A northern Illinois-based RV-dealership buying group moved ahead in mid-January with a plan to sell a new kind of RV dealership franchise.

Family Tree RV Franchise Brand Management Inc., headed by Tom Enyeart, owner of Shabonnah Creek RV in Atkinson, Ill., has solicited 400 RV dealerships to purchase franchises.

Enyeart said the goal of the group, which is asking franchisees to pay a $49,900 annual fee and to make a minimum two-year commitment, is to ”level the playing field” with regard to the wholesale price RV manufacturers sell their products.

”We are going to use the collective of our dealerships to get the fairest price — not the lowest price,” Enyeart said.

Enyeart complained that some manufacturers sell units to large-volume wholesale buyers at thousands of dollars less than the cost to smaller stores, putting them at a major disadvantage.

”If manufacturers knew what was good for them, they would level the playing field themselves and there wouldn’t be a need for a collective buying group,” said Enyeart, whose 31-year-old dealership retailed $6 million in RVs in 2011.

Enyeart is president of the organization and his wife Vicky is vice president.

Dealerships that purchase Family Tree RV franchises would be required to change the name of their stores to reflect the Family Tree brand, pay the legal fees needed to establish a ”dba,” and buy uniforms and stationary.

”It will no longer be ‘Joe’s RV,”’ Enyeart said.

Family Tree Brand Management would provide a mixture of radio, online and cable TV advertising, initially on a regional basis, and, when the group has 150 members, nationally. Eventually, Family Tree dealerships would be offered collective employee benefits, insurance, wholesale financing and in-house warranties along with other products and services.

”It’s a remarkable deal,” Enyeart said. ”For most of us ($49,900) is chump change. Most dealers understand the big picture and will recoup the $49,900 by four or five times every year, easily.”

The only requirement to buy a franchise is that the dealership be ”genuine” with a building that provides service and sells parts.

Two manufacturers — Riverside Travel Trailers Inc., Peru, Ind., and EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC, Middlebury, Ind. — have agreed ”that they will provide us the best pricing on their product,” Enyeart reported, adding that he expects other manufacturers to follow suit.

Family Tree’s goal is to sell 50 franchises by June 1. ”We’re not certain we will attain it or not, but that is our goal,” Enyeart said.

Because of the legalities involved in selling franchises, none have been sold yet, he said.

”Shabonna Creek will probably become the first Family Tree dealership,” Enyeart said.