By Chuck Woodbury
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 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.
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.
Mr. Ashurst responded on Friday. Read his comments here.
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 from. I explained to the salesman that we needed to empty some of our black tank. He took me over to the service Manager told him I had purchased the RV from them and I needed to dump some of my “crap”. The servicemanger said that he could only do the $165.00 total cleaning without permission from the higher-ups who were not available. As I was leaving. I told the salesman that was the biggest load of “crap” I had ever heard. What I did not tell them was I wanted to either sell my RV or trade it for something better suited for us.
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 challenge out to a small to mid-size American RV manufacturer. Does anyone have one in mind? I think there’s a huge opportunity for whoever takes it on.
Marianne, excellent ideas. Maybe I should search for a manufacturer that makes, say, 100 RVs or less a year, but who goes overboard to be sure every single one is well built. He or she is a leader who puts quality at the top of the list of priorities for every RV that leaves the factory.
I’ll personally visit the plant and talk with the president or CEO about what it takes to do that. If that person is reading this, please contact me. chuck (at) rvtravel.com .
When you build an RV you have a choice to make: What will be more important to you, quality or quantity? I think most put quantity first, and the results are evident these days in problem-ridden RVs that end up in the possession of very many disappointed, even angry buyers.
Born Free RV a family owned factory…built the best quality RV for many years. Just closed their doors, very sad. Wish they would open back up….
Best RV…I wanted a Born Free since 1999 and finally in 2011 our dream was realized. ????????????????
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, about 104 per year. Compared with thousands at other plants.
It is quite an impressive operation and they are top quality RV’s. Of course they are pricey, but built to last.
Hope this helps, take Care.
I was hoping that they hand made class A but they don’t, someone who cares should do that!
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 until it starts to hurt in the manufacturer’s pocket book. As one other commenter said: “Buy Used”!
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 based on what they plan to use the RV for. If you plan on full-timing do NOT buy an ultralight rig. It will not hold up!!! Many families are full timing so cable TV and WiFi connectivity are important to them.
Finally. Since poor quality is a known issue, have your new/used rig inspected by a NRVIA certified inspector BEFORE you take delivery! The National Recreational Vehicle Inspecors Association is not part of or affiliated with the RVIA. We are in all 50 states and can provide a written report with pictures similar ti a home inspection. This is not a free servicw but one that can save you thousands of dollars and many grey hairs. Check out NRVIA.org for a local inspector.
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 have problems.
The biggest problem we have is our own stupidity and greed.
There will be owners mentioning the problems they had with the better units I mentioned, but they are in the minority.
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 out time frame of roughly 3 years, even IF all goes well and according to plan for the proposed project. And on opening day, with no prior campground directory or internet presence….few still even know you are there and open for business….requiring more time to ‘grow’ your business….possibly another three years. No return on investment for up to 6 years from the time of original land purchase/ground breaking. It paints a rather gloomy picture.
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 so flimsy that you bottom out when you sit and they don’t fit when making the table into an extra bed.. Anyway, today is Oct. 21, and we still don’t have it back from the dealer where repairs are being made–nearly 4 months. We went to pick it up 2 weeks ago and there were still 4 things not repaired/replaced/corrected. We’ve had two previous trailers that we purchased used. Both were much more sturdily built and had obvious quality control. They served us well. Wish we still had the last one.
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 specific questions related to these subjects. Current RVers were asked to rate their overall experience with their RVs, 88% responded good, very good, or excellent, with 10% saying fair and 2% responding poor. Additionally, when asked to rate how their actual experience of owning their current RV compared with what they expected when they acquired the vehicle, 33% said their actual experience exceeded expectations, 61% said it met them, and only 6% said their expectations were not met. “
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.
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 to park them. Once the market is saturated with used RV’s and they can’t be sold, the repossession will be substantial. The industry thus will come crashing down. No one wishes to pay for something they can’t use.
P.S. Chuck I wish all the current Rv’ers had the opportunity to read RV Travel news letter each week. Traveling full time, I talk with many travelers throughout the U.S. I always refer them to the RVtravel.com weekly news letter.
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.
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”.
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.
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 the industry then about their sales.
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 the thought of being out of cell access with no access to the web. It always takes a bit of adjustment when we find ourselves in this “predicament” (usually when out boondocking), but then we make sure we can find this place again because it really IS nice to be unconnected and living in peace and quiet.
I’m not sure if the RV lifestyle is evolving or (GASP!) devolving, but we continue to struggle along and do it “our way” as much as possible.
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.
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 like they’re buying a car. They must get rid of that mindset.
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 battery charger and other minor issues. I don’t want to hear that it’s not the builders problems but the manufacturer of the item’s problem.
Thank you for taking on the RV industry. I agree with the transporter in that people save for many years to retire and travel in an RV. They should not have to spend those years dealing with poor quality issues.
Keep up the fight Chuck
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.
Bob, there is nothing I can recommend. Some readers may respond that RV.org offers information. But it charges a hefty fee. I have heard both good things and bad things about the organization, so I cannot recommend it. Your best bet is to take your time, do your research, talk to present owners of the coach you are considering, and keep reading RVtravel.com. It’s a good idea to consider a used coach where the owner has fixed the bugs and/or kept good maintenance records. Good luck! And have fun out there once you get your coach!
You can find very good unbiased rating by going to Consumer RV. Org
Patty, I do not recommend RV.org. As I said before, I’ve heard both good and bad about it. I don’t know how such a small organization can pretend to be a Consumer’s Report for RVs.
Clearly you have never paid for the reports they issue. Just as in buying a RV, you get what you pay for.
How can you bemoan the horrendous quality of RVs, then dismiss the ONLY people reviewing for quality?
$100 plus is a small price to pay for knowledge that could save you 10s of thousands of dollars by buying the wrong rig.
I have no financial or other ties to the rv.org. Every “new” RVer should spend the money for the RV.org research.