frvta-logoThere are a lot of positive signs out there in the marketplace right now, Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino told attendees Saturday (Sept. 12) during the general session of the 29th Annual Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) Convention — including plant openings in Elkhart, a drop in the once-burgeoning level of distressed U.S. RV inventories and positive late season occupancy reports from many campgrounds.

But it wasn’t really news to any of the 175 individuals in attendance at FRVTA’s Sept. 11-13 meetings at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs that the industry continues to face a difficult time.

“It’s tough out there right now,” said Molino. “The most impressive thing I’ve seen is those who are here today and the fact that when we budgeted for the dealer attendance at our convention, which is coming up Oct. 6 in Las Vegas, we budgeted what we thought was a reasonable number. And the dealers have already exceeded that in their registrations.”

Molino, moreover, mirrored general industry sentiment in saying that he looks forward to a better business atmosphere next year. “We’re going to have a good year in 2010,” he said. “It may not be a great year, but it’s certainly going to be a good year, and its certainly going to be better than 2009. So, let’s all look forward to that.”

In remarks preceding those of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Vice President Gary LaBella’s, Molino said a recent survey of RVDA’s membership revealed that retailers aligned with the national dealer association expressed three main areas of concern:

  • Perhaps the most serious among RVDA’s members is the continuing scarcity of credit. No matter what RVDA tries to do at the national level in concert with a variety of other national associations in this and other allied fields — including RVIA — to try to lobby for legislation that would help dealers and the industry, it simply hasn’t resulted in the hoped for result of an easing in financing. “We worked on things called TARP, TALF and the SBA prgram — three major programs to help get financing for consumers and for dealer floorplans,” said Molino. “Nothing’s been successful on the implementation, and we’re still trying to find out why.”
  • “Under-resourced” manufacturers, some of whom are new on the scene and are rolling out “dazzling” new products with low price points but aren’t in a position to provide an adequate “logistical chain” for repair parts and general warranty. Molino, as a result, warned dealers to “be careful who you deal with.”
  • The very survival of key industry components, including the dealer association itself, which, like RVIA, has been dipping into its reserves to sustain itself. “We have been spending money we’ve put away to spend for a rainy day over the last couple of years, and, boy, if it isn’t raining now, I’d hate to see when it is. So, we are spending some of that money. But we are in good financial condition.”

“Believe it or not, as weird as it may seem, the government we have in place right now is pro-RV,” he added. “It could be a lot worse. It could be like the Carter administration where RVs were portrayed as the enemy. We don’t have that now, and that’s good. And for that we have to thank the great PR effort on the part of RVIA and Mr. (Gary) LaBella here.”

Molino also credited the ongoing efforts of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the northern Indiana congressman who has been a “major player” in consistently stepping up and supporting the industry throughout the “Great Recession” in its efforts to secure financing alternatives.

“But it hasn’t worked yet,” he said. “and we’re still trying to figure out why, and there are people in government trying to figure out why. If you guys see that it’s working, please tell us because we’re looking for signs of that. But right now, the banks aren’t lending.”

Molino said there are indeed signs of increasing credit availability.

“But it’s not as good as it was before (the credit crunch,” he said.

“And until it gets better, the industry’s recovery is going to be slow. So, you’ve got to talk it up to your congressmen and senators and bankers. Try to find out what the problem is. You know, the government is making their money available — and insuring the money — and yet we can’t get it out there to the consumer and to the dealer.”