Parts and service availability were the hot topics as 11 industry leaders took part in an unusual audience participation panel discussion during the Texas Recreation Vehicle Association’s (TRVA) annual convention Aug. 11-14 at the Marriott Plaza in San Antonio.
“Those were the big issues, along with efficiency,” said Clark McEwen, TRVA executive director, noting that some 325 people registered for the convention, the largest number in TRVA history. “Socially and educationally, it was a giant success.”
Panelists for the hour-and-a-half discussion on the convention’s last day were Brad Albrechtsen, CEO, National RV Holdings Inc.; Bruce Hertzke, chairman and CEO, Winnebago Industries Inc.; Larry Huttle, chairman, Airstream Inc.; Stan Sunshine, president and CEO, Stag-Parkway Inc.; Don Clark, executive vice president of sales, Keystone RV Co. Inc.; Jim Sheldon, special assistant to the CEO, Monaco Coach Corp.; Michael Bear, vice president of sales for Coachmen Recreational Vehicle Co. LLC; Derald Bontrager, COO, Jayco Inc.; Chris Braun, executive vice president, Fleetwood Industries Inc.’s RV Group; Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA); and Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Fielding questions regarding the industry’s current quality initiative were Sheldon, co-chairman of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence, and Hertzke, outgoing RVIA chairman, as well as Coon and Molino.
“We told them that there are five different areas that are being looked at and that we are going to go through them and recommend the best practices that are being used in many of those areas,” Hertzke said. “It will be up to the individual manufacturers to decide whether they want to use them.”
In regard to technician training, Coon reported that RVIA recently began offering web-based certification training and that technical manuals for classes are being rewritten.
Drawing techs to the industry also is a concern. “One of the things we are looking at is marketing programs specifically to get people to come into the industry,” said Coon.
The convention featured two mornings of educational seminars on improving efficiency and profitability in parts and service departments; using mediation techniques to deal with difficult customers; operating the back office; and maximizing the profit potential relationship between sales and F&I.
In his keynote address Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, a businessman who counts a Weatherford, Texas, Airstream dealership among his holdings, talked about the things that Texas is doing to improve the Lone Star State’s business climate.
At the keynote dinner, meanwhile, Forest River Inc., donated a travel trailer to the Texas State Technical College’s RV Maintenance Program. And Al Altmer of Sunbelt RV, Belton, was elected TRVA president during the association’s annual meeting that concluded the convention.