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RV dealers aren’t happy with manufacturer relationships – They’re trying to improve, manufacturers apparently are not

RV dealers are forever cast in the role of the middlemen when it comes to the relationship between RV buyers and manufacturers.

No doubt many dealerships have set their own sales records for the past 18 months and have been (and are still) making a tidy profit. But dealer success comes with its share of headaches when you have no control over manufacturing quality, parts availability, and warranty service reimbursement.

Last week Huebner Integrated Marketing, a Colorado-based firm that specializes in marketing for outdoor industries, released research that sheds some light on the current mindset of RV dealers.

“Dealers often say they’re just looking for the best price, but the truth is they’re looking for a hero,” said Jim Huebner, CEO and Founder of Huebner Integrated Marketing. “Manufacturers can be that hero by answering dealers’ challenges and offering a clear brand story to their end customer.”

The research was based on a survey of about 280 retailers/dealers of “big-ticket” outdoor products including RVs, boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, golf carts, motorcycles, and jet skis. About a third of those surveyed were RV dealers, and nearly half of the dealers in all the above categories said their businesses grew by 10 percent or more in 2020 alone.

We are always interested in the thoughts and motivations of RV dealers, so we wanted to give you a quick look at a few of the survey highlights.

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What motivates the final purchase?

When dealers were asked what motivates buyers, the winner was the price (46 percent) followed by warranty (32 percent) and, surprisingly, a brand’s reputation (30 percent) and customer support (30 percent). Dealers said buyers are equally as concerned with a specific brand’s reputation and customer support as they are with the features of a product.

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The importance of a “brand story”

Dealers said a brand’s reputation (a brand’s story) is extremely important to half of the buyers they deal with. If a brand’s reputation isn’t strong, those buyers will walk away.

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The dealers’ focus

It’s no surprise that 53 percent of dealers surveyed said one of their top goals for 2022 was to increase in-store sales. But 53 percent also said one of their top goals was improving a customer’s experience. That’s encouraging.

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Dealers have challenges, too

RV dealers specifically said their top three challenges going into 2022 were market fluctuations (38 percent), product quality (28 percent), and dealer staffing (27 percent).

When asked what would motivate them to either add a brand or delete a brand from their lot inventories, dealers ranked consumer demand for the product as #1 (67 percent), followed by product relevancy, or strength of the brand (60 percent), followed by manufacturer warranty support (37 percent).

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The dealer/manufacturer relationship

If you think things can get pretty tense when you’re trying to dicker with a dealer on their lot, things aren’t much better between dealers and manufacturers.

When asked about the greatest challenges facing dealers when working with manufacturers, it’s not surprising that the top challenge was the timing and speed of delivery and service from manufacturers (39 percent). Next came product quality (34 percent), price points (30 percent), and ease of ordering (23 percent).

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Improving customer service

Dealers said they can relate to the buyers’ frustrations with customer service. They aren’t that happy with the service they are getting from manufacturers, either. Close to one-third of the dealers surveyed said that customer service support – both for the buyer and for dealers – is critical to the success of the relationship with manufacturers.

More online ordering for dealers

Nearly two-thirds of the dealers in the survey said they want manufacturers to offer more online ordering options to streamline the delivery process between the builders and dealer lots.

The bottom line

The survey highlights what we’ve been hearing from dealers for a while now. They aren’t happy with delivery delays, warranty issues, parts shortages, and lack of communication about price increases after a buyer orders their rig. Who would be? The survey also pointed out that dealers are aware of the manufacturing quality issues facing the RV industry.

Quality and customer service were two of the primary topics at last week’s RV Industry Power Breakfast in Elkhart, Indiana. During a presentation at the Breakfast, Winnebago Industries CEO Mike Happe said everyone in the RV manufacturing industry must make a “tangible commitment” to improving product quality, replenishing parts supplies, and assisting dealers with getting RVs serviced more quickly.

We can only hope.

##RVT1029b

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Carson Axtell
1 month ago

I still put the onus on buyers: As long as price trumps value (quality/price) RV manufacturers will continue building and selling into a suckers market. It’s the effect of the “Walmartification” of consumers. A study that came out about a decade ago found that consumers no longer consider value as much as they did in prior generations (folks who knew “the value of the dollar”) and buy mostly based on price, thanks to Walmart pricing. The study also found that consumers tend to actually spend more annually on merchandise of lower quality than previous generations did on quality products because lower quality items needed such frequent replacement… Coincident with this change in buying behaviour was the increased reliance on advertising to “sell the sizzle” to more than make up for any lost business from producing products of lower quality. Seems duping consumers with advertising is actually cheaper for manufacturers than investing in quality assurance.

Joe
1 month ago

Pure and simple a dealership is just a point to purchase an RV. They have had reliability issues completing warranty and non warranty repairs on time for decades. The quality of builds are not as they were 20 years or so ago however dealership performance has also declined drastically.

Maurizio Taglianini
1 month ago

Old companies like Thor/Forest River/Winnebago just as GM/Ford/Chrysler should at least consider trying new kind of distribution systems used by new companies like Tesla.

Billy B
1 month ago

WOW!! Based on what has been said in “Comments” Section; really think “RV Dealers” need to look in the Mirror 1st.!!
Simply; would Purchase my RV Brand again. Would NOT PURCHASE FROM MY DEALER AGAIN!!
In scope am in a Mid Size Market; in reality due to Geography am in a “good size Market.”
As New Sale, Re-Sale, & Repeat Sale do prevail!! “Big Time!!”.
Think what has noted by previous comments; all has been said what needs to be said!!
Dealer metrics have been skewed!!
& “Dealers”; looking in the Mirror might give your Head a Shake.

Dr. Karel
1 month ago

Sadly, quality is not the top concern. Enough said.

Del W
1 month ago

Just more “crocodile tears” from the dealers. They know the data will go public, so they make sure the things that will make a good impression will be included.
As long as the money rules nothing will change until someone else is getting the money.

Steve W.
1 month ago

While RV Travel has put a focus on RV dealers and manufacturers, overlooking the component makers neglects their role in the lack of satisfaction among both owners and dealers. While some component makers have excellent B-to-B and B-to-C support, others are stunningly horrible. Dometic, in my experience, is one of the horribles. For many components it is either Dometic, or one other supplier. For me, it was 1.5 years of ongoing neglect by Dometic to resolve issues with our fridge. The first certified repair facility told me that it was luck of the draw whether they got a Dometic support person who followed through. Dometic finally stopped communicating with that facility and I was advised to try going to another certified repair facility. That second facility struggled, as well, with Dometic’s lack of support – of one of their own certified repair facilities! (continued, below.)

Steve W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve W.

(Continued) Ultimately, it was a manufacturing flaw with a $10 connection cable that destroyed both the control panel and the power control module of our fridge. The first repair facility struggled for over a month communicating with Dometic’s “support” staff and then 6 weeks for a control panel to be shipped from Europe. (Apparently, no stateside parts inventory was maintained for a fridge manufactured in Europe.) When that did not fix the problem, Dometic then claimed the problem was a result of “dirty power” and stopped communicating further. The second facility had better luck with communication, but – once, again – no power control module was in stock, stateside and another 2-month wait for parts. SOOO, in many cases it is not the dealer/repair facility that is at fault. (BTW, with A/C units that fail so often due to a loss of refrigerant, why do they not add $10 Schraeder valves, so that the units can be recharged?) RV Travel, please shine a light on component supplier support.

Thomas D
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve W.

You just answered your own question.
$10 valve. Times how many?
Manufacturers won’t spend an extra cent if possible.
Did you ever go under the dash? No extra wire to remove components. A foot of wire times 300,000 cars = big bucks

Bob M
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve W.

I do my best not to buy Dometic. Had trouble with the fridge also. Instead of helping with the repair. They just wanted to sell another Fridge. Their A/C is to loud also.

Paul B.
1 month ago

Dealers are now crying foul because manufacturers have begun treating them the way dealerships have treated consumers for decades.
Sadly, consumers are not guiltless in this dynamic. As long as ‘price’ is our chief concern there is a strong incentive to cut corners and sell crap. If we insist on ‘value’ and never spend a penny on anything less, the industry will not only give it to us but act as though they invented it. Heck, they may even show signs of honesty and integrity if it’s the only way they can make a buck. 😁

Jane
1 month ago

What about customer support with warranty issues and even after the warranty period. The service people can be rude, talk down to people. You’re at their mercy. Overall our dealer was very good to good service, we had some issues with one service person. The other guy listened to us and didn’t think we were crazy he actually took the time to hear what we were saying and he spent the time needed, was able to recreate the issue, and then resolve it. WD40 is not always the answer. There are not enough service people in the field and some of those are not adequately trained.

Mark P
1 month ago

If people would start reporting more of these issues to the NTSB the manufacturers would be forced to improve quality when they have to start paying for recalls.

Ron
1 month ago

Yes the manufactures have a lot of responsibility for what they put out, but it is the dealers that take your money and run. Being a new MH buyer in 2016, and not yet a RVTravel.com subscriber, we thought the dealer would honor any warranty work after we drove off the dealer lot in our brand new RV. We are still fixing manufacture defects 5 years on, but we would never bring our MH home back tp the dealer. First year warranty work was long waits and poor workmanship. One time we left our MH at the dealer for 3 weeks before we found out they had not even ordered parts yet. That was just one of the many times that first year, and only one year warranty, that we made an appointment, dropped off MH, and it sat there waiting to be be worked on. One excuse after another, parts on order, waiting approval, and so on.

Tina W
1 month ago

Everyone who buys a bad RV needs to leave that feedback in the form of a Google review with details about everything that was bad. If dealers get bad reputations for selling bad products, then eventually that will flow back to manufacturers, and they will either improve or lose a lot of business (and quality is also a dealer responsibility — regardless of whatever problems, they have a responsibility to sell quality products or face the consequences (or at least warn every customer about the long list of problems with the RV they are about to buy)).

Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Tina W

Not necessarily, we have a huge RV dealership here and they get smelly reviews constantly. They just get bigger all the time. Just expanded to two cities with a dedicated 35-bay service center. So, if you have a crappy place doing business- just don’t do business there anymore. Many people just don’t get it.

DENNIS J CHARPENTIER
1 month ago

RV dealers have been increasing the fee for “Dealer Prep” over the years. The fee is certainly worth it if the prep is actually accomplished before the actual “Walk around” and delivery. The fee, in addition to dealer profit on the sale, should be an incentive for the any dealer to “get it right” but they don’t. The ghost of the dealer prep fee and the sales profit/commission have left the dealers flush with profit but surely short on responsibility to deliver a quality product. The Dealer prep time should be used to correct/identify and manufacturing problems with the unit. The habit of repair of defects after identification by the customer is a copout on dealer responsibility in their pursuit of ever increasing profits.

tom
1 month ago

This same approach by American car makers easily led to the “invasion” of well-made Japanese and European cars.

Ed D.
1 month ago

I am totally surprised by the list of things you have listed as “what motivates the final purchase”. For us, it was what the Coach itself actually had to offer. In 2016 we purchased a brand new Coachmen Leprechaun 319DS at the Tampa Fair Grounds summer show. This particular Class C had everything we could have wanted in an RV and then some. As far as the amenities it offered, we were blown away. Unfortunately, when it comes to their manufacturing process and their manufacturing employees, we are totally disappointed. When they assembled our Coach, the Over the Cab, Bunk area, was NOT secured properly to the frame. As a matter of fact, they missed the frame completely with the screws that were supposed to secure the outer skin to the frame itself. This is something you can not see and have no idea it was like that until one day you are driving down the road and the water comes pouring all over your shoulder and back from above. Continued below!

Ed D.
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Here is where the relationship with the Manufacture should kick in! Rather than own up to their defective workmanship on the Coach, they simply offered to only replace the “Mattress” in the overhead Bunk. It cost us Thousands of Dollars out of our own pocket to have it fixed by our Repair facility we use. The funny thing is, my wife is on a Leprechaun owners site and when she put this information on that site, she had many people checking their overhead compartments by sliding their hands down the very front between the Mattress and the wall. Low and behold, several of those people found out that they had water under their bunks. The Leprechaun is not the only make that has this problem. We ran into a couple at an RV show this past week that has the exact same problem with their Class C. It was made by the same Manufacture as ours was. All I can say is “BUYER BEWARE” when purchasing a Class C from Coachmen!

Mark P
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed D.

If more people started reporting problems like that to the NTSB the manufacturers will start being held responsible in the form of recalls, then they will be forced to improve quality.

Ed D.
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark P

Hey Mark. Actually, I was considering finding as many Leprechaun owners as I can and starting a possible class action suit. I believe that would get their attention even better!

Traveler
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark P

Isn’t this depending upon the same evil government that was so highly criticized in above article?

Bob p
1 month ago

It’s hard to accept the facts when each group of percentages add up to more than 100%. According to 4th grade mathematics it’s hard to have more than 100% of the people.

G13
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

So your smarter than a 4th grader. It’s not rocket science nor is it a conspiracy.

J J
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

It’s not hard when people can select more than one answer, No one buys an RV based solely on one factor.

I agree with another poster. All I’ve ever heard is that the Top Three items for a purchase is Floorplan, Floorplan, and Floorplan but “floorplan” did not even make the survey? One of the two is Fake News.

Mike Gast
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob p, your fellow RVers below are correct. The survey allowed dealers to select more than one “reason,” hence the percentages add up to more than 100%.