The ROUTE 66 Dealer Network LLC, a three-year-old RV industry buying group, had a sudden spurt in membership during the final half of 2005 and far surpassed its goal of 66 members.
“We’ve grown pretty aggressively,” said Managing Partner Dave Francis of Shawnee Mission, Kan., who reported that the buyer group in February has 95 member RV dealers with 130 locations in 44 states.
“We don’t advertise for dealers, so it’s all word-of-mouth,” said Francis. “There was a bit of a wait-and-see attitude among some of the dealers about how we were going to do and it just kind of caught fire during the last six months.”
ROUTE 66, with headquarters in Shawnee Mission, was launched in late 2003 with a core membership of 25 mid-sized RV dealers. Spearheading the buyer group, which still targets small to medium-sized dealerships, are Francis, a long-time advertising executive, and his brother, Steve Francis, owner of Trailside RV, Grain Valley, Mo.
ROUTE 66 limits its membership to exclusive territories that are a minimum of a 1 1/2-hour drive from other members.
“We go on a drive-time basis, and we try to be fairly true to that principle,” Francis said. “It’s getting harder and harder, though, to find dealerships that are that far apart.”
Currently the group offers discounts on floor and retail financing, parts and insurance, and more recently, a program through which a 66-day warranty is available on the purchase of used RVs that are self-certified by dealer members.
The group also has ramped up its Classic Care Card, which allows a $66 discount on service at a member dealership if the unit was purchased from a ROUTE 66 dealer. The card also provides parts discounts and “preferential treatment” for ROUTE 66 retail customers.
“That doesn’t mean that they will move ahead of everyone else,” Francis said. “Within one service day someone will take a look at the coach of a Classic Care Card holder, move it forward and help find accommodations if they need them.”
Francis declined to disclose ROUTE 66’s fee structure or membership dues. Company income comes from a “small percentage” assessed on services, he said.