ROUTE 66 Dealer Network LLC, a buying group with a core membership of 25 midsized RV dealers, is being launched by Steve Francis, a Missouri dealer, and his brother, Dave Francis, a long-time marketing and advertising executive.
“It’s the midsized dealer – the $15 million dealer who wants to become a $20 million dealer – who needs a buying group,” said Steve Francis, owner of Trailside RV, Grain Valley, Mo. “We are trying to find like-minded dealers.”
Membership in ROUTE 66, headquartered in Shawnee Mission, Kan., however, is open to dealers with sales of $10 million to $50 million for an annual fee of $3,500.
“It got started with the realization that there are a lot of changes going on in the RV industry,” said Dave Francis, ROUTE 66’s managing partner and who also is an advertising agency owner and has been a marketing executive for 26 years. “We felt that pulling good, strong, independent dealers together made a lot of sense.”
ROUTE 66 intends to provide buying incentives in the areas of retail and commercial financing, insurance and warranties, parts and accessories, legal and employee benefits.
Additionally, members will be able to list new and used RVs for retail sale at www.buyanrv.com, which currently hosts Trailside’s website. Participation in individual programs and offerings is voluntary.
The first program offered is the ROUTE 66 RV Platinum Plus Warranty, which has been adapted from the automobile industry.
Dave Francis said ROUTE 66 doesn’t intend to compete directly the with Recreation Vehicle Dealer Exchange (REDEX), the industry’s largest buying group, nor with the Holiday Holdings Co. LLC dealership alliance.
“We are not Holiday Holdings, and REDEX is limiting,” Dave Francis said. “There are a lot of dealers out there who need help from a competitive standpoint.”
A ROUTE 66 organizational meeting was held at the Louisville Trade Show in December. The company’s startup was Feb. 1.
Dealership members thus far typically are family-owned operations that have been in business an average of 30 years and represent a total of more than $1.6 billion in sales, Dave Francis said. “In terms of how large ROUTE 66 is going to grow, we want it to be coast to coast,” he said. “We don’t have a specific number.”
Members will receive “geographic exclusivity,” the extent of which will be determined on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“The idea is to pull these independent dealers together much like ACE hardware or True Value with each having their own identity heavily rooted in their communities,” he Francis said.
A goal of ROUTE 66 is to create a brand identity that allows consumers to “have a very generalized sense of security that what they are going to find at one ROUTE 66 dealer they are going to see at the next dealer,” said Steve Francis, who’s dealership formerly belonged to REDEX.
“As it relates to the retail customer, if he is buying his RV or getting service from a network dealer, he can expect consistency,” he said.
The organization will be overseen by a not-yet-organized executive committee, with Dave Francis supervising day-to-day activities. Principals of each dealership will be asked to serve on one of several governing committees.
Members pledge to follow 10 guiding principles that involve treating customers and suppliers fairly and being a positive voice in the RV community.