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Six RV manufacturers have received 2002 Quality Circle Awards from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). Five of them received the coveted recognition last year from the national dealer group.
Repeat winners include KZ Inc., Shipshewana, Ind.; Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., Lancaster, Calif.; Newmar Corp., Nappanee, Ind.; SunLine Coach Co., Denver, Pa.; and Winnebago Industries, Inc., Forest City, Iowa. Tiffin Motor Homes, Inc., Red Bay, Ala., also received an award.
Fleetwood Folding Trailers, Inc., Somerset, Pa., was presented a special Quality Circle Division Award, while Home & Park Motorhomes, Kitchener, Ontario, received special recognition for a high score with fewer than 15 evaluations.
RVDA was to have presented its ninth annual Quality Circle Awards to manufacturers during the 40th annual National RV Trade Show Dec. 3-5 in Louisville, Ky. The award is presented to the top performers in the RVDA’s annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey, through which RV dealers rate manufacturers’ performance in four major categories: sales support; product competitiveness, service and warranty support, and management. Manufacturers with DSI ratings of 80 points or higher that receive 15 or more dealer evaluations qualify for the Quality Circle Award.
“The results of the 2002 DSI are very consistent with previous years,” RVDA President Mike Molino told RV Business. “The 2002 Quality Circle manufacturers have a history of strong performance in the DSI survey. These manufacturers do a good job of satisfying dealers through their products, policies and procedures.”
Although manufacturers at presstime had not yet seen the detailed scoring that led to their awards, they all agreed that achieving Quality Circle recognition is no easy task. “Certainly, the competition is getting stiffer,” said Craig Alexander, vice president of sales and marketing for Newmar. “It’s a very high-profile item with every manufacturer I know.”
Alexander added that RVDA’s DSI index carries a lot of weight because it is based on a blind survey.
“Manufacturers aren’t aware of which dealers are being polled, so it ensures that improvements are being made across the board,” he said.
The award also serves as a useful barometer for manufacturer-dealer relations.
“Receiving the Quality Circle award means that we are meeting or exceeding the expectations of our first-line customers, our dealer partners,” said Jim Jaskoviak, vice president of sales and marketing for Winnebago Industries Inc., which has received the award for seven consecutive years. “It means we are on the right track.”
“I think it’s an honor to be recognized,” said Larry Marsh, vice president of Fleetwood Folding Trailers. “I do think that anyone that sees this would recognize that these are good companies to do business with and that they back their product.”
“It gives confidence to the dealer so that they know we’ll do what we can do to service their customers,” noted Bob Tiffin, president of Tiffin Motor Homes, Inc.
Carl Dirrman, director of sales and marketing for KZ, said the award also provides manufacturers with a high-profile recognition to their employees. Dirmann personally congratulated representatives of every department at the company’s Shipshewana factory. “It takes everyone to make it work,” he said.
As for trends in the survey results, Molino said the 2002 DSI showed that manufacturers generally scored high in product design. It also showed that more manufacturers are doing a better job of paying dealers’ retail labor rates for warranty repairs.
Still, there are areas for improvement, he said.
“On average,” Molino said, “the biggest area of improvement manufacturers could make … is in providing higher quality technician training for their product, although several manufacturers do much better on this question than others.”
Representatives of both SunLine and Home & Park Motorhomes said they were making concerted efforts to improve their service tech training.
“The dealers send their people to the factory and we go through how the product is constructed and do classroom-style training. We also do more training on dealership lots,” said Tim Martin, vice president of sales and marketing for SunLine, which has nearly 100 dealers nationwide, mostly east of the Mississippi River.
Home & Park Motorhomes, meanwhile, has set for itself a goal of providing factory training to at least one representative from each of its 100 dealerships across North America, said Andrew Knowles, the company’s director of sales, marketing and service.
“We have set a very challenging bar for ourselves,” Knowles said, adding that successful RV manufacturers have to push themselves harder because of the increasing demands and expectations of today’s RV buyers, many of whom own high-quality automobiles. “I think that companies these days are going to have to reach higher to satisfy those customers,” he said.
Jack Cole, president of Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., said RVDA’s annual DSI index is an important tool to help manufacturers improve their performance in meeting dealer and customer expectations because it’s “as close as we can get to an accurate report card. It’s the only study out there to help us gauge how we’re doing.”
And though Lance has received Quality Circle Awards six years in a row, Cole said, the company always benefits from studying the data that RVDA collects. “We still see areas where we can continue to improve. We’ve seen our scores slip in some areas and raise in others.”
Detailed reports on the 2002 DSI were expected to be distributed at the Louisville show.