After being affirmed by the RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) board of directors Thursday (June 6), the RV Aftermarket Association (RVAA) permanently consolidated into the auspices of the RVIA.

The two trade groups had been in a two-year trial period following an RVAA referendum at its 2017 Aftermarket Executive Conference in which, following a 90-9 vote, the group ostensibly merged with RVIA. As part of that initial agreement, the RVAA board became the Aftermarket Committee as part of the RVIA and committee members voted unanimously on Monday (June 3) to request the merger be made permanent. That request was approved three days later by RVIA’s board after the close of the association’s “RVs Move America” meetings in Washington D.C.

“I couldn’t be happier that the aftermarket community decided to end the Safe Harbor period and make it official now. They’ve been very active members within the RV Industry Association and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and I look forward to spending even more time with them in this new position,” said RVIA Interim President Craig Kirby, who also serves as the association’s senior vice president of government affairs and general counsel. Kirby was named interim president May 17 when it was announced that Frank Hugelmeyer had resigned to take a similar position with the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Kirby added that the aftermarket transition was one of the highlights of a successul RVs Move America Week – formerly known as Committee Week & Advoacay Day. The annual event is designed to chart the future course of the association through a series of commitee meetings as well as lobby Congress and the federal government on behalf of industry-friendly initiatives.  

“In talking about the political aspects of it first, I think it continues to show our industry unity,” Kirby mentioned. “Here we had representatives from the campground industry, from dealers, manufacturers and suppliers all working together to promote the interests of the RV industry. And that’s how you get things done, working together, and I think we have been very effective in the past and we will continue to be effective by working together.

“The second aspect is that I can’t thank people enough for offers of support and helping and ensuring that we have a smooth transition. I think that the industry is in a very great place right now. And as I mentioned, I think we will be taking it to even greater heights,” he continued.

Kirby added that he’s interested in visiting the RV-building hub of Elkhart and other areas of the country and listening to members and dealers, parks and other key stakeholders about how they can continue to work together to grow this industry.

Regarding the aftermarket group’s transition, the move includes the definition of the type of business eligible within the aftermarket supplier category as well as a membership rate at a level equal to what has been assigned for a manufacturer’s representative.

During its deliberations preceding their vote, aftermarket committee members had nothing but praise for RVIA and the support and services it had provided thus far. Members cited the “2018 Aftermarket Parts & Accessories Customer Survey” as one example, noting RVIA’s successful management and promise of support for the Executive Conference — RVAA’s longstanding trade show.

“It has been a terrific experience, so far, said committee member John Tinghitella, president of RV Designer, Wheeling, Ill. “Everything that RVIA has promised and we thought would be the case has come to fruition. As a group we are significantly more productive in terms of delivering member value. We’re allowed access to terrific resources and work with some incredible association professionals in the main RVIA office. All that being said, this needs to be looked at as a real success experience. We embarked on something, promises were kept, and we’ve created member value far more than we ever had in the past.”

Susan Carpenter, director of market development at Creative Products Group, Elkhart, Ind., told RVBUSINESS.com that the RVAA had always struggled with providing resources for its members beyond the Executive Conference, which this year is set for Aug. 12-15 in Denver.

“We always wanted to do more. We wanted to provide statistical data, and education — the kind of stuff that really makes an association strong as far as what we would give back to our members, but we never had the funds to do it,” Carpenter said, adding that since the initial merger RVIA has “denied us nothing.”

“We now have data about the aftermarket and the Executive Conference has not been lost in the shuffle. That was a concern, but that went off without a hitch last year and they’re going to do another one this year. They’ve done a great job of that,” Carpenter said. “We also did the RV Aftermarket Experience at RVX which would never have been possible under RVAA and the funds. I should mention that another concern was that we would lose our voice. We haven’t lost our voice. In fact, I think it’s grown stronger.”

James Ashurst, RVIA senior vice president of communications and marketing, said the association is extremely pleased to permanently welcome RVAA membership into the RVIA fold. “In the meantime, we’re gearing up for a great event out in Denver in August,” Ashurst added.