By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service
One of the things that you as an RV owner may not realize is some manufacturers sell parts only to their own dealers. For example, if you need a part for a Keystone product, you’ll find their parts are only obtainable through a Keystone dealer. In principle, I understand why they want to favor their dealers and why the dealers want to lock out competitors. Automobile manufacturers do the same thing.
Here’s where it gets tricky. If I were working on your Ford, all I need to do is go to the local Ford dealership – and there are at least four within an hour’s drive. With RVs that’s not the case. For many RV brands, the nearest dealer might be a 100 miles away. That means I have to get the part shipped to the dealer, then the dealer has to ship it to me. That’s a lot of downtime for the RV owner. I’ve had more than one owner say if they’d known this was the case, they would never have purchased their given brand of RV.
Realizing many dealers have a tremendous investment in their bricks-and-mortar locations, I would not propose any manufacturer treat me like a dealer. Some of them have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars’ worth of inventory on their lots, and I respect that. But I wonder if a more moderate solution would work that might offer owners faster turnaround time.
Perhaps the manufacturer could maintain a listing of approved technicians and sell me, for instance, parts for the retail price the customer might pay at a dealership. The manufacturer would keep the wholesale cost and credit the dealership nearest to me with the profit margin. That way, the manufacturer and dealership would turn a profit, and I can make my profit on the labor.
I realize dealerships are bending over backwards to try to lock in customers with lifetime warranties and to lock out competitors, but it just isn’t going to work. When someone buys an RV, in my estimation they do not want a good warranty – they want a good product and the ability to obtain prompt service, no matter where they are.
No matter how hard they try, RV dealerships will never be like automobile dealerships simply because RVs are not like automobiles. No one needs an RV. They are usually a “toy” that most folks buy for fun. Making it hard for people to get service wherever/whenever is going to do nothing more than make folks angry – or angrier – at dealerships than they already are.