The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Board of Directors approved a series of resolutions earlier this month that could lead to beefed up conversion-vehicle inspections and establish a consumer satisfaction index.
The board, meeting during RVIA Committee Week June 7-10 at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., also accepted the recommendation of the Conversion Vehicle Committee that the cost of the RVIA seal affixed to each CV be increased to pay for new programs within RVIA.
The amount of the seal increase wasn’t specified, nor was the extent of new, more stringent inspection procedures.
Details on those and other matters, including whether CV companies will remain RVIA members, are still to be worked out, according to Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education.
The question about conversion vehicle companies’ status within RVIA was raised during RVIA strategic planning two years ago. At the 2003 annual meeting, the board decided conversion-vehicle companies should remain RVIA members, but the structure of their membership needed to change.
Hopkins said despite all the conversion-vehicle recommendations, finalized during a June 3 planning session in Elkhart, Ind., many decisions remain to be made.
“The script hasn’t been written,’” Hopkins said. “As the CV companies move forward, they are going to pick the direction that is best for them, and it may or may not include RVIA. It’s too early to tell. They may have greater flexibility outside of RVIA than inside RVIA. It depends on what they want.”
The board, however, did turn down a request that RVIA designate an employee to work full-time with conversion companies. “The board considered the request to be premature,” Hopkins said. “They said they needed more details about what that person’s job description might be.”
Conversion Vehicle Committee Chairman Vern Kauffman, president of L.A. West Inc., LaGrange, Ind., said that following the support expressed by the RVIA board in June, the committee would develop specifics.
“We will sit down now and prioritize what services are important to us,” Kauffman said. He said it’s not likely to occur before RVIA’s annual meeting Sept. 26-28 in Aspen, Colo.
Rod McSweeney, president of Southern Comfort Conversions Inc., Trussville, Ala., and president of the recently formed General Motors-backed Conversion Vehicle Marketing Association, said declining market share has brought the conversion-vehicle segment together to seek solutions.
“In the last year, we’ve developed a planning frame of mind,” McSweeney said. “There are many people who have pulled together and unified in a segment that some thought would fall apart.”
GM has pledged to provide $2.2 million during the last six months of this year to promote GM-brand conversion vehicles through the Conversion Vehicle Marketing Association. A similar marketing push is being considered by Ford Motor Co.
“We have marketing problems that are a lot deeper than RVIA,” McSweeney said.
The changes within RVIA are coming at a time when the CV segment is trying to reverse a long-term volume decline.
In April, the most recent month for which statistics were available, 4,100 conversion vehicles were shipped to automobile dealers compared to 5,100 the previous April. During the first four months of the year, conversion-vehicle shipments were down 27.6% to 15,200 units compared to 2003.