Darrel Friesen

Editor’s Note: The following column appearing in the March issue of RV Executive Today by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Darrel Friesen addresses the importance of the “dealer-manufacturer relationship” in handling after-the-sale service and warranty work.

The first quarter is almost over, and early reports indicate that the industry should be on pace to exceed last year’s 40-year high. All segments of the industry are coming together to help improve the long-term prospects of the RV business through marketing promotion, facility expansion, and hiring more people. This is all great news.

As we move forward as an industry in these good times, I believe we need to maintain our focus on service after the sale – especially after the initial sale. We need to remember that customer service and warranty service must be a mutual commitment between manufacturers and dealers.

Every type of business nationally has a problem finding and recruiting qualified people. The need is especially critical in technical fields, including all types of mechanics.

As full-service dealers, we have an obligation to recruit, train, and encourage our technicians to become RVDA-RVIA certified so that they repair our customers’ units and perform manufacturer warranty work with a high degree of confidence and to high standards.

The technical training that most manufacturers expect from dealers costs thousands of dollars per technician, and the tradeoff for this investment and commitment is that the manufacturers pay dealers their posted labor rate. No more, no less.

Most of the time that tradeoff works reasonably well. However, when uncertified repair shops are authorized to do warranty work, the whole covenant between manufacturers, dealers, and consumers can break down.

Dealers invest tens of thousands of dollars annually to build consumer trust, to comply with federal rules and regulations, and to outfit their repair shops with the latest technologies. It is frustrating to then see RV manufacturers pay undereducated and unlicensed repairmen for warranty work that dealers are authorized and required to provide. Authorized dealers are in the best position to service the brands they sell. In some states it is illegal for a manu- facturer to have anyone other than a certified dealer of that product to do warranty work.

The dealer-manufacturer relationship works. Dealers should sell and service, and manufacturers should build the product and provide after the sale service support. RV manufacturers are profitable, unlike Tesla in the automotive industry, which seems intent on altering retailing and service in the auto business.

We have come a long way and are maturing as an industry. We should all keep our eyes on long-term goals and customer satisfaction and not just on turning a quick buck. I encourage all of us to increase customer satisfaction as an industry and not give consumers an excuse to spend their discretionary dollars elsewhere.