By Jerry Yeatts
Director of Conventions/Commercial Services
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) hosts a weeklong series of committee meetings each June in order to review the business of the industry and to plan for the future. I am fortunate to be a member of the Public Relations Committee. FMCA executive director Don Eversmann is a member of the Go RVing Committee on Excellence. Together, we are able to share opinions on how the affairs of RVIA affect FMCA members, as well as provide feedback to industry leaders from a consumer standpoint.
RVIA is the national trade association that represents more than 500 manufacturers and component suppliers producing approximately 98 percent of all RVs and conversion vehicles (vans, pickups, and SUVs) manufactured in the United States. A list of some of RVIA’s activities appears at the end of this article. RVIA’s mission statement is as follows: “to promote and protect the RV industry and its members by growing the RV market at twice the rate of the overall economy; ensuring a favorable business environment; enhancing the RV experience for consumers; fostering continuous improvement of RV products; and providing industry information and knowledge.” The enthusiasm and professionalism of the RVIA staff certainly exemplifies the dedication to achieving these ambitious goals and mission.
In addition to the aforementioned committees, several other committees that solicit the support of industry leaders have been formed by RVIA. Among them are the Industry Education Committee, Lawyers’ Committee, Standards Committee, National Show Committee, Public and Legislative Affairs Committee, Financial Services Committee, Supplier Committee, Membership Committee, Annual Meeting Committee, Market Information Committee, and the Go RVing Coalition. More than 200 individuals representing manufacturers, suppliers, and others related to the recreation industry are involved with these committees.
One of the highlights of Committee Week this past June was the presentation of the RVIA Spirit of America Award to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As a fellow RVer and member of FMCA, Justice Thomas spoke fondly of his nearly five years of motorhoming and how he has gained a better appreciation of average Americans by traveling the country in his motorhome and staying in campgrounds. He noted that he has replaced his reading of a popular sports car publication with Family Motor Coaching magazine. Justice Thomas is a wonderful testimony to balancing the demands of work with family.
A number of points were discussed at the Public Relations Committee meeting that directly and indirectly impact FMCA. It is common to turn on the television these days and encounter programs and advertising that incorporate a motorhome in some way. Several popular primetime entertainment shows over the past few years have featured motorhomes in their story lines. Television commercials use motorhomes as traveling billboards to associate their products with the fun and freedom of RVing, advertising anything from credit cards to pain relievers. Children’s programs feature talking and singing motorhomes. These occurrences are considered a “halo effect,” gaining exposure for the motorhome lifestyle in mainstream pop culture.
News reports in the national media extol the benefits of motorhoming. Americans are rediscovering the importance of family. Younger families are now exploring the options of renting and purchasing RVs for summer and weekend travels. The very interest that was the foundation for FMCA more than 40 years ago is now apparent as these young families “” and potentially new FMCA members “” travel the highways and back roads of North America.
The RVIA Public Relations Committee also has been involved with the review and consideration of various spokespeople to promote the industry. A few of these are household names when it comes to travel. Others are fairly new to this unique lifestyle. However, they all share a common bond in terms of their love of RVing. Who would ever imagine that a 30-something married couple would sell their home and take up residence in their motorhome while writing RV-inspired travelogues? Well, that’s exactly what RVIA spokespersons Brad and Amy Herzog have done.
One individual made a pitch to the committee regarding working with RVIA in educating departments of tourism in states and various cities to help them become more RV friendly. It is not an easy task to convince chambers of commerce and convention bureaus to look past the traditional hotel-room-night formula in order to determine an economic benefit for an area and to consider the economic impact of visitors traveling in RVs. This individual understands the travel and hospitality industries and can definitely be a very important person in promoting nontraditional thinking in a very traditional industry.
Convention bureaus and chambers of commerce are not the only areas where RVIA is attempting to make inroads. Thanks in part to the effort of FMCA members in the Northwest, “RV Friendly” is becoming a more important term for a couple of states. Oregon and Louisiana have both introduced programs that promote RV friendly services and attractions within their states. Both the Public Relations Committee and the Public and Legislative Affairs Committee of RVIA endorsed a proposal to support legislation in all states to identify RV friendly places for people to stop.
RVIA is a behind-the-scenes public relations dynamo. Other than noticing the black-and-gold seal mounted on the exterior of the motorhome next to the entry door, the average person may not have an idea about the purpose of this important partner. FMCA members can thank RVIA for their efforts in updating laws in states to enhance motorhoming, raising manufacturing standards, and creating awareness that motorhoming is a wonderful way of life for millions of people.
When people ask me about what FMCA is all about, I say that it is all about relationships. RVIA and FMCA have built a relationship over the years that will benefit both organizations for many more years to come.
Major RVIA Activities
- Represents the RV industry and serves as the chief source for shipment statistics, market research, and technical data.
- Works to promote RV travel by providing information to the media and general public.
- Maintains an inspection program to periodically audit RV manufacturers’ compliance with the ANSI A119.2 RV Standard and conversion vehicle manufacturers’ compliance with the ANSI 12-Volt Standard for low-voltage systems in conversion vehicles. Also provides an ongoing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) educational program for its members.
- Sponsors the California RV Show (open to the public) and the National RV Trade Show, the industry’s premiere event where industry officials convene to do business on behalf of manufacturers, dealers, and supplier companies (not open to the public). The 52nd Annual California RV Show will take place in Pomona, California, October 15 through 24, 2004.
- Meets with government representatives regarding state and national legislation affecting the RV industry. Current issues include energy, franchising, warranties, financial or credit restraints, product liability, licensing, titling and registration procedures, highway use rules, and the development of more scenic byways.
- Works with national regulatory bodies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the United States Park Service regarding regulations affecting the RV industry.
- Develops and participates in industry service technician training programs to build a strong base of trained RV service technicians. National efforts include directing the National RV Technical Institute, conducting four annual Trouble Shooter Clinics, developing RV service technician textbooks and shop training manuals, administering the RVDA/RVIA Certification Test, and coordinating the National Satellite-Delivered Distance Learning Program.