Are RV manufacturers finally “wising up”? New project hints “maybe”

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Are America’s RV manufacturers finally “getting it”? It’s possible they are – at least that’s an inference we can make from the details of a property rezoning hearing in Goshen, Indiana – ground zero for RV manufacturing in America.


At an October 10 meeting of the Elkhart County Commissioners, there was a flurry of testimony – mostly in a negative vein – concerning the proposed rezoning of 70 acres of land along County Road 6 from agricultural to a heavy business district. What’s this – a bid to build yet another RV manufacturing plant? No – but it’s something related that may bring some relief to RV buyers tired of buying buggy rigs.

The proponent of the deal, Chris Marbach, of Elkhart-based engineering firm Marbach, Brady & Weaver, Inc., said that if the county allowed the change in zoning, a Michigan firm would build a facility, which would then be turned over to “an unnamed” company. The final use of the 70-acre property? An RV inspection facility.

Employing somewhere between 40 and 80 workers, Marbach said that on work days, upwards of 37 RVs would be brought to the plant and stored there until they could be given quality control inspections prior to being shipped out. “This future owner wants to make sure that when he delivers a product out to someone else, there aren’t any bugs left in it,” Marbach said, according to goshennews.com.

While the wording might suggest a single RV manufacturer would be doing quality control on its own products, Mr. Marbach cleared the air on a phone call with RVtravel.com staff on Wednesday, November 20. The still-unnamed developer would provide quality control to multiple manufacturers, although testimony given at the county’s Plan Commission hearing indicated it wasn’t completely clear which manufacturers might be customers of the quality control inspection business.

While plenty of neighbors spoke out against the proposal, citing traffic, night lighting and declining property value concerns, interestingly one industry rep spoke up in favor. Lippert Components, Inc., sent a speaker who testified the new facility would help assure quality control and help move products to customers more quickly.

IN THE END, the commission approved the proposal in a 5 to 2 vote. It’s not a green light to build – other permits and approvals will be required, and opponents will have at least two more public hearings where they can vent their concerns.

For an industry plagued by a horrific track record of lousy quality units going straight off the production line and out to the dealers – and an oft-unsuspecting customer base – maybe the industry is finally getting the message. Still, if and when the service is finally in operation, it does raise a question: Which manufacturers will push their rigs through what might be a genuine quality inspection? If the company anticipates 37 rigs a day coming through the shop (about 700 a month) — roughly 2 percent of the total rigs manufactured in the “RV Capital” — that means an awful lot of rigs will presumably still have the likelihood of showing up at a dealer infested with manufacturing bugs.

We will tell you more as we learn more.

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Daniel

This is an add quality after the fact approach. Which has been demonstrated to be expensive and often ineffective. Quality needs to be built into the original build process. Has nothing been learned from Deming and Juran?

Richard

The common denominator of the reputed poor quality manufacturers is that they are both high volume and primarily located in Indiana. Can anyone say for certain that the small volume manufacturers are really better. I have heard anecdotal horror stories about Pleasureway, Leisure Travel and Lazy Daze, but are those the exceptions? I hear nothing about Coach House at all, but is that because the coaches are so rare? Bottom line: is it possible to buy any rig at the present time and have a reasonable expectation of few, if any, problems?

Lyn

Last year a deal fell into my lap for a 2014 high-end 5th wheel that I couldn’t pass up (actually, I could’ve done without the “high-end” part, but that’s how it came). I needed to upgrade my living situation, and this opportunity presented itself. I’d spent 5 incredibly content years living in my 1988 17-foot fiberglass travel trailer that has been in our family since birth. Problem was, it was starting to have issues due to its age that would be costly to address, and having a bit more room appealed to me and my large ornery cat.

In a way, I’m wishing I had my 17-footer back! I’ve had more problems with the 5th wheel in the past 11 months than I did living for 5 years in the 17-footer. The little trailer wasn’t cheap when new ($15,000 in 1988; almost $33,000 adjusted for inflation), but purchase price doesn’t seem to guarantee a quality product anymore.

My guess is that 31 years ago in 1988, manufacturers actually had the moral character to build a product that would endure. Let’s hope this facility eventually expands to accommodate all manufacturers in all parts of the country, and doesn’t turn out to be just a gesture to assuage us.

Robert Bobo

The biggest challenge for new RV owners is service after sale, parts have to many different warranties to deal with, its rediculus ! ( stove, refrigerator, Air Conditioner, TVs, engine, radio etc. Dealerships and Manufacturers need to take full ownership of entire vehicle by warranty everything associated vehicle and stop passing the buck

anthony novello

total smoke and mirrors. We need National lemon laws. 3 defects in the first year and the manufacturer has to buy the unit back including any loan interest. Never gonna happen. It will continue that the only quality control efforts are placed on the shoulders of the buyer.

George Paris

One can only hope this is a step in the right direction, however, talk and intentions are just noise in an industry where so many manufacturers have absolutely no real interest in providing any form of quality product. This behavior will continue until they begin to lose money; then they will simply fold their tent and look for another soft market. Consumers and dealers must say “No more” and refuse to pay good money for bad products.

dennis bixler

…bought a new Jayco RV at major show in hershey pa – 2017 – in two years i have had 9 major parts break down – the jack and leveling system cause me to spend 2 months off the road in tucson az waiting for parts and ok from Lippert to repair. failures have occured with the automatic jacks and levelers-furnace-water leaks and electrical system. recently the outside molding around the entrances door pulled away from the rv body exposing a gap that would allow water to get in between the outer shell and interior wall. took 6 wks for the replacement which turned out to be the wrong part. my question to Jayco would be where is your product inspection? as a customer i would be hard pressed to give a positive recommendation for Jayco or Lippert to any prospective buyer

Joe

If it’s built in Indiana there all the same, just a different name on the side, pure junk.

Jeff beyer

It is folly to try to “inspect” for defects after the vehicle has been fully assembled. If the RV manufacturers were serious about producing a well engineered and defect free product, follow the pattern of any of the automobile manufacturers.
But they aren’t.

Morley Stanek

It’s about time! The junk that is sold is a total manufacturing lack of quality! Never mind the price for an RV of any kind. If I myself were not handy to do repairs on a new RV I don’t know what I would do, warranty and service just sucks. Once the dealer has your money, that’s the end of it. Too bad for you. Morley
Ps. Feel free to contact me if you need more input!

Carson Axtell

This could be a very good thing if the new business were to guarantee all vehicles that passed through their inspection process with an extended warranty of, say, at least 5 years… I can see such a company accepting models submitted for approval from different manufacturers, but would expect to see an additional post-manufacturing fee added onto each vehicle that received such an inspection and approval process.

Goldie

I just wonder…what if it’s not a manufacturer that is building the facility? What if it’s a dealer group who is tired of having their service department tied up doing pre-delivery corrections? There are a few of those out there who really do try to make their units right before delivering them to the customer. A large dealer group with high volume sales might choose to have a facility close to the manufacturers in lieu of expanding their service departments with the slim pickings for good techs. Experienced workforce, easy access to parts when you are right next door to the manufacturer. A reputation for delivering quality product without the issues seen from other dealers might just be enough to increase sales and profits and give the investment on a facility a decent ROI. Maybe getting a couple of the high end manufacturers to share costs – they will already be reimbursing a labor and part charge for any repairs. No clue what margins are like on RV’s. Hummm…what a nice dream…

Crabbyolddad

Anyone who spends the crazy amount needed to purchase a NEW RV almost deserves the crappy quality that they get stuck with. Although I haven’t rented one in many years and never plan to own one, i did rent them back in the 70’s. The poor build quality is somewhat paralleled in the boating industry. A manufacturer builds the basic unit using sub assemblies purchased fro outside vendors and attempts to make the entire thing work as a single unit. Thankfully for the marine world, the waterways aren’t as destructive as the roadways that are always shaking apart the low grade attachment methods used. I’ve viewed numerous RV’s at shows and been surprised at the still poor built quality that is used across the board. And I always smile when I see the newly introduced brand for this year that replaced the cats meow of years gone by. It still uses the same subassemblies and the same junky build processes that the pervious brand did. Regardless of the constructors corner cutting methods, junk will be built, fools will but it, and continue to complain while looking at their next new one to go through the same process over again.

I wonder how many of the “ultra-lites” made in recent years will even be in one piece 20 years from now. I still see the carcasses of Pace Arrows and similar units that were popular in 1975 parked in year either wasting away or even resurrected and still rolling.

John D.

The last half of the last sentence of the article, “that means an awful lot of rigs will presumably still have the likelihood of showing up at a dealer infested with manufacturing bugs…” is assuming that the manufacturer’s will hand-pick the units that will go to this place for a QC inspection.

As long as the rigs are randomly chosen off of the assembly line, then the hope is that the quality from the factory will go up since the workers and management will not know which RV’s will be selected.

bull

With the number of new RV sales down drastically (20+% for some manufacturers) from the industry high in 2018 of over 513,000 units shipped the RV manufacturers NOW have to do something as they are NO LONGER selling every unit they shove out the door HOPING it makes it in one piece to the RV dealer!

It’s amazing to me that the RV industry has expected your local retail RV dealer to be the their quality control department AND RV dealers have accepted this responsibility for so many years. Only in the RV industry have dealers and customers accepted this method of manufacturer Quality Control in today’s modern business world.

IF AND WHEN Camping World takes its final breath due to “The Profits” management and business model what will the RV manufacturers do as Camping World represents 25+% of all the new RV units sold in the marketplace today?

You might say the sales will go to other dealers. Will they OR will the industry experience a sale implosion like they have seen many times before?

The RV Industry business model a whole has to change just like the every changing models and types of RV’s they manufacture. With Millennials representing the largest buying section of the new RV market this can only mean the production of SMALLER, BETTER DESIGNED AND QUALITY BUILT PRODUCTS if an RV manufacturer intends to remain a viable business. These buyers represent the future of the RV Industry and they are NOT STUPID as many of the old farts that read this newsletter would have you believe!

Time will Tell!!!

Zoom

I may be looking at the a little differently. This will not be a place to run every RV through. It will probably be a complete construction and systems operation testing on each line that is built. Feedback from this operation could come back to manufacturer on what needs to be addressed. I see this more like car manufacturers sending out a model to be crash tested and certified. If the RV manufacturers will listen this could make a huge difference. Inspections after the fact doesn’t really make a difference in the quality and construction of all RVs built unless the builders listen and respond. Really good dealers just repair and deliver the RV to the customer. Does the builder really get feedback from this and change anything? I think not.

Dwite A Compher

Another way for the ” middle man ” to make money. To me , true quality control must happen at the different build steps during manufacturer of the unit .

Bill T.

Window dressing to help the RVIA sleep at night. This would only add additional cost to the customer and RV manufacturers can always come back and say post production problems happened in “transit”, that it’s the dealers responsibility to correct and the fight between dealer and manufacturer continues. With the 1/2 million rapidly and poorly assembled rigs produced each year, one post inspection facility will not be able to check them all.

Bob p

Maybe if they slowed the production line down enough to allow the workers to do their job right the first time there wouldn’t be a need for this. I worked in the auto industry for 30 years and witnessed many situations where something was wrong and if the assembly line had been stopped for 5 minutes the problem would have been solved but instead several hundred parts were made poorly to be caught later or scrapped. Common sense doesn’t exist with upper level management, only numbers out the back door.

Carl J

All lipstick on a pig. Grand Design built a much ballyhooed stand alone inspection building which would catch and repair all the assembly flaws before shipment. Yeah right. Ever since this bldg. was opened, GD products have have more defects show up on the dealers lots then ever before. Its all smoke and mirrors predicated on marketing puffery.