RVDA President Phil Ingrassia addresses members at Wednesday’s annual meeting during the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo

RVDA President Phil Ingrassia addresses members at Wednesday’s annual meeting during the RV Dealers International Convention/Expo

Younger customers are beginning to replace Baby Boomers as the RV industry’s prime market, Phil Ingrassia, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), told dealers Wednesday (Nov. 9) at the 2016 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo at Bally’s in Las Vegas. 

“We’ve heard for years about the Baby Boomer generation driving the market, but there’s a new generation of Millennials that is priming the pump for continued growth,’’ Ingrassia said. “A new Go RVing survey to be released in a few weeks will show that the average RV buyer is getting younger.’’

He also pointed to a Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) study earlier this year reporting that Millennials make up the largest percentage of new campers.

Ingrassia’s comments came during the annual meeting at the Con/Expo, sponsored by the RVDA, RVDA of Canada and the Mike Molino Learning Center.

Highlighting the session, former RVDA Chairman Jeff Hirsch of Campers Inn received the 2016 RVDA Chairman’s Service Award for having made a ‘’significant contribution’’ to RVDA and the RV industry. By secret vote of the RVDA board, Hirsch, who is chairman of the RV Assistance Corp, also received the James B. Summers Award, RVDA’s highest honor named for the organization’s second chief of staff.

“He is a second generation dealer who has built his dealership group into a major force within the industry, while continuing to serve his fellow dealers in the association in many capacities,” said Ingrassia in presenting the James B. Summers award to Hirsch. “This includes three stints on the RVDA Board of Directors, service on the RV Learning Center Board, and on the Go RVing Coalition.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with many great volunteer leaders during my time at RVDA, and there’s no one more deserving than Jeff Hirsch.”

Capping off Wednesday’s agenda, RVBusiness held an evening banquet for those receiving the magazine’s Top 50 Dealers Award.

The Top 50 roster again included five exemplary “Blue Ribbon” dealerships — Affinity RV, Fraserway RV, Modern Trailer Sales, Mount Comfort RV and Princess Craft — and two special award recipients: Michigan’s Veurinks’ RV Center, winner of the “Gaylord Maxwell Innovation Award sponsored by Lippert Components Inc.,” and Colorado’s Windish RV Center, which was to recognized with the Arthur J. Decio Humanitarian Award sponsored by Ally Financial Inc.”

Brian Wilkins (R) passes the chairman’s gavel to Darrel Friessen

Brian Wilkins (R) passes the chairman’s gavel to Darrel Friessen

In other business during the annual meeting, RVDA Chairman Brian Wilkins of Wilkins RV in Bath, N.Y., turned the gavel over to Darrel Friesen of All Seasons RV Center in Yuba City, Calif., who will take over as RVDA’s chairman for 2017.

Other officers for the RVDA Board of Delegates will be: 1st Vice Chairman Tim Wegge, Burlington RV Superstore, Sturtevant, Wis.; 2nd Vice Chairman Mike Regan, Crestview RV Center, Buda, Texas; Treasurer Ron Shephard, Camperland of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Okla.; and Secretary Glenn Thomas, Bill Thomas Camper Sales, Wentzville, Mo.

Also elected to the RVDA board were Rob Rothenhausler, Ocean Grove RV Supercenter, St. Augustine, Fla.; and Sherry Shields, Pan Pacific RV Center, French Camp., Calif., who was re-elected.

During his remarks, Ingrassia said RVDA is working with other RV industry and outdoor associations to let the incoming Trump administration and Congress know that “outdoor recreation is a major contributor to economic growth in the U.S. and the overall health of its citizens.’’

“Outdoor recreation needs to be positioned like tech or aerospace or autos as a major economic driver in the U.S. and we are ready with policy recommendations to advance this agenda,’’ added Ingrassia.

He noted the RVDA continues to fight ‘’overreach of the Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB),” which the association has contended is harming dealer’s ability to finance loans for their customers.

Outgoing Chairman Wilkins told dealers that the RV industry has done a good job bringing innovative products to RV buyers.

“But where we have excelled at bringing more innovation, more design and an enhanced look to product, we have failed at developing the back-end systems necessary to support our customer and their products,’’ Wilkins said. “If we want to grow this industry to a 500,000- to 600,000-industry, we will need to change the way we do business.’’

He said it’s necessary for manufacturers to improve ‘”complex supply chain issues that impact parts availability and interfere with our customers’ satisfaction with the overall RV experience.’’

“Is it doable?’’ he asked. ‘’It may not be easy, but it is. And it’s the type of vision that I feel we as an industry need to be aiming for.’’

More than 1,300 people representing RV dealers, manufacturers and suppliers are attending the Con/Expo, the theme of which is “Gear Up For Success.’’ The Expo portion of the event features some 140 exhibitors. A keynote address during the General Session Tuesday was presented by sales strategist Ryan Estis on ‘’Unleashing Your Inner Superhero: Keys to Achieving Breakthrough Performance.’’

In addition, the Con/Expo is featuring 39 speakers presenting 49 education workshops, and 25 Vendor Training +plus seminars to keep dealers on top of the latest products and services.