Route 66 RV Network logoThe Route 66 RV Network plans to roll out four new programs for its 95 dealer-members after the first of the year, including one that will optimize consumers’ ability to locate Route 66 dealers on the Internet.

”The Internet obviously has become more important to the RV industry,” said Dave Francis, managing partner of the Overland Park dealership network. ”It’s not a fad, and it’s not going to pass. It’s now a virtual world and dealers have got to realize how the virtual and physical worlds work together. They need to win that ground.”

The optimization program, along with new parts, retail financing and customer service programs, were highlighted during breakout sessions at the 6th Annual Route 66 Rally Sept.. 15-17 at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio attended by about 200 people.

The new programs will augment about 35  different ”partner relationships” Route 66 already has with suppliers of parts and accessories, insurance, certified pre-owned RV and other services.

”We had a terrific turnout in San Antonio,” Francis said. ”We went into this thinking it wasn’t going to necessarily be a great year, but I’ve been shocked. Although we were down a few dealerships, we had as many people at the rally as we had last year.”

Francis said that most dealers were upbeat about the RV industry’s fortunes during what appears to be a fading recession.

”I expected going into it that there would be a woe-is-me kind of attitude,” he said. ”That wasn’t the case at all. The end of the summer has been positive for the most part and I found a vast majority of our dealers very upbeat. It’s been tough, but they are moving forward. Everybody is hoping that the summer has a long tail into September and October to make up for some of the ‘down’ that everybody experienced in February through May.”

At the rally Route 66 introduced the ”Larry Coker Commitment Award” named for the group’s trainer who died in February. Coleran RV in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first recipient.

”Larry had just gotten through going to every one of our dealer locations and training more than 4,500 employees about what Route 66 is,” Francis said. ”Branding has been our focal point for the last two years and Larry exhibited and communicated to dealers what our brand is and what we stand for.”