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Widely touted as a role model for manufacturers in the recreational vehicle business, Winnebago Industries Inc. is hoping to win its tenth consecutive Quality Circle Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) during the upcoming National RV Show in Louisville.
But Chairman and CEO Bruce Hertzke told attendees Tuesday (Nov. 8) at California RVDA’s 12th annual conference, the company still is not satisfied with its own performance. And that’s saying a lot about the state of quality in this industry, maintained Hertzke, who also serves as chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Consequently, Hertzke, speaking to 114 vendors and dealers at Hyatt’s Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage, said it’s critical that dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and campground owners all work to improve the consumer’s RV experience. “Everybody’s got to do their part to raise the level of expectation from our industry,” he said.
In his Tuesday presentation – taking place only two days prior to a key industry quality conference slated for Ontario, Calif. – Hertzke said it’s time for the industry to take action in response to two consecutive customer satisfaction surveys by J.D. Power & Associates and Roper GFK NOP.
“It’s pretty hard for people to say we don’t know what we need to do,” Hertzke said, citing the detailed nature of the surveys.
That point was underscored during a luncheon address by RVIA President-elect Richard Coon, who reminded dealers that 28% of motorhome owners and 20% of towable owners were not satisfied with their purchases of 2004 model year units, based on the survey of 11,213 RV owners conducted in February and March of this year. The survey also found that that 42% of motorhome owners would not buy another motorhome, while 29% of towable owners would not buy another trailer. Coon said consumers were unhappy because of poor product quality and “too many problems and service issues.”
RVDA President Mike Molino, claiming that RV dealers continue to report problems in obtaining appropriate parts and warranty support from manufacturers, said RVDA’s annual DSI surveys reveal the same kinds of problems that Roper GFK NOP is finding through its own consumer surveys. “The dealers have to respond. The manufacturers have to respond and the suppliers as well,” he maintained.
While the RV industry’s customer satisfaction had “flat lined” in recent years, Coon noted, the automotive industry had scored an eight-point improvement in its performance in 2002. He also noted that the quality of automobiles is rising to the point where much of the automotive industry’s service work involves maintenance rather than warranty issues.
On the other hand, Hertzke noted that the RV industry has an opportunity to enjoy continued strong sales despite rising fuel costs if it can satisfy consumers’ needs. He noted that RV sales have increased by 9.6% in 12 European countries this year, even with gas prices ranging from $4.32 to $7.07 per gallon.
Canada, too, has seen increased RV sales, he said, even with gas prices ranging with $3.25 to $4.25 per gallon. “The market is not going to go away,” he said.
In his turn at the podium, outgoing RVIA President David Humphreys, who also sits on the board of the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA), reminded dealers that the RV industry has been the shining star of the travel industry since 9/11 and that this sector’s dealers, manufacturers and other segments need to work together to resolve their differences in an effort to improve customer satisfaction and deal with other issues.
Humphreys, who is retiring in January, was given a standing ovation following his presentation as dealers and vendors thanked him for his service to the industry.