Phil Ingrassia, president of the RV Dealers Association, told RV PRO that he received several texts from various Florida dealers Friday through Monday. While safety is of utmost concern, Irma’s aftermath remains a mystery.
“The first priority is to make sure the people are safe,” said Ingrassia. “I know dealers were taking appropriate risk management measures to secure their buildings and their inventory as best they could.”
He explained how Florida dealers have faced storms before. Preparation measures are a necessity. “But this is such a magnitude of a storm that kept shifting where it was going to hit,” Ingrassia said, unable to disclose which dealerships were affected.
“I know so many people down there, and am very concerned. The human toll these storms can take. What’s the infrastructure going to be down there? How are the dealerships and RV parks and campgrounds going to handle it?”
Florida is a key player in the industry. According to an RVIA report on 2016 shipments, the state ranked third in receiving RV deliveries, and second in motorhome deliveries (about 12 percent).
Ron Fleming, national general manager of Lazydays RV, said the dealership moved 500 units away from the oak trees on its Tampa, Fla., dealership onto a concrete lot, packed tightly together. The emergency maneuvers came after the dealership learned Irma was a category three hurricane.
“We have a lot of branches down and scattered throughout the property,” said Fleming, “but it appears we didn’t sustain any damage to our vehicles.”
Lazydays is waiting to restore power, but all the IT and phone systems are up and operational thanks to power generators. Despite the storm, Fleming plans to reopen tomorrow morning, but services and parts will remain offline until full power is restored.
Several employees sustained damage to their homes.
“This storm was so unpredictable,” he said. “A lot of people evacuated to the center of the state, but that’s where the storm eventually went. There was no place to go, no place to hide from this thing. It’s wreaked a lot of havoc.”
Fleming lauds the efforts by the state to get warnings out early. “It at least saved us,” said Fleming. Now comes the clean-up.
Ingrassia spoke with Lance Wilson, executive director of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), Friday afternoon. While the annual conference scheduled for Sept. 7 to 10 was canceled ahead of time, Wilson said that dealers were able to move units into more secure locations. RVDA and FRVTA are also getting the wheels in motion, said Ingrassia, to help the Federal Emergency Managament Association (FEMA) with RVs that can be used as temporary housing.
“You put your prayers out there, and you hope for the best,” said Ingrassia.