RV dealers in Oregon and Louisiana plan to seek state legislation in 2007 to make manufacturers solely responsible for the sourcing of warranty claims for malfunctioning RV componentry, according to spokesmen for dealer associations in both states.
“People’s attitudes have changed over the years,” said Steve Bordelon, president of the Louisiana Recreational Vehicle Association (LRVA), in explaining his association’s plans to pursue sole-source legislation. “When they have a problem, it’s a big issue.”
Dan Morris, past president of the Oregon Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (ORVDA), told RV Business that his association plans to pursue similar legislation mandating the sole sourcing of warranty claims next year.
A handful of RV manufacturers, including Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc., Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc. and Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp., already accept responsibility for processing warranty claims for many of their vehicles’ components, excluding the chassis and drive train. But most RV manufacturers rely on dealers to submit separate warranty claims to the vendors for each malfunctioning component, a practice that often causes friction in manufacturer-dealer relationships and, industry sources indicate, slower claims processing.
Dealers often complain they are not compensated for their time in processing multiple warranty claims, and they contend that the decentralized nature of warranty claims processing in the RV industry causes delays that ultimately inconvenience consumers.
Morris said the sole sourcing of warranty claims would address these problems, while putting manufacturers in a position to demand greater accountability from their suppliers.
Lobbyists for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) successfully defeated efforts by the LRVA in 2005 and 2006 to approve state legislation that would require manufacturers to process warranty claims for their vehicles’ components, Bordelon said, even though Louisiana’s legislative efforts were backed by letters of support from RV dealer associations in Oregon, Washington, Texas and Georgia.
However, manufacturers are working through RVIA to address dealer concerns involving warranty claims, according to RVIA President Richard Coon, who maintains that legislation is not needed to resolve disputes involving warranty claims processing. Instead, he said, Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail (STAR), a non-profit group based in McLean, Va., is working to develop standardized IT systems for processing warranty claims, which Coon said could simplify the process.
Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), agrees that the STAR system could help expedite the processing of warranty claims and, he added, RVDA does not advocate sole source legislation. Rather, dealer decisions on whether to pursue legislation mandating sole sourcing of warranty claims are decided by state associations on a case-by-case basis.
RVDA Communications Director Phil Ingrassia cautioned, however, that demands for sole-source legislation are being fed by continuing dealer unhappiness on several fronts, including:
• Getting warranty work approved
• Obtaining timely parts deliveries
• Seeking adequate markups on warranty parts so that dealers can afford to pay their people to do the work, satisfy the customer and sustain their businesses
• Receiving warranty reimbursements
• Securing adequate reimbursement for labor performed
“The dealer must make a profit doing warranty work,” Molino said. “If the dealer does not make a profit, the warranty customer is at an immediate disadvantage to a customer paying the full retail labor rate and full retail parts markup.”