Response to my letter to the RVIA

From Chuck Woodbury
I received this reply from James Ashhurst, the Senior Vice-President of Marketing Communications of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). He wrote:

Chuck,
Thanks for your email. Many of us are regular readers of RVTravel.com and we appreciate your passion for the industry and the RV community.

The issues you raise are important ones for RVers, and as I mentioned to you in my note in July of last year, efforts to enhance product quality and customer service are a major focus throughout the RV industry. Significant attention and investment of both time and resources is being devoted to this effort by manufacturers, suppliers and dealers alike. Matters of product quality in any industry – not just in RVs – is a key competitiveness issue. Moreover, the very concept of “quality” is – of its very nature – a subjective issue that can and does differ based on the individual expectations and concepts of various customers and producers. As a national trade association devoted to representing the collective interests of all its members, RVIA is legally bound by anti-trust obligations to tread delicately with competitiveness matters that impact a collection of competing companies. Nevertheless, RVIA encourages all of its members to invest in quality. Such investments improve the consumer experience; and the marketplace rewards those that make those investments.

One area that RVIA can lead in is the consumer experience as it pertains to the repair event cycle time.  Since we last spoke, leaders from the RV manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and distributors have embarked on an exhaustive look into how the industry currently addresses service and parts issues – and it is an area that must be improved. In the coming months, that group will present its findings and recommendations to the industry, and companies will be urged to improve processes to create better experiences for our customers.

LAST YEAR I TOLD YOU that RVIA was taking the lead on monitoring consumer sentiment in areas like product satisfaction and experience. At our national show last year we released the findings from the “Go RVing Communications Planning Study” we conducted with Nielsen. It was the largest consumer perception research we conducted in over 10 years. More than 2,500 current and prospective RVers were queried with specific questions related to these subjects. Current RVers were asked to rate their overall experience with their RVs, 88% responded good, very good, or excellent, with 10% saying fair and 2% responding poor. Additionally, when asked to rate how their actual experience of owning their current RV compared with what they expected when they acquired the vehicle, 33% said their actual experience exceeded expectations, 61% said it met them, and only 6% said their expectations were not met.  

We also conducted research earlier this year asking similar questions.  The new research surveyed 1,600 RV owners about their experiences with repairs and maintenance for their RV. Owners were screened to ensure we included those who had purchased a new RV, had repairs or maintenance in the past two years, have owned their RVs for five years or fewer, were part of the decision making process, and had used their RV for travel in the past year. The study found that overall satisfaction with the RV service experience is generally high – 58% were completely satisfied, 31% somewhat satisfied, and just 3% dissatisfied.  We will be releasing the findings from this research during the National RV Trade Show, and we will continue to conduct annual research on these issues to ensure that we are improving upon these numbers.

Regarding camping in National Parks or on federal land, one point of clarification: RVIA is not pushing for privatization of campgrounds in national parks or on any federal lands.  Media reports have used that word, but it is inaccurate. RVIA, through our work with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, is encouraging the Department of the Interior to take a fresh approach to the major federal budgetary challenges it faces to better enable Americans to truly enjoy their lands and waters. We believe that public-private partnerships are a sensible way of addressing these challenges, and modernizing federal campgrounds to better accommodate the needs of modern day RVers. There are numerous examples of how these currently work on federal lands – notably world-class ski areas and park lodging built and maintained by high-performing business with long-term commitments.  Our public lands are mired in Eisenhower era facilities, and are nowhere close to keeping pace with a changing America, and urban and digital-age visitors will demand more service, better amenities, connectivity and access. The best way to meet the growing demand is by tapping into the public-private partnership model.  

AS FOR PRIVATE CAMPGROUNDS, the issues you present are a concern as well, and we would encourage you to reach out to ARVC for their perspective. That said many family-owned campground owners have children that aren’t interested in running a campground. For others, as urban sprawl continues, their land becomes so valuable they simply cannot turn down the money being offered by developers. However, one can also look at this through the lens of supply and demand.  As more RVers enter the market place, there is an opportunity for investment – and the long-term prospects for building out the needed spaces for people and families to recreate will be appealing to individuals and companies looking to serve that burgeoning market. RVIA staff routinely field calls from individuals considering an investment in constructing new campgrounds, and we always supply information about the strong growth of the industry and the passion for being outdoors and having authentic experiences the next generation of consumer values.

We appreciate you giving voice to your reader’s concerns, and together, we can continue to improve so that we ensure that future generations continue to pursue and enjoy the RV lifestyle.

Best regards, JA

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