My letter to an RV industry association leader

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    By Chuck Woodbury
    EDITOR
    I emailed this Tuesday to James Ashurst, the Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). RVIA represents 98 percent of the RV manufacturers in America, watching out for their interests. Mr. Ashurst responded on Friday. Read his comments here.

    I wrote:

    Dear James,
    Is RVIA aware of the crowded conditions in America’s RV parks? My monthly audience of nearly 200,000 RVers plus our YouTube audience (53,000 subscribers with 16.4 million views) is both upset and frustrated over the crowding. Of course, they are also upset at the poor quality of the RVs coming out of Elkhart. In a recent poll, 21 percent of our 1,400 readers described the quality of their rigs as poor or terrible.
     

    My letter to an RV industry association leaderI have been writing a lot about both topics lately and will continue to do so. I am also thinking that the mainstream media needs to be alerted about both crowded campgrounds and poor quality of RVs. If I were a newspaper automotive editor or TV news producer I would jump at both stories. But as you know, the mainstream media is unaware of what’s going on because most of the important people there have never been in an RV. And the only news or PR they see coming from the RV industry is about record sales.

     
    To those of us living and traveling in RVs (I sold my home two years ago and have been on the road since — an eye-opening experience), these record sales are nothing to celebrate: they just mean more difficulty finding a space in a nice campground. Even the junky parks are filling up.
     
    Of course, RV park owners are happy with the crowds and simply suggest their customers make reservations further in advance. But do you know what happens to those RVers who make such advance plans? They may get sick in the interim or their kid may announce he’s getting married at the same time, or they may be on their way to the campsite they reserved and their RV breaks down somewhere along the way and they’re stuck there a week or two or longer getting it repaired. Making reservations six months or a year ahead is not “going where you want when you want,” as GoRVing promotes.
     
    Try to get a reservation anywhere near a popular National Park a month or two ahead. You’re lucky in prime season if you can find an RV park with an available space within 20 miles, and when you do your neighbor will be 15 feet away. It’s lovely when he cranks up his outdoor TV at 10 p.m. and enjoys a cigar with the smoke blowing right in your window. Ah, nature!
     
    Look what Yosemite says right on its website about making a reservation:
    My letter to an RV industry association leader
     
    The fact that few RV manufacturing executives have traveled more than a weekend here and there in an RV is another reason they don’t know about crowding or the consequences of having a half million new RVs a year added to the already overcrowded scene.

    I like what marketing guru Seth Goodin wrote a few days ago:

    “Detroit car executives in the 1970s and 1980s consistently failed to respond to the threat from Japanese imports. They weren’t merely arrogant—they were blinded by proximity. Everyone in their neighborhood, everyone on their commute, everyone in their parking lot was driving an American car. How could there be a problem?”

    And about the poor quality of RVs: Here’s is a paragraph from an email I received from a reader the other day who has delivered motorhomes for more than a decade.

    “Some of these motorhomes I deliver today, I just think to myself that some nice person who has saved all his working years to buy an RV to fulfill his dreams is going to buy a nightmare. And the RV manufacturers could care less and the dealerships are not much better. More than once I have thought about selling RVs but I could not bring myself to deceiving the public just to make money for myself.”

    He added: “We are told by the transport company not to tell the dealerships about any of the problems we find in our inspection of the unit before we leave Indiana. But I do just the opposite because I feel it only right for the dealership to know.”

    I’d like to know what actions the RVIA is taking to help address the problem of poor quality workmanship and crowding in RV parks (not just encouraging the privatization of existing campgrounds in National Parks).

    I would also like to see you devote one of your ads or commercials to show RVers overnighting in a crowded Wal-Mart parking lot, because that’s the new American “default” campground. Our survey of nearly 1,000 readers revealed that 40 percent spend at least one night a month in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Is that the lifestyle GoRVing is selling?

    I would appreciate your comments. 

    Chuck

    Mr. Ashurst responded on Friday. Read his comments here.

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    Fred Heap

    Chuck, thanks for your support. The problem seems, to a great degree, to be an bad attude throughout the whole industry I found a very good RV repare and storage company with a great positive attude in Majors RV in Bourne, Massachusetts. Quality work plus. This does not seem to be true throughout the industry Case on point. Last weekend, my wife and I were driving through Rochester, New Hampshire when I remember that I had purchased our Roadtrek 190V at a local dealer. We stopped at the dealer and I found the sales man we had purchased the RV… Read more »

    Marianne Edwards

    American car manufacturers were confident that Japanese cars would never catch on here – good analogy, Chuck. The solution to poor quality is competition. Or, as some have already suggested – we can just stop buying NEW RVs. Period. Don’t know that there are Japanese RV makers but what’s involved in importing European models? Or has protectionist lobbying already made it too punitive for ANY importer to get into the game? Really, for the price of a new RV made here, there’s GOT to be a reasonable profit for whoever is willing to rise to the occasion. Let’s put the… Read more »

    Jeff

    Hi Marianne: Yes, I know a manufacturer who doesn’t make many New RV’s in a year. The company is called the RV FACTORY. http://www.rvfactory.com They make the LUXE, which used to be the Augusta RV company and this company only makes a small number of RV’s due to the fact they are Factory Direct Sales. NO MIDDLE MAN DEALERSHIPS. You actually go online and build your own. I recently visited the factory in Elkhart, IN. Factory Tour and the whole 9 yards. They actually only put out about 2 New units a WEEK! Yes, a week! So doing the math,… Read more »

    Dave Telenko

    I was hoping that they hand made class A but they don’t, someone who cares should do that!
    Dave

    Merl Bell

    Chuck, After reading your letter and MR. Ashbury’s comment, I must conclude that we can expect very little help from RVIA on product quality. After all, as he said in not so many words, “quality is in the eyes of the beholder” and cannot be evaluated critically based on the different exceptions of different people. What a cop out. Quality is not objective when it deals with poor assembly, broken parts, or parts not working at all. I for one will never buy a new RV, just for the quality reason alone. I don’t believe we will get much improvement… Read more »

    John Driessen

    Chuck, I read your letter to Mr Ashurst and his reply. The RVIA gets a lot of press both good and bad. As an industry association, RVIA can make all the recommendations and suggestions it pleases but has no way to force it’s members to comply. RVIA also has no control over the RV parks. Since this is a business, the owners are looking at the bottom line more than its customers contentment. Quality in the RV industry is poor at best. Some makers are increasing their quality but it is more expensive. Customers (RVers) need to make purchase decisions… Read more »

    Dave Davis

    There is only one way to fight the quality issue….Don’t buy a new one. There are enough used RVs out there to fit the bill, unless you just have to have a new one. The biggest offender is Thor. Anyone that does any research when spending this sum will find that you can minimize the quality issues buying a Newmar, Fleetwood, and maybe a Winnebago. Yes these owners have problems, but nothing like the Thor owners have. People want a Newmar, but think they can get a Thor that looks similar for 60-70% of the price and it will not… Read more »

    Ron Hale

    Today, I have read a lengthy thread on RV.net titled….”If you know anyone with land, tell them to build an RV park”. The author of the original post is bemoaning the lack of available RV park and campground space…just as we all are. The thread is already 3 pages long, with many posts. Some even from a current RV park owner, stating how unlikely it remains that few if any new RV parks/campgrounds will be built. The cost of land, permits, engineering reports, impact studies….and then the actual construction costs themselves make it nearly financially impossible. Then expect a build… Read more »

    Gretchen

    We purchased a new Surveyor (Forest River) trailer last fall and took delivery the first week in April. We took a 10-day camping trip in June, which was the first time we used it. The stove, fridge, toilet, shower, awning, and tipout all worked, but by the time we returned home, we had a list of 27 items that needed repair under the 90-day warranty. (Including the tipout quit working, outside trim peeled away from the siding, GFI didn’t work properly, trim pieces fell off cabinets, curtains installed incorrectly, etc.) Also the foam used for the dining seat cushions is… Read more »

    M gardner

    Mr Ahursts job is marketing. Nothing he says will acknowledge anything other than what will forward their marketing. I’ve quoted his statement below. Current and prospective RVers – how can a prospective RVer comment on how satisfied they are. Also – surveying a buyer WHEN they pick up their RV creates a false sense of “everything is peachy”. Finally – even when things go wrong, the average buyer is so uninformed that they figure constant failures and long repair times are normal. Either that, or Mr Ahurst is simply lying. “More than 2,500 current and prospective RVers were queried with… Read more »

    DL Johnson

    Thank you, Chuck, for addressing the quality problem within the RV industry. We are first-time owners who diligently saved for many years and felt we had also adequately looked at and researched the available choices. We chose a 2016 Airstream Interstate that has been disappointing both in its performance and in the corporate response (or lack thereof) and accountability. We appreciate your continued efforts to highlight both the good and bad within the RV world.

    Michael McCracken

    Chuck, your letter to Ashurst could not have explained the concerns of us RV’ers more precisely. His response is without a doubt a bunch of manure. The survey conducted of 2,500 Rv’ers is a joke. This by no way represents the many thousands of RV owners to-date. In my opinion he could care less about the problems in quality of RV’s or the overcrowded campgrounds. As long as the consumers continue to purchase at the current rate nothing will change. In the near future I predict a mass sell off of used RV’s when people find out they have nowhere… Read more »

    Edward Price

    One interesting thing in Mr. Ashurst’s response is his citing of very tiny surveys (1500 samples) that dramatically contradict the results of your tiny samples. I suspect the “screening” he mentions just may be unintentional filtering bias.

    Mel

    Hi Chuck. I read your article as well as the response and was shocked to see his comments regarding the number of RV owners that are satisfied with the quality of their RV’s. I have owned 6 RV’s since 1980 and must say that the workmanship & quality has deteriorated greatly in the past 10 years. As Bill says above the RV industry today simply wants to manufacture as many RV’s as possible and “shove them out the door” without doing any final inspections or quality control”.

    Edward Price

    Mr. Ashurst comments: “As a national trade association devoted to representing the collective interests of all its members, RVIA is legally bound by anti-trust obligations to tread delicately with competitiveness matters that impact a collection of competing companies.”

    That sounds a lot like “endeavor to persevere” to me.

    Barbara Hagen

    After reading the letter from the “corporate office” I believe it is now time for the RV’rs to stand up and demand better quality by posting problem Rv’s on our Facebook forums. I often get asked what is the best Class A and after reading on Facebook about all the problems some brands have that I can only recommend three brands of Class A’s. Also on the subject of RV Parks, call the dealers and ask whether they have a small RV park for their customers or the passing thru RV’er. Perhaps they will think more about the needs of… Read more »

    Tommy Molnar

    After reading your letter, and then the response, I don’t see any major changes taking place, not that I expect anyr. A couple quotes stand out to me. “companies will be urged to improve processes to create better experiences for our customers”. Urged? Like as in ‘suggest that maybe’? I can see THAT going over well and resulting in quality improvement. “urban and digital-age visitors will demand more service, better amenities, connectivity and access”. Sounds like this segment of society should look into taking cruises or upscale train trips, not RV’ing. Maybe it’s just us “old folks” who actually relish… Read more »

    Bil

    Just read the RVIA response and had to pause…wait a minute…did I read correctly, that quality is, “subjective” ???? What? Exactly what’s wrong here.

    Bill

    I’m so glad we did not purchase the Itasca we were looking at, and instead went for quality and bought what we did, a gently used leisure. Most Canadian RV makers have a reputation for quality. Let’s hope that continues. The American RV industry is currently like the American auto industry int he 60s and at least 70s and 80s. Push it out the door. Quality comes last. They will pay for that attitude in the end. Unless, s many point out there, people don’t bother to do their research. People simply do not do their homework and approach this… Read more »

    Debbie Stevens

    Regarding your letter to James Ashurst concerning quality of RV’s and campsites. As usual,you got the “corporate response.” HIs statistics are so different than yours. Was it all Camping World personal? My husband and I have a 2012 Newmar Canyon Star. We go to Yuma AZ for the winter and we love the lifestyle. We’ve had several problems and Newmar has been very helpful with solutions, at a cost of course. 2 Fridgidaire ovens later, and Fridgidaire wanted us to try another of the same over, we gave in a pain $1000 for an Adventium. Issues with the inverter,with the… Read more »

    Bob

    Hi Mr. Woodbury, are there any ratings that you have compiled by manufacturer? We are thinking seriously of buying an RV to live and travel in for half the year, but I have read so many horror stories I want to be careful.

    Patty Guill

    You can find very good unbiased rating by going to Consumer RV. Org