By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, or maybe there really is an RV manufacturer that’s “seen the light” and wants to do something to make peace with the RVing community. Whatever the case, a new move by RV giant Forest River has created a bunch of “unhappy campers” among the ranks of its dealers.
At mid-month, Forest River sent out a memo to its dealers across the country informing them of new procedures that dealers must take if a Forest River-built unit is returned for warranty repair work. Here’s a summary:
When a customer brings a unit in for warranty work, the dealer must fill out a Forest River “Drop-Off” form. A record of that form will need to be made every time the unit comes in for warranty service. If a rig turns up for warranty service previously done for the same problem, then the dealer is mandated to contact the factory if “that issue may substantially impair the use, market-value or safety of the vehicle.”
Where it gets even more interesting is another reason for mandated contact with the factory. A report must be made “whenever the vehicle has been in repair for seven or more days, whether at one dealer or in combination with other dealers, for an issue that may substantially impair the use, market-value or safety of the vehicle.” [emphasis ours] Of interest, most states that have applicable Lemon Laws kick in when a vehicle is grounded for service for up to 30 days.
Putting the heat on local dealers, Forest River rounds out its new commandments with the following punishments for ignoring the protocols: “To the full extent permitted by law, Forest River reserves the right to withhold dealer indemnification if dealer fails to comply with any of the dealer requirements in this addendum.” In other words, do what we say, or don’t expect to get refunded for your parts and labor, and if the customer sues, don’t expect us to back you up.
According to a story published by rvdailyreport.com, many Forest River dealers are taking umbrage with the new policy. Arguably, it appears on the surface that Forest River may be feeling the wrath of consumers who are fed up with spending their days not out RVing, but pacing the floor waiting for a phone call to come and pick up their repaired rig. But dealers are incensed, some saying that the problem with long warranty repair delays is a matter of the company failing to provide repair parts in a timely way, and often shipping the wrong parts in the first place.
Another complaint by warranty servicing dealers? “Warranty [work] is a no-win scenario for dealers,” said one dealer. “The dealers generally get half of the revenue they would receive from external paying customers and we spend three times as much work trying to get paid for the lesser amount.”
How this internal war will shake out between Forest River and its dealers remains to be seen. But for Forest River customers, the big question is this: Does this new policy mean a weather-change that could actually lead to positive changes in customer support? Or will it simply be, like Macbeth’s idiot’s tale, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”?