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Old 06-22-2014, 10:25 PM   #1
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Auto dealers vs RV dealers

Preface, I love my 3051s. I bought two new vehicles last fall, a FR 3051s and a Fiat 500 Sport. The difference between dealers couldn't be more stark. Fiat of Lakeside gets a 15 out of a 1-10 rating and the un named FR dealer get a -4 out of a 1-10 rating. Forest River gets a 9 because of Brian Clemens and Mike Jankowski. And this forum.
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Old 06-23-2014, 04:51 PM   #2
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If the FR dealer is bad, name names to warn us!
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Old 06-23-2014, 06:01 PM   #3
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Comparing RV dealers with car dealers is like comparing restaurants with grocery stores. It's too bad the RV industry isn't more like the car industry, but it is like it is. There are good ones and bad ones. Thank goodness I have a good one.
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Old 06-23-2014, 10:23 PM   #4
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One nice thing about a car dealer...they normally specialize in one brand. Fiat of Lakeside sells...well...Fiats. There may be other brands there, but not many and probably not in the same building using the same people.

Now imagine a single dealership that sells Fiat, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Kia, Buick all under one roof and has the same techs service all those cars. It's partly the dealers fault and partly the industry. In trying to gain market share, mfgs create model after model. Dealerships lose one deal to the dealer down the street and they pick up a new brand to prevent that. Rinse, repeat.

As a company we are doing our best to consolidate brands and standardize features. There are some really good dealerships out there that do their best to focus on certain brands, train their people and provide backend support. Then there are other dealers that try to be everything to everybody but don't put in the time, training or effort to see it through.
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Old 06-24-2014, 08:17 AM   #5
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Brian, I agree with your point, but I remember buying cars in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Really, really bad. The dealer are independent businesses with no control from the mfg., still the case now. What changed, competition. Dealer and mfg. had to step up their game. Are they 100%? No, evidenced by the huge amount of recalls this year. But now, buying or servicing a car isn't the stomach wrenching ordeal it was.
Again, I think Forest River is a step ahead of other companies.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:32 AM   #6
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I understand this way to well. In Feb. I bought my third RV from the same dealer, this passed week I took a friend to said dealer, they kidded me and asked if I was back to trade in again, I said no, but my friend is looking to buy a motor home, they said ok, we went and looked at what they had, no one came out to help us, we went inside and sat at the table for more then 30 minutes NO ONE came over to ask anything. I was put off by this, since I told them she was looking to buy.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:55 AM   #7
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What follows is an opinion piece...

Also not mentioned is the markups. Car dealers typically operate in the 15 - 20% margin area while RV dealers run in the 50% margin area.

I am sure there are REAL good reasons for this (just cause they can seems to be the only one I can find).

There are web sites for determining the "invoice" and MSRP for cars and trucks, and options!, (so you have "some" idea what a fair price is), but nothing like that for RVs.

You can be looking at identical RVs, similarly equipped, with completely different (BY THOUSANDS in some cases) MSRPs.

It is truly the WILD WEST out there when shopping for an RV.

Even "At Invoice" a car dealership is making a few thousand on the deal and many can sweeten that by adding high profit "adds" like your trade in and dealer financing.

At an RV dealership, without some basis for negotiation needs to be established. Without a watchdog like Edmunds.com for autos, you are really on your own to find a starting point.

I have found that you should never work down from the dealer's number; but UP from your basis point to find an equitable price. Making you fight your way down leaves all the cards in the dealer's hand.

If you look at the dealer's "MSRP" (a completely bogus number made up by the individual dealership since as far as I know FR does not establish one) and subtract 40% you should be at a reasonable starting point. Then make them justify any increase in price. You should be able to close about 30% off "MSRP." If not, find another dealer who WILL trade fair with you.

In the end, they will not sell to you if they lose money and you should not buy if you are paying more than you should.
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Old 06-24-2014, 12:24 PM   #8
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I'll take a shot at this one...(mainly opinion with a few facts thrown in)

Let's just look at the raw numbers for 2013
--15.6 million passenger vehicles sold
--312,000 RV's (motorhomes, trailers, 5th wheels, etc) shipped

Volume forgives a lot of sins. As a car dealer, you make a few mistakes on valuations, etc no big deal. An RV dealer has fewer chances to screw up and take a loss, there is more risk involved. Risk means more cost.

Margins: again, volume. The more you sell, the more precise your margin can be. The fewer you sell you need to cover overhead, pay your people you can't afford mistakes. On the wholesale side I can assure you that no dealer of mine is making a 50% margin. This is not the jewelry business.

MSRP: this is not a made up number by the dealer. We the mfg, set the MSRP, we ship an MSRP with every unit. You should feel free to call any mfg and request an MSRP price sheet. Now I can't police what they do with the MSRP once they get it...but you can always get MSRP pricing. (Look at what auto dealers do with their black magic marker on high demand units)

Invoice: Auto mfg's have hold backs (RV's do not). So they have a built in profit margin. Even at invoice...yes, they get that money + trade (that has a HUGE pool of data to determine value). RV's don't have the same pool of data to work with (being smaller numbers) so used values can vary drastically percentage wise over what autos will.

("Opinion only" from here on out)
I do not argue with your negotiating theory, but remember the same thing when valuing your trade. The next customer will try and buy it at book value which means the dealer is fighting from that line to make any money. It may be a floor plan that only 500 were made...how do you establish a true value on that?

What I see from many customers is they want to get the new unit at what they think is invoice and they want full retail value on their trade.

Do I think dealers start high with their pricing?...some do, but they're simply preparing for the customer to want a high price on their trade.

I agree that something like Edmunds would be nice for RV's and maybe we'll get to that...but in the end we're dealing with a much smaller pool of numbers. An auto dealer will take a a nothing deal knowing they can get another one tomorrow. If an RV dealer (I can only speak for motorized) sells a unit they may be 12 weeks to get another one. Season is gone.

Obviously the auto industry is the easiest comparison...but I don't think it is the most fair comparison. I think you should compare the RV industry with the boat/auto/housing/modular housing industry because in the end...it really is a mixture of them all.
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Old 06-24-2014, 01:44 PM   #9
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One of the hidden problems with an MSRP that is way above actual purchase price is what happens when you try to get insurance. When I purchased my Sunseeker, it was $35,000 below the MSRP (RvDirect.com). My insurance company insisted on using MSRP to value the MH and insured it for that. I sent them the Bill of Sale and they still wouldn't change that. Obviously the premiums were high. I started shopping around and found a company that understood RVs and would insure for a price that they and I agreed upon (the actual sale price). Saved half on premiums. This problem is related to the overly high MSRP and the lack of a good valuing system like Edmunds.

Before someone asks...the new company is Progressive. The old one is one that has a lot of "A"s in their name and is associated with an auto club of the same name.


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Old 06-24-2014, 02:32 PM   #10
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Brian, you make excellent points and I really have no issue with the dealer making a killing "on the next guy." I will never trade in another vehicle for the reason you state.

I know I can look the buyer in the eye and tell him or her that nothing is wrong or exactly what is wrong and we can arrive at a fair price where we are both happy. Getting what the dealer offered on the trade plus the sales tax savings is a REAL good deal for the buyer and you can still negotiate a "cash" price with the RV dealer.

Negotiating your tail off to get a good deal on the new unit and then get hosed on the trade and/or loan terms makes little sense to me.

Do you really want to buy your RV from a dealer who only sells a couple of units a year? Just sayin'
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