From the Publisher: The Bambino’s Curse and the House that Babe Built

A picture of Dana Nelson, publisher of RV News Magazine

Before I get into our topic of the month, the October RVDA preview issue of RV News is now available for your reading pleasure. Like always, it’s got some good stuff in it. This month we cover an F&I school, Grand Design, new developments with OE axles, a dealer management company making a big impact, and staying compliant with state and federal regulations. Click here or the magazine’s front cover to read October online.

The baseball World Series is just around the corner, with the first game scheduled for Oct. 26. I can’t wait, and like many fans, I am disappointed the Yankees will not be in it.

Speaking of Yankees, when I think of baseball, one name and one name only comes to my mind ― George Herman Ruth, also known as Babe Ruth ― undeniably one of the greatest baseball players to play the game, and he was a Yank.

As always, please know that I’m going somewhere with referring to Babe Ruth, relative to the RV business.

Babe Ruth played 22 seasons, with the majority of those seasons as a New York outfielder. He did, however, play six years as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Boston traded him after six seasons. This trade was legendary and baseball lore attributes the trade to the Red Sox not winning a World Series for 84 years. The long Red Sox World Series drought is known as “The Curse of The Bambino” because Babe was also known by the nicknames: “The Sultan of Swat” and “The Bambino.”

DRN Media, my company that publishes RV News, will see its sixth anniversary in November. For those who might jump the gun and infer I am about to be traded, you just fell for my slider and you’ve just earned your first strike.

Nothing is further from the truth. I’m not going anywhere, at least as far as I know.

Some of you may think I am about to compare myself with Babe Ruth. You would partially be right, but not in the way you might expect. We will call your second guess a foul ball off my change-up pitch. That’s strike two..

You may think I’m about to list off Babe Ruth’s many amazing accomplishments and then draw comparisons. Actually, it is quite the opposite, so we will call your third guess another foul ball, but one that didn’t result in an out at bat. Let me keep pitching. Trust me, you will get a hit and on base.

Being an entrepreneur is filled with risk and making decisions that may have a big personal impact, but the risk and those decisions may also impact others, too. RV News tries to keep our eye on the ball but sometimes we don’t see everything. We, too, have strikes, foul balls and errors.

I am in the business of telling stories about people who make important decisions that impact many others. Nearly all the stories we tell at RV News are about people whose decisions have or will have extremely positive results.

All business people know not every decision made has positive results. Heck, Babe Ruth had a career batting average of .342. While that is the eighth-highest average in Major League history, and Babe’s .690 slugging average is the best in baseball lore, it does mean there were times where he swung and missed the ball. In his career, he also made 54 errors.

As a businessman, I’m encouraged that even “the greats” miss the ball. It means that while we strive to be perfect, even our betters miss the ball. My role in the industry means many “secrets” cross my desk. Some of them are other RV industry professionals’ “strikes” and “errors.” We rarely, if ever, publish others failings.

This month, I am going to make an exception on calling out a major industry professional’s error. He really whiffed it.

The person I am referring to is yours truly.

Last month, I wrote a rather strong letter calling RV manufacturers to task. It was a swing-for-the-fences move with good intentions. I wrote about how I had heard some RV manufacturers wanted dealers to come to Open House, despite those same manufacturers canceling the event because of Covid.

I explained how I was told dealers were even being pressured to come. I expressed my view that canceling the event because of Covid, but then insisting people come, was contradictory. I speculated why one might say, “don’t come” but then insist “please come.”

This was a major strike at the plate on my part. As a journalist, we are taught to always present both sides of every story. I didn’t do that. I just shared my opinion on what I was being told by others. I let the RV industry team down by not presenting both sides. My opinion is different now that I’ve looked at both sides.

I now suspect that while Covid played a small role in not having Open House, there were much bigger issues at play. Was I wrong when I stated last month that a ton of dealers were going to Open House, even though it was officially canceled? Nope, there were a ton of dealers there, when I visited Elkhart in September. There were also many RVs set up for them to walk through and look at.

That said, let me correct my swing with this at bat. Here is the case from the manufacturer’s perspective on why not having an Open House was the best thing to do:

1.  Setting up new units and then manning those units for four days takes some portion of an RV manufacturer’s workforce from building new RVs. At a time when dealers are clamoring for inventory, would those dealers prefer manufacturer’s employees set up RVs, stand with them at a concert and arrange for food and libations or would they instead prefer RV manufacturers focus on building RVs as fast as they can, while also maintaining quality? Right now, building more RVs takes precedence.

2.  With RV wholesale backlogs spanning nine and in some cases 12 months, more orders at Open House is mostly pointless. A new sale would likely never be filled as expected. By the time the order is next in line to be built, entirely new vehicle model years will be available. Dealers would get something other than what they ordered.

3.    Spending money in 2021 to have an Open House event does nothing for the RV manufacturer’s bottom line. Doing things that don’t lead to greater profitability is bad business, no matter what business you are in.

4.  What is crazy is it likely does little to nothing for the dealer’s bottom line, either. Being out of the dealership to attend an event when you can’t place orders is likely time that could be better spent, not to mention the incurred travel expenses.

5. Oh yeah …  and Covid.

So in conclusion, I am no Babe Ruth. Last month’s letter had good intentions but I’ll keep swinging and I promise to strive to do better. Next month our magazine will announce our annual RV of the Year Awards. Much like this October issue, that magazine will be a grand slam. Don’t forget to click the link or the image of the front cover to flip through ithe magazine. Don’t give up on me because in time, I will prove my worth.


Hank Aaron
(cough cough) I mean Dana Nelsen
RV News Publisher

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