The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board of directors Thursday (April 1) will discuss reducing the seal fees members are charged for each unit they build. In addition, it will consider reopening discussions with the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) about a possible merger or reunification.
Originally scheduled for Feb. 11, the meeting at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C., was postponed by a snowstorm that buried the East Coast.
”I think it’s going to be an upbeat meeting from the standpoint that the industry is doing a lot better than a year ago or even when we met in Washington in June for Committee Week,” said RVIA Chairman Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive.
The fact that the RV industry appears to be in recovery mode following the worst economic slump in 30 years has prompted consideration of reduced seal fees. February wholesale shipments were the best they’ve been in nearly two years, and seasonally adjusted, represented an annualized total shipment rate of more than 231,000 units.
RVIA’s board last June increased the portion of the seal that goes directly to the organization — as opposed to supporting the industrywide Go RVing Coalition — from $4 to $35 per unit.
”At that time, the association was bleeding money,” Sheldon said. ”At the same time, the members didn’t want us to throttle back on dealing with the issues of concern to the association. We needed something to shore up our reserves, particularly because of what we thought would be reduced levels of show revenues from the Louisville and Pomona shows.”
With shipments increasing and retail RV sales recovering, at least to some degree, Sheldon said, the board will consider reducing the seal fee.
”Rather than saying that the new fees are the new paradigm, the board will be looking to see if we can reduce that fee somewhat because we are doing well.”
A recommendation on whether to reduce the seal fee will be made to the full board by the RVIA Executive Committee that will meet Wednesday.
Sheldon said he couldn’t say whether the board will vote to reduce the seal fee. ”I don’t want to second guess the board,” he said.
Surprisingly, the on-again-off-again question of whether RVIA and RPTIA will reunify follows a vote by RPTIA members to overturn a RPTIA board decision last November to ”cease all negotiations” with RVIA.
The talks had been going on for a year and their abrupt cancellation came as a surprise to RVIA.
Bill Garpow, RPTIA executive director, said the second vote occurred after some members argued there ”hadn’t been a straight up-or-down vote” on the question during initial balloting.
”We are saying that we would like to continue the discussions,” Garpow said. ”It was not a vote on whether we will merge with (RVIA) or reunify with them.”
Recreation park trailer manufacturers were RVIA members until October 1994 when they left the organization and formed their own group based in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Ga.
”(RVIA President) Richard Coon and I are both pleased that they have rethought their position and that they want to reopen the negotiations,” Sheldon said. ”Our board is already on the record of wanting to listen to what they have to say.”
RPTIA President Curt Yoder, vice president and co-owner of park trailer manufacturer Kropf Industries Inc., will speak to the RVIA board about reopening negotiations.
Also at the board meeting, reports on the association’s activities will be given by Sheldon and Coon, while RVIA Treasurer Bob Olson of Winnebago Industries Inc. will review the association’s financial standing and present the Audit Committee’s report for fiscal year 2009.
Also planned is a look at the RV market’s future from RVIA Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan, a report on RV Centennial activities from RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella and an update on legislative issues from RVIA Vice President of Government Affairs Dianne Farrell.
The Pennsylvania Recreational Vehicle and Campground Association (PRVCA) will hold a drawing May 5 for manufacturers, suppliers and seminar sponsors planning to attend the 41st Annual RV and Camping Show Sept. 14-20 in Hershey, Pa.
”We are probably going to be down a little as far as manufacturers are concerned, but so far, we’ve only had one company say that they weren’t going to be here,” said Heather Leach, PRVCA director of education and marketing.
”The main thing is that we are trying to remain optimistic and we are hearing from our dealers lately that things are picking up. We are taking that as a good sign.”
Last year about 60 dealers displayed product from 74 manufacturers, while retail attendance was 27,838 – down 11.6% from 2007.
Sept. 14-15 have been set aside as trade-only days,
In deference to the soft RV market, just as it did last year, PRVCA will allow manufacturers to display 20% of units from the 2009 model year. However, with that option available last year, fewer than 5% of RVs on display were 2008 units.
“It’s hard to say how many people will take advantage of that option this year, but they seem to like to have it,” Leach said.
Entertainer Bowzer from the ’70s acapella group Sha Na Na will perform Sept. 14 for trade members with Bowzer’s Rock & Roll Party.
Sales trainer Randy Sobel will be featured speaker during an opening breakfast Sept. 14 for trade members and retired Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steeler running back Jerome Bettis will speak on “Choices that Make Champions” during breakfast Sept. 15.
Other trade seminar subjects will include distance learning for technicians by Gary Bunzer and park trailers in campgrounds by Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).