Friday, October 12, 2007



RV Business
Friday, October 12, 2007

The RVIA board, meeting on Sept. 23 prior to the annual membership meeting in Las Vegas, approved a feasibility study to look into creating a communications system for warranty claims and other matters similar to the automotive industry’s non-profit STAR that establishes information technology standards so that manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and consumers can communicate more effectively with each other.

If implemented, however, the RV industry is likely to adopt a version of STAR that was already modified for the motorcycle industry, which more closely matches the RV industry’s business model.

With regard to the industry’s ongoing debate about whether or not approaches through quality can be improved across the board, the board directed the chairmen of five quality task forces to publish their recommendations and make them generally available to industry members. “The board is saying, ‘Let’s wrap that up and get on with life,’” Coon said.

The board also formally approved the previously announced departure, effective Oct. 1, of conversion van manufacturers from the association. CV manufacturers, in a downward spiral in terms of shipments in recent years, voted to instead become members of the National Travel Equipment Association (NTEA). “We didn’t force them out,” Coon told the members. “We wanted them to do what they wanted to do.”

The 2008 RVIA Annual Meeting will revert to a three-day affair, including more social functions, March 1-4 at the Fairmont Orchid Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In other actions, the RVIA board:

• Re-elected Carl Pfalzgraf, Atwood Mobile Products, as chairman for 2008. Other officers named to the Executive Committee were Jim Sheldon, Monaco Coach Corp., as first vice chairman; Gregg Fore, Dicor Corp., as second vice chairman; Doug Gaeddert, Forest River Inc., as treasurer, and Don Walter, Starcraft RV, as secretary. Bruce Hertzke, Winnebago Industries Inc., also will serve as chairman ex officio along with RVIA President Richard Coon. The officers’ one-year terms began on October 1.

• Approved a $14.3 million association budget for fiscal year 2008 without increasing membership costs.

• Selected the Renaissance Charleston Hotel in Charleston S.C., to host the 2008 September board meeting and the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., to host the association’s 2009 annual meeting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



RV Business
Monday, October 1, 2007

FreedomRoads LLC announced today (Oct. 1) that it has acquired the Beaudry RV sales and service center in San Diego, Calif., which includes a Camping World RV accessories store.

Beaudry will continue to operate its two Arizona stores along with the Beaudry RV Resort in Tucson.

National RV dealer network FreedomRoads said the Southern California acquisition improves its position in “an important market for the company.” Currently, FreedomRoads operates several dealerships in the area including Stier’s RV Centers in Bakersfield, Stier’s RV Center of Ventura, Camping World RV Sales of Valencia, Camperland, as well the newly acquired Venture Out/Camping World RV Sales.

The former Beaudry dealership will be renamed Camping World of San Diego. In April, FreedomRoads announced plans to acquire Bowling Green Ky.-based Camping World Inc. from Affinity Group Inc.

“The addition of Beaudry RV of San Diego is another important step toward our growth of this critically important market,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of FreedomRoads and Camping World. “This area is an RV shopping destination and our company is strengthening the appeal with our continued growth here. ”

FreedomRoads said the dealership will carry the entire Fleetwood motorized lineup as well as Dutchmen and Keystone towables. Additionally, they will launch a “luxury RV” category that will include American Coach, Monaco and Featherlite high-end coaches.



Bob Ashley
RV Business
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

At its Sept. 24 membership meeting, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) leadership reviewed its strategy for dealing with what it considers its No. 1 issue of the moment — the media firestorm that has erupted over the alleged health effects of airborne formaldehyde in emergency shelter travel trailers purchased by the Federal Emergency Housing Agency (FEMA) in the aftermath of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes.

About 75 RVIA members, meeting in an abbreviated session prior to the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo at the Rio All Suites and Casino Hotel, heard an extensive report from toxicologist Dr. Lee Shull, a hired consultant, regarding the uses of formaldehyde and its known health effects. Shull earlier had provided testimony to a U.S. House Committee on behalf of RVIA.

At the heart of RVIA’s response, according to RVIA President Richard Coon, is an internal crisis-management committee of board members set up “to deal with emergency living issues versus industry products that are made for recreation.” Both in the media’s eye and in the public’s perceptions, in other words, RVIA wants to separate bare-bones emergency living-type units from conventional RVs. “They are used differently,” Coon told RVBusiness. “That's part of the problem — the standpoint of how they are used.”

Also part and parcel of that strategy, Coon told the RVIA membership at the Monday morning meeting, was RVIA board’s Sept. 12 adoption of the HUD standard that applies to manufactured housing — 0.2 ppm (parts per million) for plywood and 0.3 ppm for particle board — for formaldehyde emissions from wood products used to build RVs as a requirement of membership.

RVIA also has hired public relations “crisis specialist” Bob Feldman, CEO and managing partner of Feldman & Partners, Los Angeles, Calif., to guide the association through the minefield of media speculation and accusations. For his part, Feldman said at the meeting that questions about formaldehyde in FEMA trailers currently are “isolated” in consumers' minds. “The pubic has not generally associated all the negative press of FEMA trailers with the RV industry,” Feldman said, adding that public attitudes are being monitored to determine “that the volume of the media isn't beyond what it ought to be.”

In his hour-long presentation, Shull, the Corporate Risk Services Director for Environmental Resources Management, Sacramento, Calif., reiterated for the association membership some of the science that he had already brought to the table through initial media reports — how formaldehyde is one of the most studied and widely found chemicals in the world and how its primary toxic effect is “contact irritation that is reversible, watering of the eyes, nose and throat.”

Clothing, carpeting and other products all contain small amounts of formaldehyde, which the body neutralizes, he said. Typically within the RV industry formaldehyde is present in plywood and pressboard, he noted, adding that only small amounts remain to vent into the air after chemical bonding processes are completed. “It is a mistake to say that all the formaldehyde used in making a product is available to be emitted into the air,” he said.

“The best way to reduce exposure is to open doors and windows,” he added. “I equate it to a new car smell ... After a period of time, that smell goes away. The same happens with these materials. There is a finite source of formaldehyde in those products.''

As for the more extreme cases of formaldehyde exposure, tests on rats are not conclusive that formaldehyde can cause cancer in humans, he contended, noting that different government agencies have different standards with regard to formaldehyde levels. HUD’s ambient air-quality target — not a standard — is 0.4 ppm, while the standard for plywood and pressboard is 0.2 and 0.3 parts per million at manufacture, respectively. Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits workers short-term exposure to 0.2 ppm and, long term, to 0.75 ppm. At the same time, EPA says that levels of about .1 ppm can cause respiratory irritation.

E-Learning Service Training Program

In his meeting comments, Coon announced that RVIA in mid-October was expected to roll out an Internet-based self-directed training program for technicians preparing for certification.

The program will be marketed and administrated by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Education Foundation’s RV Learning Center, which also is marketing the Florida RV Trade Association’s Distance Learning Program designed for use in dealerships.

“This is going to an interactive Internet program for technicians to get the same type of information they would be getting through the Florida program,” said Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education. “But this will be at their own speed, rather than in a group at the dealership. They can work on it whenever they want at their own speed from any computer. They can start and stop and start up again, and the program will keep up with them.”

The E-Learning program includes video, chapter reviews and practice tests that redirect the tech back to the material on questions that are answered incorrectly. “It’s a real good training mechanism for people on an individual basis,” Hopkins said.

Healthy Financial Reserve

Coon told members that RVIA has $12 million in the bank in reserve, with the goal of reaching $14 million, the same amount RVIA is budgeted to spend next year. “We think that is a pretty healthy position to be in case there is some disaster that happens to the industry,” he said. “The association can keep operating for a while.”

The number of member-manufacturers has declined to 122, he reported, while supplier memberships have increased to 320. In keeping with that, RVIA is operating for the first time under a new set of bylaws that increased the number of manufacturer seats on the board, while decreasing the number of supplier and at-large seats. At the same time, Florida-based Robert Parish of GE Financial was elected to an at-large seat on the board, the first finance-sector member to hold a board seat.

Coon noted that the Florida RV Trade Association backed passage of a new Sunshine State franchise law with RVIA’s concurrence. “We appreciated Florida inviting us to participate,” Coon told members. “Most of the time, we don’t get asked.”

In other business, Coon expects federal regulators to act within the next year on increasing beyond 400 square feet the size of fifth-wheel trailers allowed without falling under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Coon, in turn, struck a positive note with regard to 2008. “We expect shipments to improve next year,” he said, adding that the Federal Reserve Board’s 1/2-percentage point reduction in the prime interest rate “helps the industry.”

As for the 2008 presidential elections, Coon said, “That throws all the balls into the air. We are not sure whether that is good or bad.” And, he predicted that in this dynamic, ever-changing industry the likelihood that “one surprise is going to happen that no one in the industry is anticipating today.”



RV News

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