J.D. Power and Associates’ yearlong drive to launch an independent, third-party consumer-satisfaction study for the RV industry hit a roadblock a few months ago, as efforts to compile a viable database came up short.
Recently, however, the Thousand Oaks, Calif., marketing research company has bolstered its sample pool by enlisting the assistance of the Good Sam Club, the industry’s largest consumer organization.
“The bottom line is that we weren’t able to recruit enough people to participate with our own database,” said J.D. Power Partner Linda Schulz, noting the company initially solicited participation through six RV consumer-related websites. “We didn’t feel that we had a strong enough base of consumers to produce a marketable tool for OEMs and also give value to consumers making a buying decision.
“We now have an understanding with the Good Sam Club. They are going to supplement our online panel with their own online panel. This will give us a much broader sample that will yield enough viable data to conduct our study.”
“We will be participating by providing names to J.D. Power,” Good Sam Club Executive Director Sue Bray said. “Once the study is complete, J.D. Power will exclusively provide us with the information to publish on our website.”
The Good Sam Club is a division of parent company Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), Ventura, Calif. AGI also owns TL Enterprises Inc., publisher of RV Business.
Schulz said J.D. Power was hoping to have the survey “deployed” to consumers by mid-November and anticipated six to eight weeks for responses. “Ultimately, we are looking at having a report completed for publication by the end of the first quarter in 2005,” she said. A questionnaire also has been sent out to manufacturers for input.
Schulz acknowledged that the sample’s size may have grown with Good Sam’s inclusion, but the study’s focus has been significantly pared down. Originally, J.D. Power set out to rate and compare all types of RVs for model years 2000 to 2004.
“Now our target is motorized vehicles, Type A and Type C for 2003,” she said. “I’m confident we will do well with Class A. Class C is on the cusp, just because there are fewer numbers.
“Our scope will be the same as before,” she added. “We will be looking at the entire consumer experience, starting with the purchase to aftermarket service. We will be gathering information on the quality and functionality of the RV.”
J.D. Power’s brand is associated with a variety of markets, including marine and most notably the auto industry. The company publishes ratings of manufacturers for consumer review while also selling detailed reports to OEMs. Top-rated manufacturers can purchase the rights to use their No. 1 rating for promotional purposes.
“With other industries, we have been able to secure names through a third-party source,” she said, citing the Polk Co., a leading supplier of marketing information to the auto industry. “The Polk Co. gathers information through vehicle registrations. But currently they don’t maintain a list for RVs. It became a significant challenge to get enough survey participants.”
In 1999, J.D. Power was hired by the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence to conduct a proprietary study, which was distributed to manufacturers but not the public. Go RVing awarded the contract to RoperASW in 2001, and recently approved another study by Roper for 2005.