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Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), told a gathering earlier this month that he believes manufacturer/dealer relations “are really improving.”
And Molino told the Florida RV Trade Association that the relationship is improving because “more dealers are taking the initiative to communicate with manufacturers at the top level, and more manufacturers are becoming more receptive and understanding of the dealer as a critical part of this (sales) process.”
Molino said he noticed “a complete turn on the part of manufacturers” which was indicated by certain manufacturers deciding to sell their company-owned dealerships. The unpleasant experience Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. has had the last few years in manufactured home retailing apparently reenforced the view that the manufacturers are better off relying upon independent dealers to sell their products, he added.
“They (manufacturers) are realizing that good warranty and parts policies make for good relations,” Molino continued. “If a dealer is provided enough money and an opportunity to make a little bit of a profit, a reasonable profit on warranty work, that’s good for the dealer, it’s good for the manufacturer and it’s great for the customer. And that just keeps compounding itself because the customer says good things about the industry and the product.
“It’s when we’ve got really tight warranty policies where people are spending more time checking on each other and accusing each other and pointing fingers and penciling down, and not paying what it would take for a dealer to do that same work for a paying customer, that we have problems,” Molino said. “Manufacturers understand this now, a lot more than the did in the past, and you see better manufacturer warranty programs than you’ve ever seen, and that shows us we’ve got great potential for the future.”
Molino emphasized that he believes, “It’s the communication by the dealer that’s making this work. I talked to a lot of dealers who used to complain about the fact that nobody listened to them at the manufacturer level. And who were they talking to? They were talking to the poor sales rep whose whole life depends on you (dealers) buying more units. That sales rep is not the person to talk to. That sales rep is not going to go back and tell the CEO or the plant manager that there’s a real problem with quality. It’s when you pick-up the phone and you call and talk to Kay Toolson, Bruce Hertzke, Claire Skinner and the other CEOs, that’s when you get the message across.”
During the industry’s early years, Molino said manufacturer/dealer relations were “one-on-one, John Hanson knew everybody and Tom Corson knew everybody and John Crean knew everyone. The dealers knew who their manufacturers were and there was a relationship. (But) we will never see that return because we just don’t have that level of business dealings any more, there’s too many lawyers involved.
“But dealers who communicate directly with the top level managers get better results,” Molino said. “And they’ll listen to you. I don’t care how much of their product that you sell. They’ll listen to you because they’re interested in your views. So, give ‘em a call. You’ll get some good dialog and response, you’ll get to see things from a different perspective and they (manufacturers) will learn a lot about dealers from talking to you all.”