With the recreational vehicle industry often leading the nation in and out of economic downturns, economists are watching closely a recent upsurge in wholesale RV shipments as a good sign that the U.S. economy is on the path to recovery. That’s the positive atmosphere in which this year’s 2nd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards dinner and reception will be held Wednesday evening (Oct. 7) during the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) annual RV Dealers International Convention at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The awards are presented by RVBusiness, a leading trade journal published by Affinity Media, not only for the demonstrated survival skills of these 50 dealerships during one of the deepest U.S. economic downturns in memory, but also for the continuing commitment of these U.S. and Canadian retailers to professionalism, civic involvement, association activities, best practices and, more than anything else, consumer care.
The RVBusiness staff in August first announced the selections for the second annual Top 50 awards, based on nominations from North American RV manufacturers. A volunteer panel of industry veterans in August then concluded its review of dealer applications in the RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind.
“We had an overwhelming response from our manufacturer nominees this year,” said RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “The number of applicants received was about 40% more than what we had in 2008. So, before judging even started, we considered this year’s program a success, and that was largely due to the many quality dealerships submitting applications. Because there were so many worthy RV dealers who applied, it was a much more difficult selection process this time around.”
RVBusiness Top 50 dealers are not ranked, although 10 Blue Ribbon retailers are singled out for special recognition and a Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship will also be presented to one of the Top 50 dealers at the awards dinner.
Former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is slated as the keynote speaker at this year’s event. In his current role as a Fox News talk show host, Huckabee in March taped an episode of his “Save Our Town” series in Elkhart, Ind., a northern Indiana city where the U.S. RV business is centered that has garnered more than its share of national media attention this year for the recession’s impact on its businesses and residents.
“Given the current national political climate and the ongoing debate between the two political parties – and the ways in which these debates directly impact the recreational vehicle industry, we consider Mr. Huckabee an excellent and thought-provoking choice for an enjoyable evening in Las Vegas,” said Goldenberg. “And that goes for industry people of all political persuasions – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or otherwise.”
Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn..; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C.; RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va.; and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind.; and “Gold” sponsor Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo.
Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests) are available at the convention or through the following registration link (http://rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).
To view the complete list of the Top 50 dealers and to learn more about members of the Leadership Alliance, visit www.RVBusiness.com.
About the Top 50 RV Dealers Program:
The program’s purpose is to showcase credible role models and establish best business practices benchmarks at the retail level of the RV industry in terms of staff training, performing warranty and service work, managing aftermarket stores, superior consumer care and being good citizens of their respective communities. The dealerships were selected among those nominated as the best by the nation’s RV manufacturers. The program was founded and coordinated by RVBusiness magazine with additional support provided by the Leadership Alliance.
Affinity is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American recreational vehicle and outdoor enthusiast market. By providing information, insights, and resources, the company champions the fun, freedom, and adventure of recreation in motion. The company works to enhance its customers’ recreational experiences and build the communities that share and promote their fun and adventurous lifestyles.
Affinity is organized into four different business units – Affinity Media, Affinity Clubs, Affinity Events and Affinity Ventures. Their corporate headquarters is located in Ventura, Calif. Subsidiary operations and divisions can be found at multiple locations throughout the United States.