screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-8-59-34-amEditor’s Note: The following column by newly elected Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Chairman Darrel Friesen, appearing in the December issue of RV Executive Today, stresses the need for addressing the industry’s “parts issue.”

This is my first column as RVDA’s 2017 chairman of the board, a role I assumed at last month’s convention, and I’d like to start by thanking my predecessor, Brian Wilkins, for his dedication to our association and its members.

Speaking of the convention – Wow! From the Vendor Training +Plus sessions to keynote speaker Ryan Estis to the education seminars to the vendors and their products and services, everything was bigger and better.

During his presentation at the opening session, Estis reminded us about how many once well-known, billion dollar companies are now out of business. He talked about how outfits like Blockbuster, Circuit City, and Borders Books wouldn’t or couldn’t change to keep up with the marketplace. We as dealers need to continuously look at our businesses and the business environment so we can adapt and change. We can’t get stuck in the “But that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality.

This also holds true for our industry partners as well. The industry is changing. Consolidation is happening in every segment with manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and dealers buying each other up. The workforce and retail consumer are also changing. Do you really think we can continue to do things like we did five, 10, or 20 years ago and survive, never mind thrive?

The parts issue is a huge problem that we need to tackle as an industry. It will take some work and investment from all sides. Millennials, who form a growing portion of our market, expect replacement parts to be available almost overnight, and they don’t care about why we can’t fulfill their expectations. “The car industry does it, so why can’t you?” they often say to us. They’re used to instant gratification.

We’re not just competing against each other but also against other industries such as timeshare programs and cruises for consumers’ discretionary dollars. Part numbers and a list of part numbers used in each floor plan are basic requirements. The manufacturers know these parts and numbers because they need to order them before they build the units. Twenty years ago, a now-defunct company used to include several pages of part numbers in their orange owners packets, so I know it can be done.

On the dealer side, we need to train our people better. The Mike Molino RV Learning Center has many programs for training all aspects of dealership personnel except sales. Why aren’t more dealers taking advantage of this? Past generations of RV owners would carry tool boxes with them in their RVs to make small fixes. Millennials don’t carry tool boxes, and if there’s not an app for it, they can’t fix it. They won’t wait around for weeks for the correct part while the manufacturer and dealership play the blame game.

Getting back to the convention, I also saw so many new and innovative products and services in the expo hall. What a great place for vendors to get quality time with dealers and their key personnel. It fits perfectly with all the great education courses that RVDA has developed for everyone at the dealership. I learn so much at these education tracks that my biggest complaint is that I want more. The courses are so new and relevant in today’s fast-paced and changing environment.

As I said before – Wow! This wasn’t my father’s convention.