LAS VEGAS – The past year has been a bit of a blur for Darrel Friesen.
He had been warned that would be the case as he took over as chairman of the RV Dealers Association Board of Directors, but even as he handed over the gavel to new Chairman Tim Wegge of Burlington RV Superstore in Sturtevant, Wis., at Wednesday’s annual meeting, he couldn’t help but acknowledge that with all of the accomplishments the industry has seen over the past year, there is still more work to be done on some of the issues Friesen holds dear.
At a time when the industry is as profitable as ever, more still needs to be done on ensuring product quality and finding a sufficient workforce.
As consumers demand better and quicker service, Friesen said, it is important for all levels of the industry to pull together to find solutions to parts bottlenecks and quality issues that currently cause the biggest issues for dealers.
One solution Friesen called for is a uniformity of part ID numbers that would help dealers know exactly how to order such parts.
“I regret that during my time as chairman we didn’t achieve our vision of an easy-to-use Internet parts portal from the manufacturers and suppliers, and I would have liked for the task force to have started tackling warranty and quality control issues,” he said. “But I found – no doubt like every chairman before me – that when you have people from all different segments of the industry sitting down to work on an issue … things move a little slower than when you’re the dealer principal making all of the decisions at your own business.”
And lest dealers thought that was the past regime’s problems, Wegge took up the call early in his speech after accepting the gavel. He also urged a more streamlined parts ID and delivery system as one of his priorities as well as increasing campground capacity and the ability of national parks to accommodate modern RVs.
He said his family recently visited Yellowstone National Park in a Class A RV, and was not able to find a spot within the park that could handle the amenities of the vehicle.
“When a big part of our message is, ‘See America,’ not being able to use a motorhome in a national park is a serious barrier,” he said.
Wegge urged private partners to step up and help fund needed upgrades to national parks. He said those who are concerned about privatization of the parks are misguided and that private money is needed to help fill the gaps where tax dollars and admission fees can’t possibly do the job.
Also during the session, President Phil Ingrassia covered some of RVDA’s work over the past year.
He noted that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, an ongoing concern for the Association, has largely been defanged with a number of court setbacks as well as an unfavorable outlook on the Bureau from the Trump administration.
He pointed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s “Made In America” Outdoor Recreation Committee as a positive step toward achieving a modernization of national parks.
And he updated the group on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s request for trailers for emergency housing for hurricane victims.
“Working together, RVDA, the Texas RV Association, Florida RV Trade Association, and CalRVDA, surveyed members and reported back to FEMA that about only 30 percent of units on the ground meet their current criteria,” Ingrassia said. “With RVIA, we also met directly with FEMA in Washington, D.C., to let them know that ... if the agency really needs travel trailers for disaster housing ... working through dealers in the three biggest RV states is possible, but that the agency needs to modernize its requirements. We also told them that manufacturers are backordered and any FEMA sales need to go through dealers.”
Awards and Officers
The prestigious James B. Summers Award was given to former RVDA President Mike Molino for his service in the industry over the years.
Molino, the namesake of the Mike Molino RV Learning Center, accepted the award with a stage full of former recipients also on-hand.
“I am so proud of this,” he said. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
Before ending his term as chairman, Friesen also gave out three Chairman’s Service Awards.
Recipients were Gary Enyart of Cummins Onan, Tony Yerman, a service consultant for the RV Learning Center, and Friesen’s mother and wife of former Chairman Ernie Friesen, Irene Friesen of All Seasons RV in Yuba City, Calif.
New officers and board members for 2017-2018 are:
Burlington RV Superstore
First Vice Chairman:
Crestview RV Center
Second Vice Chairman:
Camperland of Oklahoma
Hemlock Hill RV Sales
Tennessee RV Sales & Service
Board of Directors:
Walnut Ridge Family Trailer Sales
New Castle, Ind.
Hilltop Trailer Sales