Although the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) Board is opposed to the practice, it has concluded, after receiving legal advice, that it cannot prevent manufacturers from introducing new model-year product “significantly in advance of the calendar year.”
Consequently, manufacturers would be able to show model-year 2005 units during the FRVTA’s Florida RV SuperShow in January, although the FRVTA Board believes such a move would be “detrimental to the industry as a whole,” according to the FRVTA position statement on the subject that was made available to RVBUSINESS.COM.
“It was decided that the (FRVTA) Board would encourage all manufacturers to display 2004 models at the 2004 Florida RV SuperShow (in Tampa Jan. 13-18),” according to the FRVTA board statement. “With that being said, the board recognizes the legal right of the manufacturer to introduce model years ahead of the calendar year and will not restrict their entry into the 2004 Florida RV SuperShow or into future SuperShows.”
The FRVTA board first examined the model-year issue to protect the manufacturers against dealers who might “try to slip in the previous year’s models” into the SuperShow, which is one of the industry’s most important retail shows, said Lance Wilson, the FRVTA’s executive director.
Meanwhile, the dealer body opposes early model-year introductions because it lowers the value of their recently purchased inventory.
However, after consulting with attorneys, Wilson said, “The overriding legal advice is we could get into a restraint-of-trade situation” by, for example, prohibiting a manufacturer’s dealers from selling 2005 models during January’s SuperShow.
Earlier this summer, Claire Skinner, Chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Board, told Georgie Boy Manufacturing’s dealers that early model-year introductions was “the most contentious issue” before the dealer body.
Skinner, who also is chairman, president and CEO of Coachmen Industries Inc., parent of Georgie Boy, said neither the RVIA, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) nor the federal government can mandate a model-year change date because it is considered “a point of competition.”
Although Coachmen is committed to starting the new model year in August, Skinner said, such a commitment on the part of other manufacturers has to be voluntary or else it would violate federal anti-trust laws.
Skinner also said she is “extremely sympathetic” with the dealers who are against early model-year introductions. But she added that if a manufacturer’s new model-year products ”lay an egg,” then she believes manufacturers need “to be able to correct those mistakes in order to be responsive to the customers.”
Better communication between manufacturers and their dealers would make the early model-year introduction controversy ”largely go away,” Skinner said.