During the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) annual meeting Wednesday (Nov. 8) held during the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo in Las Vegas, the organization covered several key issues impacting the RV retail segment while also recognizing individuals for outstanding contributions and achievement.

Highlights of the meeting include:

Ingrassia: RVDA Makes Progress on Regulatory Front

RVDA President Phil Ingrassia addresses annual meeting attendees (Photos by Shawn Spence)

RVDA has seen progress in the past year on several important regulatory issues, reported President Phil Ingrassia during the annual meeting.

The association has pushed back for four years against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) guidance that would have limited dealer-assisted financing options for customers. “The CFPB has suffered several political and court-mandated setbacks and faces more under the current administration,” Ingrassia reported.

Ingrassia noted that the current CFPB director will probably soon be replaced. “This will mean a new direction for the agency that repeatedly pushed policies that don’t have anything to do with protecting consumers and could actually reduce their access to credit, as we saw with their misguided vehicle financing guidance,” he said. “We will remain vigilant in this area, but it appears that things are going in the right direction for your ability to get customers financed.”

Another issue of importance to dealers and their customers is public lands access and campground capacity. RVDA and several other groups have formed the Outdoor Industry Recreation Roundtable (OIRR) and have seen some progress.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving forward to appoint an outdoor recreation industry point person to report directly to him, and to create an outdoor recreation advisory committee to help guide Interior, similar to groups the department has for conservation and timber and mining industries. These were both asks from RVDA and its industry allies, said Ingrassia.

“We believe that the administration understands we need to modernize campgrounds on public lands, and there are private companies ready to move forward to do just that,” said Ingrassia. “But federal policies need to be changed to allow longer term agreements with the private sector, so that there is an adequate return on investment.”

Wegge Named RVDA 2018 Chairman 

Tim Wegge named RVDA Chairman for 2018

Second-generation dealer Tim Wegge of Burlington RV Superstore in Sturtevant, Wis., became RVDA’s 2018 chairman during a gavel-passing ceremony at the annual meeting.

In his introductory presentation, Wegge talked about his business philosophy and about the need to treat customers in an ethical way so that they become life-long clients. “One of the books that influences the way we do business is ‘Customers for Life’ by Carl Sewell,” Wegge said. “It lays out strategies for customer service that has helped us turn customers into repeat buyers, and in many cases, good friends.”

“I train all our employees with this book as a guide and incorporate our Christian values in my teaching,” Wegge continued. “Some dealers are caught up in short-term thinking of just making the sale, rather than long-term thinking of creating customers for life.”

Wegge also promised to continue the association’s efforts to address the long-standing parts issue and to improve customers’ post-sales experience. “Getting good service is just as important as the vehicle you buy,” he said. “As I’ve watched this business over the years, there has always been a strong correlation between sales and service at successful dealerships. We need all sectors working together to improve our ability to provide quality service.”

Wegge’s parents began an RV rental company after enjoying RVing with their own family.  When their rental customers had such a good time that they kept asking to buy the campers, the Wegges decided to become retailers. They took on a Jayco line in 1969, and the business was off and running.

Molino Earns RVDA’s JB Summers Award

Ingrassia awards Mike Molino with James B. Summers Award

Former RVDA President Mike Molino received the 2017 James B. Summers Award — the association’s highest honor — during RVDA’s general session held Wednesday morning. In presenting him with the coveted gold ring, Ingrassia noted that Molino had joined the association “at a time when it was just starting to grow in influence, staff, and volunteer engagement, bringing a great deal to the table through his past experience, where he ran complicated, multi-million-dollar operations.”

“RVDA was the benefactor of his organizational skills and launched many new initiatives with his guidance,” Ingrassia said, “including the RVDA Education Foundation — now the RV Learning Center — and the Dealer Satisfaction Index, or DSI annual survey. And he helped re-imagine what this RVDA convention could be.”

Molino has had an enduring impact on the association, added Ingrassia, and “he has also been a mentor and friend to many in this room over the years, including me.”

Molino began his career with RVDA in 1988 and rose through the ranks to become its president.  He retired from the association in 2012. The RV Learning Center was renamed the Mike Molino RV Learning Center in his honor.