Intent on providing attendees with a highly informational format, the California Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (CalRVDA) covered a host of pressing issues impacting the state and national RV industries during the organization’s annual conference, held Feb. 20-21 at the Omni Hotel in San Diego.

“The feedback that I always hear from members is that the convention helps them get prepared for how to be more successful doing business in California,” said Terry McHale, CalRVDA executive director and legislative advocate for lobbying firm Aaron Read & Associates. “The convention helps them learn how to avoid the pitfalls. Without a doubt, the main focus is to have attendees walk away better educated and be more energized about their job.” 

Steve Richardson, president of CalRVDA and multilocation dealer Richardson’s RV Centers Inc., added, “We try to bring in speakers that cover important topics for our dealers. California is very regulated and it’s one of the most difficult states to do business with. One of our main goals is to help them navigate through that environment.” 

Preceded by a special sponsors reception on Wednesday (Feb. 19) and a golf tournament at Tory Pines the following morning, members gathered for the main session on Thursday, which featured a slate of speakers, including:

• Mark J. Jacobs, partner, Fisher & Phillips, spoke on California labor laws.

• Brad Stanek, Morgan Stanley, addressed dealer succession planning.

• RVDA President Phil Ingrassia offered an overview of the state of the RV industry.

• McHale reviewed legislation in California politics that affects dealer business.

“The presentation on labor laws was very well received,” Richardson told RVBUSINESS.com. “The laws keep changing on things like paying an hourly rate versus sales commission. Dealers have to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ’t.’ Mark Jacobs gave us a ton of great information.” 

McHale offered, “The main thing I really appreciate is that the sessions are handled almost like a roundtable discussion. Presentations are always followed by a Q&A, and it gives our members the opportunity to weigh in. I like to think of it as a more a studious approach.”

For his part, Ingrassia provided an overview of current market conditions and advocacy issues, including progress regarding outdoor recreation issues at the federal level, while also highlighting several RVDA member services.

He also shared an update on the industry’s Repair Event Cycle Time (RECT) project aimed at improving customer service. “Dealer management software providers are working on developing RECT reports for dealers and the industry to use to identify bottlenecks in the repair process,” Ingrassia said. “One of the leading providers, IDS, recently launched reports which dealers are using to detail their own RECT times.  The goal is to eventually measure overall industry RECT data.”

Perhaps the highlight of the event was the Dealers-Only Session, which not only continued the educational aspect of the convention, but also allowed for socialization and one-on-one networking with peers.

“Representatives from Jayco and Heartland were on hand, and one of the issues we focused on was getting parts in a reasonable time,” Richardson said. “We want to have the top 20 parts that have the highest failure rate on our shelves and ready to go. Heartland and Jayco said they can make that happen. We also discussed the Lemon Law and other warranty issues.”

Richardson also addressed the overall health of the RV industry, stating, “I feel the industry is still very strong. We keeping hear about all the negatives, but I don’t really see that. We are anticipating not having a lot of uptick in sales this year, but flat would be great. The last couple of years have been the best we’ve seen.”

The installment of new board members and executive positions were also held during the Dealers-Only Session. Executive positions include: 

Terry McHale, executive director

Joey Shields, president, Pan Pacific RV in Sacramento.

David Tenney, vice president, Mantica Trailer Sales.

Troy Padgett, secretary, All Valley RV Center.

Darrel Freisen, treasurer, All Seasons RV. 

New board members are:

Jason Leggitt, Discover RV.

Tom Horn, See Grins RV.

Norm Snider, Norm’s RV Inc.