In the current economic environment, the prospects for the upcoming year will be a prime focus of RVIA Committee Week next week (June 8-11) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
For one thing, economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan will present his 2010 retail sales forecast. “A lot of people are going to be interested in hearing what Dr. Curtin has to say,” said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
About 170 people representing manufacturers, dealers and suppliers will attend the four-day meeting two blocks from the White House that will culminate with an RVIA board meeting Thursday during which it is expected that the future of the September retail California RV Show in Pomona and the December National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., will be high on the agenda.
“RVIA’s principal sources of revenue come from the Louisville and Pomona shows,” RVIA Chairman James Sheldon told RVBUSINESS.com. “Louisville will probably only be about two-thirds of what it was last year and the Pomona Show probably is going to be a third of the size it was last year.”
Although RVIA’s 2010 budget won’t be set until a board meeting in September, finances need to be addressed sooner than that, Sheldon said.
“One of the most critical issues we face as an association is how we fund the myriad of services we provide our members and still maintain the level of quality and responsiveness,” he said.
The board is likely to consider raising the cost of the RVIA seal which is affixed to towables and motorhomes that RVIA members build to let buyers know that they meet the association’s construction standards.
“The board is going to have to address the issue of our expenses exceeding our revenue,” Sheldon said. “We are rapidly burning through our reserves. This is going to test our mettle, but I have confidence that we will come up with the right answers to address these issues.”
Sheldon said that RVIA is sensitive to the state of the economy and the fact that many of its members face severe financial challenges. “We have to be very judicious about how we approach that subject so that we don’t harm the members in the process,” Sheldon said.
Seals currently cost $4.05 each with a $46 to $74 assessment added to each for the Go RVing market expansion campaign. Although Go RVing’s media budget has been trimmed from a high of $15.5 million in 2007 to $3.5 million this year, Coon said he doesn’t expect that the Go RVing assessment will be increased. “There might be some talk, but the proposal to do that didn’t fly with the board during the last board meeting (in March),” Coon noted.
Another major topic of discussion will be proposed franchise laws that have been wending their way through nearly two dozen state legislatures backed by state RV dealer associations. Although primarily aimed at protecting auto dealers from forced closures by auto manufacturers, most piggyback RV dealers and would require that RV manufacturers buy units back from dealers without cause, similar to a law in Texas that has been on the books for more than a decade.
“Most manufacturers feel this provision in the law in the various states is unfair,” said Sheldon, special assistant to the president of Monaco RV LLC. “It could become the most important issue that our industry faces. It literally could bring every RV company down to its knees.”
Sheldon said the RVIA board is expected to consider backing franchise legislation that applies specifically to the RV industry, a position it has taken in the past with only limited success.
During Committee Week, Sheldon will host the Chairman’s Luncheon on Monday to honor the service of Atwood’s Carl Pfalzgraf as chairman from 2006 to 2008, while Curtin will present his 2010 forecast during the Annual Membership Meeting during lunch Tuesday which will also will include reports on the state of the association from Sheldon, Curtin and Treasurer Don Walter.
The industry-wide Go RVing Coalition will meet Monday afternoon, and RVIA standing committees will meet Monday and Tuesday to act on recommendations that will be passed on to the board for consideration during its Thursday meeting.
Then, on Wednesday RVIA members will meet with federal legislators and their staffs for the 7th Annual Advocacy Day to discuss legislative issues.