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A majority of RV dealers, manufacturers and suppliers clearly believe the industry should better coordinate its new-model-year release dates, although there is considerably less consensus as to the preferred timing of a more synchronized approach to new-product introductions, an RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll indicates.
Most vocal on this issue were dealers, who were nearly unanimous in calling for better coordination of new model-year product debuts. Judging by their consistent stance on this issue over a period of years, of course, that should come as no surprise.
Better model year coordination is favored by:
• 88.6% of dealers
• 61.7% of manufacturers
• 65.9% of suppliers
Regarding timing, 57% of dealers favor an August-or-later release date. However, 16% failed to respond to a survey question soliciting their preferred new-model release dates. Forty three percent of manufacturers and 42% of suppliers also left the question blank.
Many dealers preferred late summer because it gives them time to sell off inventory left over from the previous year.
“An August-to-December window is wide enough to provide (a) flexible introductory date,” said one dealer, in a rather typical response. “Stretching the dates not only devalues inventories, but it also dilutes the excitement associated with new model announcements.”
While the jury is apparently still out when it comes to selecting a specific new-model-year release date that would best serve all factions of the industry, the recent survey of registered visitors to RVBUSINESS.com – the RV industry’s only daily news site – elicited numerous responses from dealers who complained that manufacturers are devaluing their inventory and confusing consumers by failing to better coordinate the timing at which they begin to deliver new models to dealerships throughout the country.
“I am a 26-year veteran (of the industry), and every year I get upset with the early releases,” one dealer wrote. “It comes right in the middle of our prime season and affects what price people want to pay when there is next year’s model sitting on your or your competitor’s lot.”
Says another retailer: “I have $3 million in new inventory, and our season has just begun due to a late spring, and I have already received a dozen 2005 model-year vehicles. That makes almost my entire inventory outdated. I still have my year-end carryovers to move, too.”
Says another dealer: “Very early releases have a huge impact on motorized RVs, leading to the bugaboo of ‘05 rigs built on ’03 chassis with ’04 appliances and systems.”
Another said: “We are currently confusing our customers on when models become available, and also we cannot market the model-year issue effectively with everyone offering introductions throughout the year.”
Several survey respondents maintained that the RV industry should simply copy the automotive industry’s autumn new model release protocols. “The thinking (is) already set in the mind of the buyer (even first-time buyers), and we need to conform to that thinking,” one dealer said.
Some questioned the extent of changes in those new-model introductions whenever they arrive.
“It seems that even though most manufacturers have stepped up their release dates,” a dealer complained, “not much changes other than color.”
But there are manufacturers who contend the free market should determine the timing for the release of new models.
“As an RV manufacturer it can be crippling to introduce all new models at one time,” a representative of one manufacturer wrote. “This can thrust the cost of R&D into one financial period, compromise production efficiencies and generally stress the corporation. We prefer to stagger our new model year.”
“Having five different coach models to change every year would be very difficult to accomplish all at the same time,” added another manufacturing company respondent. “This is the reason that manufacturers stagger model-year changes across their product lines.”
It’s not fair to limit new-model introductions to a specific time window, especially if a particular product line generates little interest and needs to be revamped sooner, argues another representative of an OEM. “Being in manufacturing, we understand that the dealer is also our customer, but we have to keep our production moving and if it takes introducing a new model or implementing a model-year change early to keep up, then we have to make that our priority.”
Some suppliers, for their part, also feel that it’s important to retain the flexibility to make immediate product changes.
“I feel continuous product improvement is the answer,” wrote one individual. “I like to be able to take to my customers the newest, latest ideas in furniture today and have it implemented ASAP. It shows we are doing our jobs as tier-one suppliers to the OEM manufacturers.”