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Around the campfire: Who’s to blame for lack of quality RVs?

Terrible RV quality. This ongoing theme runs rampant throughout RV blogs, forums, social media threads, and (you guessed it) around the campfire. But just who is to blame for the lack of quality RVs?

Blame the manufacturers for quality of RVs

Bill, one of my campfire companions this evening, contends, “Manufacturers are just looking to make a buck, regardless of quality! No wonder RVs made within the last several years lack quality.”

“It started with the pandemic,” John added. “RV manufacturers saw a huge opportunity and went to work to capitalize on it. With shutdowns and layoffs, coupled with mandatory masking and distancing, people were desperate to find some relief. An RV vacation became one of the only viable choices.”

“I’m not sure blame belongs solely to manufacturers,” Wanda mused. “We live in a capitalist nation. Companies are in the business of making money. Their shareholders demand it. I blame the actual workers on the line.”

Blame the line workers for quality of RVs

When asked to explain, Wanda complained, “Workers—in all industries, really—no longer have pride in their work. It used to be at the end of the day, a laborer looked with real pride at the job they’d done. Now it’s all about the money. And only the money.”

I’ve talked to some line workers in the RV industry. They would argue that Wanda is off base. One guy wanted me to know that workers are under constant pressure to build more and build faster. With that kind of pressure, it’s no wonder pride in workmanship suffers. A slower, more careful worker will not see the bonuses or pay raises like their faster peers on the line.

Blame the RV dealerships for quality of RVs

“I think most of the blame goes to the RV dealerships,” Donna declared. “They have a right not to accept defective RVs, yet they look the other way. They accept them from the manufacturers, knowing full well there are problems.”

I suppose that if I had buyers lined up to purchase RVs from my lot, it would be a temptation to ignore individual unit issues. I wonder just how easy it is for local dealers to reject a poorly made RV. (Just look at what Chuck Woodbury saw at a recent RV show—and it was for sale!) Will the manufacturer retaliate in some way down the line? Who pays for the return of an RV? It’s probably not as simple as we think.

Perhaps some dealerships accept defective RVs thinking that their own mechanics will address and fix any problems. But the mechanics I know are already overwhelmed with fixing a backlog of RVs. Dealerships near us constantly advertise, looking for mechanics. They can’t find them!

Heck, blame the consumer!

“Take a look around this campfire, folks,” Sharice said. “The blame falls squarely on the consumer. If we’d stop buying junk RVs, things would have to change. As long as demand stays high, the dealerships, line workers, and manufacturers have no reason to address quality issues.”

Identifying blame may become a moot point. Recent reports indicate a slowing RV market. If reports are to be believed, perhaps in time RV quality will return.

So … who do you think is to blame for the poor quality of RVs? Share your opinions in the comments below, please.

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Poed
1 month ago

The manufacturer alone, with dealers just as culpable when they watch it and look away as when they actually participate.

Roger Marble
1 month ago

“Detroit” got its clock cleaned when Honda & Toyota introduced quality vehicles into the US market. Consumers soon learned about the quality of the “Imports” and decided reliability, fit & finish were valuable. Eventually “Detroit” figured it out but by then they had permanently lost most of the market. How to build and sell a quality vehicle is not a secret. What do you think would happen if one maker offered a longer warranty and actually built the RV correctly the first time and didn’t depend on the 1st owner to make most of the repairs? If they could survive the first couple of years, I bet they would take over the market. If or when Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, or some other mfg that understands how to design quality in rather than depending on the owner and dealer to have to fix the RV we might see some improvement. Till then I do not expect to buy another RV as I have ‘fixed” the poor Quality items in my 2016 Class-C so now everything works as desired.

McCullough
1 month ago

No quality control, lack of proper training, lack of pride in workmanship and poor pay.

DENNIS J CHARPENTIER
1 month ago

Manufacturers, dealers, and consumers are to blame for substandard materials, poor workmanship, improper and limited dealer prep, and consumer demand for lower prices and increasing amenities.
Manufacturers are responding to consumer and dealer demand for more, more, more RV’s. Speed up the process and you get poor workmanship. Manufacturers expect the dealers to complete the process in the dealer prep (Which they charge plenty for) but that would eat into their profit so they offer a walk-through which is supposed to teach the bug-eyed consumer everything they are supposed to know about their now too complected and feature-laden RV.
Anxious to get on the road, the new owner settles for what they got enters America’s shake-rattle-and-roller coaster highway system driving basically a six-wheeled truck which they expect to perform like their BMW. It just won’t meet expectations on its best day and thus spend countless hours, days, or even months in the shop leaving angst for all.

Tim
1 month ago

Until Honda or Toyota get into the business of making RV’s, expect the quality to remain poor.

Colin Simms
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Tim: I agree and have argued for years that Japanese and Korean manufacturers must get into the fold and like the NA auto industry shake up the poor quality mentality.

Diane
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Isn’t that such a sad, but true statement. We should take pride in our own country and do a proper job in the beginning.

Aaron Adkins
1 month ago

It’s ALL the above. Greedy manufacturers, apathetic line workers, complacent dealers, and ignorant buyers ALL contribute to the poor quality problem.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron Adkins

Yep, I think that about covers it, Aaron. Take care. 😀 –Diane

B J
1 month ago

I’m in a ’99 Montana that is still in decent livable condition. Granted, I didn’t do my due diligence at time of purchase, but once my electrical issues get fixed, all I have to do is the re-decorating things.
I don’t know if someone will be able to say that about their rigs in 23 yrs.
I personally, see “all of the above” as adding to the problem. There will always be folks who just want the fast buck regardless. WE, as consumers, have to demand better, even if it costs a few bucks more.
But that’s just my perspective.

Anne
1 month ago

I figure now that gas prices are up less consumer interest. I went to a few RV shows and folks here are correct quality is poor. They added bells & whistles – high end appliances and outdoor tv’s and barbecues but most of it is flash compared to the structural quality. I’m waiting until the industry gets back to quality which may be never or buying used because someone else has fixed the issues.

L.Major
2 months ago

I actually ran out of room. I was told that someone ordered the air conditioner and ended up trading their RV instead of fixing the one they had. I haven’t used it since but went into it to do routine dusting etc and that brand new air conditioner doesn’t work already. These are just a few problems that I have had with this camper. Leaking faucets and the last time we used it we emptied the tanks before leaving the campground but when we got home there was sewage water all over the bathroom. I always dreamed of having a camper and traveling with it. This turned out to be nothing but a nightmare.

L.Major
2 months ago

I bought a Forest River camper before the Pandemic. I have used it for times since 2019 when I bought it brand new. The first time water poured out from under the siding near. I took it to the dealership and they found screws lodged somewhere around the plumbing. They fixed that. The second time I used it the heat kept turning on by itself. We live in Florida and this was summer time. I took it back and was told that the thermostat was defective and because by this time we were within the Pandemic. I was told that because of this, they had no idea of when they could get a replacement. Months later they finally got a replacement and we tried to camp again. The air quit working. I took it back again. I was told that all RV air conditioners were being sent to the manufacturers and there was no way to get one for mine. After finally emailing the manufacturer letting them know what a waste of $20,000. 00 this camper was, the dealership called me and said that they had a new air conditioner.

Tom
2 months ago

Plenty of blame to go around—but I place the bulk of it on the manufacturers—they’re the ones that source or specify the products used to build units. They’re the ones that give instructions to the worker on the level of quality, fit, and finish they expect of the build. AND… THEY’RE the ones that know which glitzy, poor-quality junk will visually suck in a buyer! Now, as to consumers…seriously, you expect them to demand anything from the dealer?!? Demand all you want…that message will never get to the manufacturer, and the dealer just doesn’t care. I also give plenty of blame to the finance office! They suck in the average consumer with what they arrived on the lot looking for…the fanciest, biggest unit they can get for the monthly price they can squeeze into their budget. Not too different from the real estate boom with all that predatory lending a few years back. Show me an RV built in the last 10 years that is worth what the consumer owes on it. Darn few!

Colin Simms
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom: The RV public must stop buying this rubble and push entrepreneurs to build RVs with quality and safety. I suspect articles like this one and comments from readers could shake up the industry.

Mario Aubin
2 months ago

I purchased a very expensive rv from a top well known manufacturer and I am a finicky, perfectionist person. I had $16,000 of repairs done under warranty the first year. After that, it was my problem! Manufacturers buy end of run items to put inside the motorhome. The cheapest fridges, cheapest washer and dryer, cheapest electric curtains on the market, etc… The motorhome was excellent! The motor, the frame, the wood finish inside but everything else was the cheapest available. The “bed” in the living room was an inflatable mattress that you could get for $60 at Walmart!
After 16 years in the market and 4 different motorhomes, I still can’t understand how a rich person can own an expensive motorhome if you are not very mechanically inclined. The motorhome never breaks at the dealer, it always happens in the woods or in the parking of a Walmart!

John Sherman
2 months ago

We have a 2009 Arctic Fox 24-5N and have put about 120,000 miles on it and full-timed for 3 years. The fit and finish was acceptable. It could easily have been better. However, the overall quality was excellent. The roads in our nation will beat anything to death and then do it again. Our trailer is a testament to quality design, quality materials and quality construction. I have nothing but good to say about this manufacturer during this time frame. When I look at new RV’s from various manufacturers, for the most part I’m not impressed and the sales techniques leave me wondering. If I could get a new 24-5N, I’d buy it tomorrow. Unfortunately this model is no longer built. It’s short enough for many East Coast and national forest campgrounds. I don’t want a long trailer nor a long 5th wheel. I want something built well that is short enough that I can back into a tight spot and is very well made.

George stephenson
2 months ago

Rv’s have always been garbage, they have always been poorly manufactured from shoddy parts, period, if you want a quality recreational vehicle build it yourself on a commercial chassis, otherwise you’re going to get lots of flashy features you don’t actually need, exorbitant costs and poor quality, who fixes rv’s? RV dealers, it’s a relatively closed ecosystem, like the law, if you think lawyers are crooks…..that includes judges and district attorneys….

Tom
2 months ago

Not always… I have an Alpenlite (built by Western RV-Yakima, WA), and its quality and good design throughout. It’s held its value far better than most. Unfortunately, Western went out of business–probably (I really don’t know why) because they weren’t making enough profit by focusing on producing a quality unit. When I go to RV shows, I absolutely cringe at the quality of new units compared to my Alpenlite. There’s nothing lite about an Alpenlite.

Dewey Proctor
2 months ago

The reason was nailed by the last comment, the one by Sharice. If you don’t buy them the quality should improve.

OTOH, I recall motorhomes I rented in the 70’s that were nothing but slipshod pieces of junk, rented by slipshod locations that were trying to earn a few bucks. Doors that fell off because of pressboard rather than plywood being used, flimsy hinges and latches that were worn out in a very short time, you name it. I’ve been out of the game for a long long time, but seeing these units at shows reminds me of the current crop of crap and that it isn’t far removed from what I saw in 1978.

Kristine Honer
2 months ago

Poorly made RV’s did not begin because of Covid.
I believe it started in the 2000’s.
I’ve owned moderately priced rv”s from the 90’s that were built well.
The next decade the moderately priced rv’s were stapled together, thin luan walls and mattresses that were fabric covered boxes.
I am convinced it is caused by the greed of the owners and the want of the almighty dollar!!

robert
2 months ago

I have been a quality professional for over 30 years. I have consulted and worked with a number of organizations in the US and abroad on how to improve their corporate cultures and focus on overall quality of their products and services. Quality begins and ends with senior management, there are no exceptions. Most people believe that quality has a cost which is reflected in higher price. This is not necessarily so. Most organizations ( the RV industry is a prime example) have no idea of the cost of poor quality on the bottom line. Rework, warranty claims, and loss of consumer confidence in their products has a far greater cost than building a quality product and reputation. In my experience, the payback to the bottom line by investing in product quality out the door has a 6 to 1 dollar return. I have seen this borne out time and again, when the senior manage commits to improving corporate quality. A focus on quality has a positive ROI. This lesson needs to learned by the RV industry.

doug
2 months ago
Reply to  robert

that is true in the construction industry. I’ve done stuff I’m not proud of!

Dave
2 months ago

Companies are to blame for poor quality. Companies share profits with share holders and the lower workman sees no bonuses just pressure to build build build faster…. And the sad part is it’s not just with rv manufacturing lines. Workman across the board have no pride in their work anymore. Underpaid understaffed and only production numbers count.

Tony Barthel(@tony)
2 months ago

Having worked at a dealership and watched people shop, I put a lot of the blame on consumers. Many would come in asking ‘what’s the best RV on the lot?’ and then buy something inexpensive that had some amenity like a fireplace or ice maker.

People claim they want quality but they’re not demanding it. There are some quality manufacturers out there and I try to point out companies that are doing a better job in my daily reviews. But what sells in large numbers are stick-and-tin trailers with leaf spring suspensions that are slapped together as quickly as possible.

If consumers continue to reward companies who are making sloppily built units, the companies are going to recognize that that’s what consumers want because that’s what they’re buying.

When the poor-quality offerings no longer sell well and consumers demand better, the RV companies will build what people demand. Any business is just there to serve consumer demand. It’s your fault, buyers.

vdoman
2 months ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

BS! Talk about victim blaming at it’s finest. How about this thought… you as a dealer should not offer units with poor workmanship? You as a dealer have the responsibility to pressure the manufactures to up their quality. You as a dealer are the single most important point of contact for a customer interested in buying one of the RVs on your lot. When a quality issue comes up, a customer’s first thought is: They sold me a crap RV. Then they take it in for warrantee work and hear: “Oh, it’s the manufacture’s fault. Customer’s point of view: “You are the one sold me a crap RV!”

Poor workmanship reflects badly on everybody in the supply chain, and whether you like it or not, you as a dealer is the point-of-contact and the final face of that workmanship. So don’t blame us. Your least expensive offering should at least work properly.

Alli
2 months ago
Reply to  vdoman

Well said. Even the cheapest product on the lot should work as advertised. And the dealer is the one who takes the money. And warranties mean nothing if we don’t have the use of the unit for months at a time.

Tony Barthel(@tony)
2 months ago
Reply to  vdoman

Well, I don’t disagree with that statement except that when a small dealership complains enough about what’s rolling onto the lot suddenly product just stops showing up.

Unfortunately the big dealerships would have to be the ones changing the direction and we all know how little they care about the consumer.

So that’s why I suggest that the customer is the one who should do their research and buy carefully including researching a dealership. You’re absolutely correct, finding a great dealership who cares is one of the biggest factors in enjoying the RV lifestyle.

But, again, when people claim they want quality and walk out with something lousy it’s their own darned fault, as Jimmy Buffett sang in Margaritaville. Spending $50K on something and doing no research is foolish, to me.

thomas
2 months ago

It is always the fault of the consumer and due to the unwillingness to spend enough for a quality product to be manufactured.

vdoman
2 months ago
Reply to  thomas

Victim blaming. The RVs should all work properly and we are certainly allowed to blame the dealership selling them to us if things are not right.

Tony Barthel(@tony)
2 months ago
Reply to  vdoman

How are buyers “victims” when they have the opportunity to do research and then do none and suffer from their own lack of proper decision making?

There are good units out there. I just bought a new rig and have put over 3,000 miles on it and lived in it full time (we’re selling our house) since May with zero issues with it. The fit and finish are outstanding, the functionality is terrific and we have been thrilled.

The only victimization is the fact that people are victims of their own bad decision making. Nobody is forcing them to buy the RV – they’re doing it themselves. All you have to do is read the various forums out there where people fully admit they’re new RVers and have done zero research whatsoever.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
2 months ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Excellent points, Tony! Thanks! And I know you’re speaking from much experience, having been in the business for so long. Have a great day! 😀 –Diane

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