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How About a Trade-Off For Unwashed RVs?

Ken Maines is president of Racetrack RV Inc. in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada.

In a recent issue of an industry publication, Forest River CEO Pete Liegl made a bold move.

“We’re going to discontinue washing units,” said Liegl.” Specifically, I want to do that because we’re tying up a driver who doesn’t even know where the wash places are at. A lot of times it’s not a truck wash bay, it’s a car wash, and it’s not adequate to take a truck and fifth wheel through in the first place. It’s sometimes cramped and backed up with cars, so it’s not a good deal and they don’t have the adequate tools at all of these places to do a good wash job.

“What I’m going to do is discontinue it, but I’ll give a $30 credit on every (dealer) invoice once we start that so the dealer now has $30 to hire a wash boy to wash it, and he very easily can. By the same token, now we’ve freed up the driver for several hours to get back on the road and deliver more units.”

As a dealer, I’m going to comment on this latest initiative by Mr. Liegl.

First, I want to point out to Mr. Liegl and all the manufacturers that are (or have) decided to follow suit, that I run my business in a climate where snow is a common word (Canada).  Today the temperature is minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit). When I purchase a unit from the factory, I have no option but to pay for it without being given the same courtesy we give our customers, that is the option to see it before you pay for it. So now, we’re going to be receiving units covered in snow, sleet and ice and being told that we get a $30 credit. Seriously? So if I understand this correctly, I’m supposed to sign off on the unit unchecked and at some point within the next seven days get my staff to close up and remove a $100+/hour retail/warranty work order from the shop by firing up the tractor, opening the shop doors, take it outside in the cold and park it, hook onto the unit received, back it into the warm shop, defrost it, wash it, open it up, inspect it for damage, close it back up, get the tractor to haul it back outside and bring back my retail/warranty job all for $30. Not to mention telling my RV tech to take a break. Are you kidding me? If we operated where the temperatures never went below 50 Fahrenheit, then sure, I can pay a lot kid to cover the $30 by running a hose and bucket outside. But I’m not in that part of the world. 

Secondly, who is more important to Mr. Liegl anyway? The transport driver or the dealers that purchase product, take it to RV shows, display it, sell it against the competition, service it and maintain a relationship with that end user (the customer) for years to come? When that transport driver hooks up to the unit in Indiana, do you really think he/she cares about that? If the driver picks up a clean unit, shouldn’t a dealer expect to see the same thing when it arrives three days and 1,700 miles later? I do understand how this initiative is making Mr. Liegl look great to the transporters, but what about the dealers?

And finally, Mr. Leigl is a really smart guy. He wouldn’t be where he is today without knowing a few things. And I am positive that Mr. Liegl negotiated with all the suppliers a Net 30 account. Meaning parts (such as refrigerators and hot water tanks) are delivered to the plants and payment is only required within the next 30 days. So, since a Net 30 arrangement is good for Mr. Liegl, then how about extending the same professional courtesy to the dealers, give us a Net 30? That will allow lots of time to clean and inspect each unit, not to mention that the dealers will gladly and eagerly sign off on the transporters’ Bill of Lading. Under the current dealer arrangement, Mr. Leigl gets his money from the dealers before it ever leaves the factory parking lot. Sort of like a reverse Net 30.

And as a final note, we’ve received units over the years where we know that drivers have slept in them. We’ve also had drivers take units home for a holiday weekend stay (July 4) only to resume driving afterward. Is that the way dealers should expect units? 

Another option for Mr. Liegl would be to have our product shrink-wrapped before it leaves the factory. The boat dealers get this benefit, why not the RV dealers? Right now, product purchased during the “Fall Open House” arrives on our lots almost immediately and sits for another six months before the end user (the customer) takes delivery of it – all the while, oxidizing and weathering over a cold and harsh winter. As a customer, wouldn’t you want a “fresh” unwrapped unit? And shrink-wrapping could display all kinds of advertising on its 1,700-mile journey to Canada.

So to conclude, I think Mr. Leigl and all the other manufacturers should re-evaluate the initiative and come up with a better plan to streamline the transport issue and at the same time respect the fact that the weather in Canada is not what it is in Arizona, California or Texas (as examples). As a dealer, I know that if Mr. Liegl gave dealers a Net 30 (even from the day it was shipped) that more dealers would jump ship to retail his products.