. A master story-teller, there isn’t much Butch hasn’t seen happen in this business.”
Recounting Thomas’s recent contributions, Ingrassia said, “Butch understands the importance of being politically active and was part of the legislative effort to keep RV dealers out of the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
The JBS Award, created in 1986, is named in honor of RVDA’s second chief staff officer James B. Summers, who passed away in 2010. It is the highest award a member can receive for consistent and outstanding service to the association. The board of directors selects the winner each year by secret ballot from among nominations submitted by association members.
Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.), commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda in the port of Aden, Yemen, stopped by the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) headquarters in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 14.
According to a press release, Lippold was in the Washington area for media appearances, where he analyzed the recent uprisings in the Middle East and discussed his new book “Front Burner.” Lippold will sign copies of the book, which describes his efforts to prevent the Cole from sinking after the attack which killed 17 crew members, at the upcoming RV Dealers International Convention/Expo. Books will be available for purchase on Oct. 2 at the reception in the Expo at the Diversified Insurance booth, No. 411.
Lippold and his crew distinguished themselves by saving the American war ship from sinking during one of al Qaeda’s most brazen acts of terrorism prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
For complete details on the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, visit www.rvda.org.
RV manufacturer, supplier, dealership and association representatives serving on a Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)-Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) joint committee examining the calendar for national RV industry events are recommending that the National RV Trade Show take place as scheduled from December 2-4, 2014 in Louisville, Ky.
While advising no changes to the existing schedules for the National RV Trade Show or the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, the committee also recommended that RVIA and RVDA continue to gather more information from industry stakeholders about the timing of industry events.
In June, the RVIA board indicated it would consider moving the National RV Trade Show from late November/early December to a late September/early October time frame in 2014. The RVDA board indicated it would consider moving the RVDA Convention/Expo later in the year to accommodate the move.
“In the near term, it became clear that we need more information from manufacturers, dealers and suppliers concerning the industry event calendar before entering into any agreement to change the dates of the National RV Trade Show,” said RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore of Dicor Corp.
“Both organizations agree that facility and program commitments mean moving the dates for RVDA and RVIA events is not possible at this time,” said RVDA Chairman Andy Heck of Alpin Haus Inc.
In 2012, the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo is set for Oct. 1-5 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas while the National RV Trade show is slated to run Nov. 27-29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.
Things are looking up at El Monte RV – not that they ever really looked down.
Mike Dwan, the company’s national sales director, says he’s seen a big uptick in business over the past year, the Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News reported.
“Our rentals have always been good,” he said. “We might be up about 15% on rentals for this year over last year. But in terms of sales we’re probably up 40% over last year.”
Those numbers speak to a national trend.
The recreational vehicle sector measures its strength in shipments of travel trailers and motorcoaches from manufacturers to dealers. It’s been on the upswing since 2009, according to Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Through the end of May, RV shipments increased 8.6% to 127,454, compared with 117,352 in the first five months of 2011, he said.
For all of this year the association is forecasting a 6.9% increase in shipments to 269,700. That’s an increase of 62.8 percent from the recession low of 165,700 in 2009.
“It’s definitely on the rebound,” Ingrassia said. “RVs are a discretionary purchase. One of the things we look at is consumer sentiment. When consumer sentiment takes a dive, usually RV shipments drop as well.”
Camping trailers dominate the market, but coach sales have been on the rise, too.
Dwan said there’s been a lot of pent-up demand among consumers to buy RVs.
“People are tired of sitting on the fence and waiting for the government to stop playing their games,” he said. “They are out, and they’re spending some money.”
And when people are spending, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some of the lowest prices around. El Monte RV is primarily an RV rental business, but the company does sell used vehicles at a big discount.
“We sell nothing but used units,” Dwan said. “We have roughly 1,600 units in inventory nationwide, so our national business is off the charts. Our units are anywhere from a third to half off of what a new vehicle would cost.”
The increasing health of the industry is also reflected by the fact that Airstream Inc. opened a new Airstream Los Angeles dealership in San Gabriel just two months ago.
The dealership, at 1212 E. Las Tunas Drive, offers a variety of the stylish, aluminum-skinned vehicles.
Ken Baker, the facility’s general manager, said Airstreams have a special place in the RV world.
“There is not another RV built like an Airstream,” he said recently. “They have easy towability, they’re stable on the road and they are aerodynamic.”
They’re also well made. Before leaving the production floor, every Airstream spends 40 minutes under 100 pounds per square inch of water pressure in a special booth to ensure that it’s water-tight.
The RVDA does a dealer census every five years and there were 3,000 nationwide in 2007. He expects the figure to be significantly lower when the 2012 figure is released, though business is starting to recover.
“Now we’re seeing some expansion and consolidation. We’re not seeing dealers close like they did in 2008 and 2009,” Ingrassia said.
Following yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the federal health care reform law, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) said in the latest RV Executive Today Online that it will be monitoring important developments and keeping its members informed.
While the effects of the ruling are being analyzed, RVDA members who are looking to adjust or implement health care coverage can contact RVDA’s endorsed health insurance consultant, Mass Marketing Insurance Consultants Inc. (MMIC), at (800) 349-1039 or visit their website.
MMIC contracts nationally with a number of health insurance companies to provide a variety of benefits. MMIC creates customized insurance programs for individual dealerships, rather than being limited to plans from one insurance company. Coverage is available to individual members and to firms with two or more employees.
With group coverage, all active full-time employees — including owners, partners, and officers — are eligible. Spouses and dependent children are also eligible to apply, with some exceptions.
The cost of the coverage for the RVDA program may be paid in whole by the employer or shared with the employees. However, the employer’s contribution must be at least 50% of the total cost.
The RV industry has launched a major redesign of the www.rvtechnician.com website. The new site consolidates and updates information that had previously been available on the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and RV Learning Center sites.
“RVTechnician.com is now the major source of information for technicians who are interested in certification, are looking for continuing education opportunities, or need to get recertified,” said RVDA-RVIA RV Service Technician Certification Governing Board Chairman Marty Shea of Madison RV Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Features of the new site include:
• Easier navigation for technicians and their managers to find the basic information to get started on certification or get recertified.
• Complete information on the RV Technician Career Ladder and a Frequently Asked Question section.
• Information on training opportunities and links to the RV Training Calendar.
• Links to download free copies of the new Certification Study Guides.
• Links to a new Certified RV Technician promotional video, dealer testimonials about the value of certification, and a gateway link to the Certified RV Technicians Facebook page.
“RVIA and RV Learning Center staff worked together to build the site,” said Governing Board Vice Chairman Jeff Rutherford of Carefree of Colorado. “It was a team effort to compile all the information based on RVIA and RVDA’s staff experience with common questions about the program from technicians and service management personnel.”
RVIA provided website design, video production and technical support funds as well as extensive staff support. The RV Learning Center provided the web site licensing fees that allow the site to be built on a state-of-the-art content manager platform and staff support.
The RVDA-RVIA Service Technician Certification Program is designed to assist the RV industry and the public in identifying those professionals who have demonstrated the knowledge and ability to satisfy established standards in RV diagnostic and repair procedures, as adopted by the Governing Board. The program tests and certifies only individuals; not dealerships, companies, or other types of business entities. For more information, visit www.rvtechnician.com.