> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

Editor’s Note: Here are excerpts from the presentation by Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), at this week’s RCDA convention in Las Vegas.

There are a lot of positive signs in the marketplace right now, including plant openings in Elkhart, a drop in the once-burgeoning level of distressed U.S. RV inventories and positive late season occupancy reports from many campgrounds.

The most impressive and positive thing to me is seeing dealers like you who are here today. When we budgeted for the dealer attendance at this convention, we budgeted what we thought was a reasonable number. You dealers have greatly exceeded that number in your registrations. We are also happy with the participation of our associate members who are exhibiting. We are well over 1,000 total industry people in attendance. I thank you!

One of your fellow dealers looked at it differently. He thanked us for continuing the tradition of an annual convention, in a year that had many reasons to cancel the event. He said he had already gotten enough ideas here to make the trip more than worthwhile. I appreciated what he said. It is my job to help members be successful. This is one way that we do that.

We’re going to have a good year in 2010. It may not be a great year, but it’s certainly going to be a good year, and its certainly going to be better than 2009. So, let’s all look forward to that.

In the meantime, what do we have to overcome to achieve success?

A short time ago the RVDA boards of directors and delegates asked dealers about their concerns. Three of them stood out as very major:

  • Financing – wholesale and retail.
  • The new manufacturing landscape.
  • The continued health of the association.

Wholesale Lenders

Your board of directors set a goal to increase the number of wholesale lenders serving dealers. We are working hard with our industry partners to provide information to potential lenders and add to this list. The goal is at least six by the end of the year — and right now there are five. 

Retail Lenders

One of the things we have learned over the last few months is that there are many regional banks and multi-state credit unions that are involved in our business. You can see that when we started in April, we had identified 26 lenders – that number is now 41.

We’ve achieved the goal, but we still are working to bring in more retail lenders. In both retail and wholesale financing, more lenders means more competition, which is healthy for dealers, the industry, and consumers.

Tool Box

You can find the contact information for the specific lenders in the charts in RVDA’s Lender’s Tool Box for RV Dealers at www.rvda.org.

You can always contact the RVDA staff for additional assistance, but we realize that each dealership situation is different and you may need special assistance that goes beyond the expertise of our folks at headquarters.

Consultants

That’s why RVDA entered into agreements with some former bankers to provide one-on-one consulting services. These consultants are all very experienced in RV lending. For a reasonable fee, these consultants can give you specific advice unique to your situation and recommend new approaches to help you find lending resources.

Look for more information on our website.

Government Has Tried To Help

Believe it or not, as weird as it may seem, the government we have in place right now is pro-RV. They have been trying to help.

It could be a lot worse. Who remembers the 1970s when RVs were portrayed as the enemy? We don’t have that now, and that’s good. And for that we have to thank the great PR effort by the entire industry. This an area that we need to commend RVIA and Gary LaBella, its marketing vice president. RVIA spent millions on promoting the RV lifestyle. That’s in addition to the Great GoRVing program.

I also want to commend all of you dealers and industry companies who promote the RV lifestyle among your customers. Promoting the RV lifestyle is important to our success. We are all in this together. Trying to profit from another industry members’ misfortune won’t get us anywhere. Working together to raise the desirability of the RV lifestyle is the key to everyone’s success.

I appeal to all dealers and other industry leaders to sell the lifestyle to their government representatives. We have some friends in the Administration and on both sides of the aisle in Congress. For, example, we owe a lot to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the northern Indiana congressman, who has been a “major player” in consistently stepping up and supporting the industry throughout the “Great Recession.” He was our biggest supporter in efforts to secure financing alternatives for dealers. There are at least three major government initiatives to help the RV industry with financing, TARP, TALF, and enhanced SBA lending. We are grateful for the effort!

But, frankly, none of these has worked yet and we’re still trying to figure out why. The good news is that there are people in government trying to figure out how to get the system fixed. When you see signs that some of these programs are starting to work, please tell us. We will share the news so others can also benefit.

There are indeed signs of increasing credit availability. But it’s nowhere near as good as it was before the credit crunch. Until it gets better, the industry’s recovery is going to be slow.

Your mission is to talk it up to your congressmen and senators and also among your local bankers. Try to find the specific obstacles to lending. We know, the government is making their money available — and insuring the money – and yet the money cannot seem to become available to the consumer or the dealer.

Again use our website. Check out our toolbox on the rvda.org home page for more information on these programs.

Getting you help in the financial area is a work in progress. We will solve the credit problem. We won’t do it in one day and it will never be like it used to be but we will get it to a place where we can work with it.

As we do that, we need to remember that our industry works better when we work together. We are also better when we take the high road and sell our industry to our customers. We can cooperate and build trust.

Dealer – Manufacturer Relations

Let’s look at the new landscape of manufacturing. That landscape has changed dramatically. Some of you dealers will be seeking new product lines. Many manufacturers will be looking for dealers. Before anyone agrees to anything, please do your due diligence. As President Reagan said, TRUST but VERIFY!

It is part of my job to warn both dealers and manufacturers on the relationship. Please consider the following as warnings:

  • Both dealers and manufacturers, be careful before you make the deal.
  • Manufacturers, don’t expect a dealer to develop an instant service department, if he doesn’t have one.
  • If a dealer’s culture is to sell on price to anyone from anywhere, don’t expect that dealer to take care of your mutual customer after the sale.
  • If a dealer has a history of not properly preparing units for delivery, why do you expect the future to be different?
  • If a dealer has delt badly with a manufacturer, like using buyback requirements arbitrarily in order to manage inventory, what makes you think it won’t happen to you?
  • Dealers, if a manufacturer does not have a parts system in place, why would you expect instant correction?
  • If a manufacturer’s culture is to grind out every warranty claim, why would you expect that to change because you signed up?
  • Underresourced manufacturers will be rolling out “dazzling” new products with low price points and looking to take on dealers. Before you buy in, make sure the company is in a position to provide an adequate “logistical chain” for repair parts and warranty payments.
  • Don’t expect RVDA, RVIA or any of the national or state associations to make bad actors behave. Make sure you know what you are doing, before you make the deal.