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“Pathetic quality”: RV dealers are fed up with what manufacturers are producing

EDITOR’S NOTE: RVtravel.com is regularly invited to participate in nationwide conference calls with large RV dealers and others involved in the sales and servicing of RVs. We won’t be directly naming those on the call, nor the dealerships involved. While the situation is unusual, we feel the value of the candid comments and information that we can share with you outweighs the lack of the usual attribution. This time, you’ll just have to trust us that the quotes come from trusted, vetted sources.

If you’re in the market to buy a new RV, you might want to wait a bit. RV dealers on a recent nationwide conference call said the quality of most recreational vehicles now being produced is “pathetic.”

“It’s some of the worst stuff I’ve seen in 30 years,” said one longtime RV dealer. “It’s horrendous inside and out. But we have no recourse but to put it on the lot and try to sell it. You take what you can get, and you move on.”

The dealer said he suspects many longtime RVers are delaying purchasing a new rig, since it’s no secret – at least on social media and many blogs – that new RV owners aren’t happy with their purchases. “The lack of quality and all of the negative comments in the chat rooms have to be holding people back from moving forward with a purchase.”

The East Coast dealer said RV manufacturers are “building them as fast as they can, and there just isn’t any quality control. Manufacturers are not doing a good job of taking care of their customers. It’s gone from bad to worse.”

Will the industry topple?

One West Coast dealer echoed those thoughts. “My greatest fear now is watching the motorized RV industry get toppled,” he said. “They just don’t have the expertise to complete a motorhome in Northern Indiana anymore. Their labor force has no eye for quality and they have no way of teaching it. The industry is ripe for someone else to step in and start producing quality products, but it will likely have to be someplace other than Indiana. Right now, if the workers there get upset by something, they just walk off because it’s easy to get a job in Elkhart right now.”

He cited one manufacturer who admitted that he usually has no idea what his workforce will look like from week to week. “He said on Mondays, he never knows who is going to show up.”

A New England dealer said some manufacturers are only running their plants three to four days a week due to shortages in both parts and labor. “The quality that is coming out is just terrible,” he said. “Their ability to retain employees is bad. You can just tell that the guys on the manufacturing lines have been on the job for just a week. Plants don’t have the proper staffing, and they can’t do the service after the sale.”

Even newbies notice the poor quality

It isn’t just dealers who have noticed the drop in quality. “I had one newbie who purchased what they thought was the Taj Mahal of RVs,” said one dealer. “They take their first trip with it, and they come back in with 40 different problems with it. Then, I get to tell them they have to wait weeks or even months to get it fixed because nobody can get the parts.”

All of this angst on the part of dealers comes at a time when manufacturers are celebrating their success in producing record numbers of units.

The industry is projecting it will produce nearly 580,000 rigs by the end of 2021, and set a new record in 2022 with more than 600,000 new factory shipments.

“Continued robust demand for RVs, the need for RV dealers to restock historically low inventories, the strong financial standing of consumers, and sustained interest in the outdoors will work to keep RV shipments elevated,” said the RV Industry Association in a recent press release.

“Faced with many of the same kinds of supply chain and labor issues plaguing most industries over the past year, the RV industry has overcome these challenges and produced a record number of RVs month after month,” said Jeff Rutherford, President & CEO of Airxcel and RV Industry Association Chairman.

Read also: RV dealers say steady price increases from manufacturers make it difficult to lock in final costs for buyers

COMING NEXT SUNDAY: Roadside assistance companies stretched thin by huge growth in RVers and lack of available service centers

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Michael McNabb
2 months ago

Have owned two class A’s. I am thoroughly DISGUSTED at the complete lack of quality and workmanship. The travesty begins with lack of design and engineering. Luan and glue cannot successfully cope with moisture and the rigors of road travel. A total redesign is absolutely necessary. It’s needed to both restore this industry, but further, restore any sort of faith in American quality of manufacturing.

KC Honie
4 months ago

Just like in the overlanding segment most of the quality product come from either Australia or South Africa. The same thing will happen with the US RV market. New entrants will arrive with innovative quality products and all that will be left of the US manufacturers will be boarded up buildings.

I hate to see that but it is bound to happen…

KC Honie
4 months ago

This is why we purchased a used 17′ Casita (all fiberglass shell) there is nothing on this trailer that I cannot easily fix myself. We simply do not bother with RV dealers…

Michael McNabb
2 months ago
Reply to  KC Honie

YES! By FAR my favorite ownership experience came from an ’84 Sunrader (all fiberglass shell). I put 150,00 miles on it and LOVED every minute of it. THEN I decided I wanted something bigger. Two class A’s later, I’m REGRETTING every minute of it.

John Stotz
5 months ago

I have a 2022 kz stratus. After going through it, I honestly feel like it was made in China. Sucks.

Eugene W Simmons
5 months ago

Some things never change. I bought a new RV before I retired in 2001. We looked at many, many models. Our choice, a 26′ with a slide out, was the best available. But we soon discovered the design had problems. With just the 2 of us, we travel light. Nothing in any of the holding tanks, and no “off road” travel. Yet we had the springs break on the axles – 3 times. The door, like on most trailers, could be latched open for ventilation. But if you did that, you could not open the window in the bedroom. An easy fix: change the window to a slide instead of crank operated one, or move the window 2 feet.
Then there was the slide out. While I did have problems with the mechanics, my main issue was that it blocked access to the bathroom. The slide out floor was the problem. It was a simple fix, I cut off 2″ from the bottom of the bathroom door. Simple, but why didn’t the manufacturers do that? My experience with this RV was so bad that if/when I’m ready for a new RV, I,’ll do a conversion.

Becky Dodson
5 months ago

We agree with this entire article 100%. We bought a brand new 22 foot travel trailer and have had nothing but problems before we ever used it and every time since the original repairs that took 3 months only to use it and have it in the shop for another 3 months. Then brought it to Fl where a cabinet door came unhinged and the kitchen faucet broke. Can’t fix it ourself because the warranty is no good for that part if something else goes wrong with it. Out of 8 months it was in the shop for 6 months while we continued to make $260.00 monthly payment. So THANK YOU for putting it out there on behalf of all of us. Quit pushing numbers for money and get back to QUALITY.

Steve
4 months ago
Reply to  Becky Dodson

Not to beat you up. I realize it’s frustrating having stuff go wrong on a new anything, but counting on timely works from most dealers is an exercise in futility. If it’s not a major repair or a recall, I’ll fix it myself or bring a mobile tech in.

L K Taylor
5 months ago

I am not sure anything is different than it ever has been. We all want to wax nostalgic about “the good old days” but after being in the industry for 25+ years I can tell you nothing has changed. What was originally built for occasional camping and light use is now being lived in- nothing they are designed or built for. I won’t speak to any one brand but in general The parts, materials and construction are exactly the same. Built mostly by minimum wage employees, pushed out the door by bean counters to meet production quotas means lots of issues after the sale.

Johnny
5 months ago
Reply to  L K Taylor

It’s the piece rate that is killing quality and the big companies like Thor and Forrest River pushing out how many they can build in a day

Steve
4 months ago
Reply to  Johnny

I disagree that piece rate is killing the quality. Most factories are piece rate and have far fewer issues. Many service industries are piece rate and have far fewer issues. The problem is an issue with QC at the factories. They allow faulty items to be pushed out to dealers. If they handled it like other industries, the problems would be much less and likely we’d pay a bit more with fewer frustration.

JEREMIAH
6 months ago

Wife and I last year purchased an 89 Ford Granville Debonair 26 footer,we’re the third owners, with taxes and tags,and full vehicle insurance, our cost was $10,000. The original build sheet,and window sticker for the motorhome was $47,570,,a bit pricey for a unit in 1989,,the parent company went out of business in 1991,,their units cost too much!! On the other hand , these were top of the line ,fully equipped units in their days,according to the various rv dealers that have seen our Class’C’,and they always want to buy it from us, in their words these were some of the best that were ever built on a Ford chassis!! I’m gonna go thru the driveline,replace u-joints,give it a tune up,a head for the open road in a rig with 40,200 miles on it,just getting broke in!!

Jeff vining
7 months ago

What I wanna know is why is it so difficult to find repair parts for rvs, parts manufacturers only want to sell wholesale parts to dealers where they effectively r**e the customers, tasty you try to buy parts to properly repair it yourself. Right now I’m trying to source the 1/4” wht luan plywood for the ceiling of my 5th wheel, due to a cheap a** junk roof that I need to also replace, otherwise this thing is literally falling down around me.. one thing about rv’s is from the moment you purchase it, it immediately starts going down hill, if you don’t have a cover to put it under refrain from buying one until you do.

BillyBogey
8 months ago

Quality is Job 1!! Right from Consumer to Mfr. Dealers are 1st. point of contact as most Consumers go with RV Dealers 1st.
RV Dealers looking after your House is Job 1. & looking in the Mirror is Job 1!!
Personally, thru some pain, have found my Mfr. to be straight up & credible & RV Dealer not so!!
Will Buy from Mfr. again. RV Dealer No!!

Ken Cramer
8 months ago

We bought a new Thor Delano on a MB Sprinter chassis. That was Aug it’s now Dec and we’re still waiting for parts and repairs to be able to take it on our first road trip. Sloppy work, pieces falling apart or not fitting. Seals that don’t seal etc gave the dealer a list of 25 items needing to be addressed. They only have time for ten. I have written both the manufacture Thor and Camping World where we purchased the unit. Many apologies but we’re still not on the road. Buyer beware … someday we’ll be up and running.

David Lastoria
8 months ago

Exactly why I am building my own trailer. Properly built, wired, plumbed, insulated…What I have seen new on lots is absolute garbage! Overpriced Junk! Unacceptable fit and finish, if any. I feel for the people who put their faith in the dealers and manufacturers, as they purchase their lifelong dream that should generate many family memories, but instead, create trouble, disappointment and unsolicited stress. I truly feel for these good people, and class action lawsuits should be created, holding the manufacturers liable.

Rick
9 months ago

We have a 1999 Holiday Rambler 36 ft. fifth wheel. This was built in the era when quality came first. Have had it for 7 years and have had no major issues. Had a board replaced on the water heater and I replaced the toilet ring two weeks ago. Roof has never leaked and slides work as they should. No other problems. Been well satisfied with our purchase. Only drawback is that it is around 12000 lbs. empty. We pull it with a dually and have no problems. Good luck finding a good camper with no problems if you are purchasing a new one.

William
10 months ago

Buy used. 1999 Bounder and only had one problem other than regular maintence and repairs after 22 years and that was the ignitor gap on the heater.

Mike
10 months ago

I purchased a trailer from a leading mfg this year and because of what I do for a living, was able to visit the plant with my partner. What we saw blew our minds. Both of us have experience with mfg plants and this was unlike anything we had ever witnessed before. Utter chaos, no formal assembly line. This translated into a horrible build. So many things have gone wrong in the past 6 months of owning the trailer. We continue to see sawdust. They never vacuumed the unit out. They didn’t even use finished wood, bare starboard was used everywhere. It is deplorable. I cannot believe that a law firm has not begun a class-action lawsuit. For what these people are charging, it’s unacceptable!

Chuck Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike

We also have a travel trailer, and I always tell my friends who are thinking about getting one to ‘ first make sure you have a complete tool box kit, because you will need it’. This goes on and on, and still the manufacturers can hire high school students on their lunch hour to put RV ‘s together. Fortunately ours is now in great condition – because I have spent countless hours vacuuming up sawdust, fixing electrical connections and faulty plumbing. This is our last RV, thankfully…

John Talbert
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike

If you saw the plant and it was as you describe, why in the world would you buy one of their products?

Mark
10 months ago

This is why I built my own. 4 years on and not a single problem. I know that not everyone has the ability to do so, but there is a huge community of people restoring older RVs or building them from scratch. One problem is that people are wanting bigger and bigger units with more and more features. The more parts the more likelihood of a failure. When you start adding fireplaces, island kitchens, fancy lighting, five and six slides, outdoor kitchens and complex entertainment systems, coupled with inexperienced labor this is what you get. These palaces on wheels are destined for more breakdowns regardless of quality.

Jeremy Brann
10 months ago

This is why we bought a Leisure Travel Van in the first place. Looking at Thor, Forest river, and the 782 sub-brands between them, we consistently found they were junk. You could see fit and finish issues in the brand new show models, and that was two years ago before pandemic labor and parts issues. Staples, glue, and stickers is no way to build a product.

I see some people asking “what can we do?” Nothing. The American consumer shops on price, period. It’s why airlines suck, it’s why Wal-Mart and Amazon sell warehouses full of cheap junk from China, and it’s why most RV makers can get away with junk. We complain about quality and service, but we shop on price.

My LTV isn’t perfect, it’s had a couple parts break (awning motor, door latch) but nothing major. It’s never left us stranded. It’s rock solid, and two years after we bought it we’ve absolutely loved it. It is worth MORE than we paid for it, so we will be upgrading. My biggest worry is what brand to buy that isn’t junk.

Ford
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Brann

As we can all see, the “Free Market” that we’ve been assured will fix everything, doesn’t. Why? 1) We don’t have a truly free market system – never have and never will. 2) people keep buying stuff they know is garbage instead of drawing a line in the sand because of their addiction to owning more “stuff”, which is what The Joneses are doing. In short, we’re ignorant and have no discipline as a society. We bought a high quality used bus and built our own RV. I have seen too many Binnewago-class RVs explode into tiny fragments on the highways just from tipping over.

Tish
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Brann

We bought an LTV for this reason. But our slide out had to be replaced within the first week and had a problem with our door. Been in the shop for over a week. It had already been delayed for 3 months. Now we are living out of an Air BnB waiting for it to be fixed. Very disappointing.

Robert Reeve
10 months ago

I purchased a RPod 202. Took almost 8 months to get it. I finally received it and it has yet to be camping. The units front window has a very large leak. So once it was able to be seen by the dealer they found that water finds it’s way into the internals of the wall when you cut the hole bigger then the window. Now that the 2 month old units front cap was finally approved to be removed and rebuilt the have discovered black mold. Every screw and staple is rusted. I live in Colorado so this is hard to do in my climate. When I call Tina from forest river RPod warranty division I get the run around because the dealer is asking for to many hours. The rv has not been camping yet. My rv is in pieces and I have no idea what to do. They don’t care.

KC Honie
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Reeve

Hire a lawyer!!!

Bruce
10 months ago

Maybe it’s time to start some advocacy type groups and start “camping” out at RV shows with booths pointing out what interested buyers are getting into and what to expect.

Same with dealers, I won’t buy a roll of toilet paper from Camping World. For the life of me I don’t see how they continue to grow.

At some of the big rallies invite CEO’s to speak and push them to explain why they can’t build a quality product. Of course they probably would not show and give the corporate speak on how great they are.

Jim
6 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

That is an excellent idea, Bruce. If someone has the time and resources to get this idea off the ground, I just want to know where we can sign up.

Last edited 6 months ago by Jim
Stacy Huffman
10 months ago

In all honesty, what can we as consumers do about this? I bought a 2021 Forest River Cherokee Destination and it has more issues than a divorced couple. It’s been 5 months and the parts to fix the dozens of issues still aren’t all in and our campground closes in 4 weeks. With all these issues, is this grounds for class action law suits? I know numerous people having issues with their poorly put together campers.

Tom g
10 months ago
Reply to  Stacy Huffman

What can consumers do?? Easy don’t buy the junk rvs . They keep building junk yet stupid people keep buying it for some reason.
Some people even order and buy them site unseen why in gods name would you do that?

Edward
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom g

You said it Jack. Stupid people reading reviews and expecting different results. I would have been an rv dealerships best customer. But it’s you people expressing your complaints that has pushed me out of the rv market. It a shame but I am not a glutton for punishment.

Ford
10 months ago
Reply to  Stacy Huffman

You have two fundamental choices, and you have the fine option of employing both at the same time.
1) do NOT buy garbage.
2) build your own RV in a used coach

Rick
9 months ago
Reply to  Stacy Huffman

A friend of mine bought a Thor coach 2 years ago and has had nothing but problems. These things are built cheap and rushed through production. He had his at the dealership several times for issues. It finally went back to the company where it was built. He threatened them with a lawsuit and still has problems. He rents his out and it is on the road a lot. The dealership told him it was not meant to be used that much. What??? That is why he bought it. He had floors replaced, cabinets redone, insulation was falling out from between the walls in his driveway. For $80,000 you would expect better.

Chuck Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Stacy Huffman

We had a Forest River travel trailer, and it literally fell apart. Started with delamination of front and rear panels. Fortunately traded it in on a better unit, but Forest River is a ‘definitely avoid’ for us.

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