The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is putting teeth in its show rules by raising from $1,000 to $10,000 the fines it can impose on exhibitors violating its Louisville Show policies.
The target of the new, more stringent approach – recommended by the Show Committee and approved by the RVIA board of directors at its Feb. 24 meeting in Bonita Springs, Fla. – is manufacturers displaying oversized units.
Mary “Mike” Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows, said four companies were cited at last year’s Louisville Show for displaying non-sanctioned units – namely travel trailers larger than 320 square feet and fifth-wheels bigger than 400 square feet.
“The committee thought a $10,000 fine might be more of a deterrent,” said Hutya, noting the association is forced to lock and drape offending units because they can’t be removed from the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) without disrupting other displays.
In other key matters at the RVIA board meeting, the first since Richard A. Coon succeeded David J. Humphreys as head of the Reston, Va., trade association, the board:
• Voted to stop providing financing after this year to the Florida-based Distance Learning Network (DLN) that telecasts service technician training via satellite and Internet video. Instead, RVIA intends to fund an Internet-based e-learning curriculum through the Recreation Vehicle Service Training Council (RVSTC) that will start by fall.
• Voted down a recommendation from the Annual Meeting Committee to return the annual meeting, now held in September, to February or early March like it was until two years ago. An informal survey during last year’s annual meeting found members split about 50-50, Coon said. “Most people who live in the northern part of the country like a winter retreat,” Coon said. “And there are a lot of vendors who fall into that category.”
• Increased the manufacturers’ rates for the California RV Show in Pomona by 2.5%.
• Heard from Anne B. Shearer Steele, president of the National African American RVers Association Inc., who addressed the board and handed out detailed information regarding the Indianapolis-based enthusiasts club. “Part of our strategic plan is to help people of diversity into the lifestyle,” Coon said, noting that the new Go RVing TV commercials and print ads feature African-American and Hispanic RVers. “She had a number of suggestions that she thought would promote the lifestyle for blacks,” he said.
Whether the Distance Learning Network will continue to operate remains up to the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), which piloted the DLN in the late 1990s.  Besides service training classes, the DLN, which was to switch to all-Internet classes after this year, provides advanced general and product-specific training for service technicians.
“I want to find a way to for the e-learning and DLN to complement each other,” said Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education. “We want to move the training program forward on behalf of the industry. That’s really what we are trying to accomplish.”
Dwindling registrations in recent years have led to the loss of $88,000 that was not recovered through fees as planned, Hopkins said.
Yet another topic of discussion at the RVIA board meeting was the customer satisfaction initiative being launched by the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence that recently appointed five task forces to delve into customer satisfaction issues.
Despite a groundswell of interest in some industry circles, the message from some manufacturer board members was to take things one step at a time.
“The board is very concerned that we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Coon said. “We need to get more realistic about what the potential is.  I’m excited, and everybody else is excited, but I hope no one’s disappointed about the time that it’s going to take. The board still gave us a vote of confidence to go forward; they still want to hear our suggestions.”
All five of the task force panels will operate under the umbrella of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence, now led by co-chairmen Jim Sheldon, assistant to the chairman of Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., and Marty Shea, owner of Madison RV Center, Huntsville, Ala.