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RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) continues to lobby – with considerable success — for industry-friendly franchise laws in many U.S. locales, RVIA Chairman Gregg Fore reported during RVIA’s Annual Meeting, March 4-9 at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Palm Springs, Calif.

RVIA’s staff last year worked on 49 franchise bills in 30 states, Fore, president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp., told some of the 160 people during the membership meeting. “That’s a lot, and RVIA was successful in most cases,” he said. “This year, we are working in 17 states on 20 franchise bills with outcomes still to be determined.

“In most cases these franchise laws are more geared toward the automotive industry,” said Fore. “Instead of trying to constantly amend franchise legislation to address RV industry concerns, we have shifted our approach to developing an alternative RV-specific franchise legislation that takes into account the differences between the automotive and RV industry business models. Working with dealers, we have been able to enact what we would term ‘fair’ RV-specific legislation in 15 states to date.”

Lemon Law legislation also continues to be one of the leading issues facing the industry, said Fore, adding that RVIA last year was involved in 10 bills in nine states, and none were enacted into law. “We are working on 10 Lemon Law bills in seven states this year to ensure fairness in this type of legislation,” he said.

Other relevant Annual Meeting topics:

• RVIA is opening an office in China to promote members’ efforts to do business in that burgeoning Asian nation, as previously posted on RVBUSINESS.com.

• RVIA and the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) announced an agreement under which park trailer manufacturers will be able to join RVIA as members, as reported March 7 on RVBUSINESS.com.

• Harmonizing Canadian and American standards remains a priority on which RVIA’s leadership and its Canadian counterparts plan to forge progress in 2012.

• Technician training and certification is a front-burner priority for RVIA and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), said Fore. This year, after a process of identifying barriers to delivering ongoing training to RV technicians, the industry unveiled a new training program that provides a career ladder giving technicians the option of two paths to certification.

• The association, from a fiscal standpoint, is debt-free and healthy. Treasurer Derald Bontrager, president of Jayco Inc., Middlebury, Ind., reported that 2011 revenues of $12.3 million, though off from $14 million in 2010, exceeded 2011 expenses of $11.8 million. This year’s budget, in turn, calls for revenues of $12.5 million against expenses of $12.65 million for a marginal deficit of about $195,000.

• Debate continues regarding the fate of national trade shows, a hot topic lately in RVIA and RVDA circles, although it wasn’t a decision item on the board’s agenda.

Meanwhile, in his turn at the podium during the membership meeting, RVIA Chairman Richard Coon pointed out just how much the recession has taken a bite out of the RV industry and, consequently, RVIA. While wholesale shipments slipped 32% since 2006, RVIA’s membership roster — including 98% of U.S. RV builders — slipped 28% since 2008 from 542 to 392. Manufacturing membership fell 39% from 108 to 66. RVIA’s Virginia-based staff, in turn, was cut from 61 to 47.

“By the way, if I had to guess about the manufacturing membership, I don’t think we’ll turn around and go back up,” Coon told RVBusiness. “I could be wrong, but I think you’ll see more consolidations continue versus more people (companies) coming in over the next five years.”