Affinity Group Inc.’s (AGI) Good Sam Authorized Dealer program has grown in the last six months from 14 to 37 dealerships and is clearly meeting the expectations thus far of the Ventura, Calif.-based corporation that introduced the concept to the market in 2004.
“The program has expanded pretty dramatically,” Scott Blanc, vice president of AGI’s Continued Service Plan Division, told RV Business, one of more than 40 recreation-oriented magazines published by AGI. “We have exclusive and protected territories for our dealers, with the goal to have one top-notch, dedicated Good Sam dealer in every major RV market.”
Another benchmark for the Good Sam Authorized Dealer program – yet another example of the kind of dealer alliances that have been changing the face of the RV retail sector in recent years – is the fact that N.A.D.A. Guides, a leading used vehicle service of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), in January began assigning 4% to 7% premiums for units sold through the authorized dealer networks’ Good Sam Certified Pre-Owned RV program.
A key component of the Good Sam Authorized Dealer network, the certified used program accounted for the sale of 1,180 RVs with a retail value of $96 million between October and the end of April, according to Blanc. In addition, plans call for a national advertising campaign to promote consumer sales by this summer of Good Sam financing, insurance and emergency roadside service.
“AGI has been offering these products directly to the consumer,” Blanc said. “Now, through this program, we are trying to utilize the considerable horsepower of the AGI database to drive the consumer to the dealer. It’s a shift in emphasis for us and a great opportunity for the dealer.”
Representatives of 10 dealerships affiliated with the Good Sam Authorized Dealer network met recently as a group for the first time April 25-26 at participant Beaudry RV, Tucson, Ariz., where AGI first tested the certified used program as a pilot program in 2002 before its official launch in late 2004.
“The main focus of the meeting was for the newer dealers to have an opportunity to see how Beaudry had integrated the program into their dealerships,” Blanc said. “Beaudry has completely embraced the program in all aspects of their business, particularly sales and F&I.”
In fact, Beaudry found that dealing with non-certified RVs “wasn’t worth the effort,” Blanc said, and now retails only towables and motorhomes that meet Good Sam certification standards. “The newer dealers will have to go through their own evolution like Beaudry did,” Blanc said. “They will see that certified vehicles are a true win-win — a more dependable RV for the consumer and a more profitable RV for the dealer.”
Blanc, commenting on the N.A.D.A. Guides sales premium, said Beaudry RV has experienced a premium of between 7% to 12% on the units it has sold.
The Good Sam Certified Pre-Owned program provides an “inclusionary” 60-day warranty on most mechanical systems that might go wrong in an RV – including drive train, driver’s compartment, air conditioning and heating and appliances. Under the program’s warranty, such items will be replaced by the dealer if they are found faulty. After the 60 days, the vehicle is pre-approved for an extended Good Sam Warranty that can be purchased by the consumer for up to 48 months.
When purchasing a certified unit, buyers also receive a bonus package that includes a one-year membership to the Good Sam Club, a 60-day membership in the Good Sam Emergency Roadside Assistance Program, a one-year Golf Card International membership and a one-year subscription to Highways and either Trailer Life or MotorHome magazines, along with a free copy of “The RV Handbook.”
Units are self-certified by dealers using an extensive checklist. To cover the cost of administering the program, dealers are assessed $275 for each motorized RV and $125 for each towable unit marketed under the Good Sam Certified Pre-owned program. “The dealers do their own inspections and their own repairs, and they are self-insuring the unit for the first 60 days,” Blanc said. “It is self-regulating.
“Our job,” he added, “is to promote the certified units and drive retail traffic to the dealership, which we do with a national advertising campaign in TL publications as well as online promotions.”
Pre-owned RVs can also be listed for free on AGI’s popular RVsearch.com website for the first year dealers are Good Sam Authorized Dealer members.