RV monopolies degrade product quality

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Dear Chuck,
“In the early days of the automobile industry, before only Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler were left, thousands of companies came and went. Anyone with a toolbox and a garage could open a shop. A similar thing occurred in the first half-century of the RV industry. Today, just as it happened to auto makers, one by one the weaker RV makers have closed or been bought out – survival of the fittest in action.” (RVtravel.com, 1/14/2020).

My small mid-west hometown used to have a thriving economy with a dozen or so small factories and several regional insurance headquarters. It’s all shuttered now. Sure, globalization took out many factories, but the worst harm was achieved by “mergers and acquisitions.” Companies were bought out and the activity transferred to the big cities.

In the U.S., we tried in the past to protect smaller companies, but seem to have given up due to lobbying by the big guys. For example, we have a monopoly situation now in the RV industry with just two holding companies controlling the lion’s share (Thor and Forest River). Our neighbors drove Jayco for two decades but after their experiences with the Jayco motorhome they bought a year ago they’re putting it up for sale at a loss. It seems Thor destroys quality at every company it buys out.

We’ve lost many excellent companies with great products and innovative ideas. As we’ve seen recently at Boeing, Wall Street demands short-term profit above quality and long-term viability. Smaller, privately-held companies often do better at both. —Carl M., Coupeville, WA

Dear Carl,
Well put. I agree. — Chuck

##RVT931

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Jon
7 months ago

I strongly agree with the subject. We bought our first Monaco (Windor) in 2002 and had 3 more new ones after that. The last one was a 2012 Dynasty, one of the last ones out of their Coburg, Oregon plant, as it was being closed. Monaco had a well deserved reputation of building great motorhomes and standing by their customer – making things right. Monaco was bought out by first Navistar and then Dev Rev. Now, when you seek technical support, the phone response is we no longer are Monaco and don’t support any longer models built before 2016. The newer models definitely should not carry be called Monaco, they are by far inferior to the former Monaco quality. They have become part of the Fleetwood family – cheap and quantity RVs. It is a shame as Monaco had a great following.

Philip McCarroll Johnson
8 months ago

Steve S. made a good synopsis of the path the U.S. auto industry travelled, but one of the key elements of all of this is price. As much as I try to “buy American,” the price differential is frequently so great between American and foreign similar products the majority of people have to buy foreign. Perhaps the RV industry will undergo a similar path with competition coming from overseas.

Donald N Wright
8 months ago

Question, are the RV’s built in Canada better built on average?

KellyR
7 months ago

My Canadian RV (2014 Roadtrek) is rock solid with no problems with the coach. I just had problems with the vehicle part – a GM problem not a Roadtrek problem. As far as I am concerned, yep Canadian built may be better.

Alvin
7 months ago

Well sir I’m a Canadian with a life time under my belt working within and writing about auto industry and related topics and cannot think of one single thing that would make anything built north of the 49th parallel better than the same item built somewhere else.

Build quality generally trickles down to business attitude, pride, target audience – that being at the high end a cliental willing to pay for something of quality.

WAYYYYY to many people price shop expecting quality – don’t happen – never will my friends.

I shop first for the best of anything I buy, stuff that will provide a lifetime of service. Hint: We mechanics, who use tools day in and day out to earn a living do not buy our tools at a dollar store

The price of quality over the lifetime is incidental to the original cost, one reason why OLD Airstream trailers sell for many times the original cost while others built in the same time frame have long gone back to growing carrots.

WILLIAM H Malpass
8 months ago

I have been RV’ing for about 15 years, and the extent of my problems have always been with repairs….or the lack of professional repairs.

CAMPING WORLD has the WORST rep. than anyone! they do half a..ed work on everything they do. The even lost a part to my 33′ Cardinal 5th wheel while in the shop. OH, and NEVER replaced it. Always, we will order one for you…….never happened. The BOSSIER CITY CAMPING WORLD – SUCKS!

I have attempted to do my own repairs in earnest. I am very handy with plumbing, electrical and structural problems however, the spotty work they do in manufacturing these items, and sell them way overpriced, does not help things.

I love to travel, but at 70, I am getting tired of fixing their screwups!

Respectfully yours,

Howard Malpass
“no toe tag yet”
U.S.M.C. & Retired U.S.A.F.
Disabled Vietnam Veteran 100%

Alvin
7 months ago

Howard thanks for your service to your and my country. I’d give you all the help keeping your rig on the road if I we were near. I agree with every word stated.

T.Helms
8 months ago

I glad to report that we have had great luck in owning our 3 Arctic Fox Trailers and 2 motor homes. The Trailers where all bought New and we never had a issue. Our newest purchase is a 2003 National Tradewinds, could have never afford it new but used it’s been great. I don’t think i would ever buy a Motor home new. But, a couple of years old great. Our other motorhome is a Class C Four Winds, also a 2003. This one was from a friend that passed away and his wife didn’t want it, so got a deal. It too has been no trouble. We did gut it and re due the interior tho, as it was Cr*p. But, everything else works great. Would not purchase anything new from Four Winds tho after seeing how the interior was put together. Will stick with buying a used one. Just like my cars.

Alvin
7 months ago
Reply to  T.Helms

Returned a Four winds in 2016, with 42 faults – 6 of them safety related.
All I can say is I’m glad they took it back and wrote the cheque.
A bloody ordeal, it was, that would have been bloodier if they hadn’t

Steve S.
8 months ago

I grew up in the Detroit area. I remember the monopolization of the American automobile industry by the ‘Big 3’, Ford, GM, Chrysler.

Quality was poor. Gas mileage was poor. Giant engines produced pitifully poor HP. Japanese cars were referred to in a derogatory way as ‘rice burners’. It wasn’t until the mid-70’s and the Oil Embargo that it all came to a head when the garbage coming out of Detroit (especially the ‘economy’ cars such as the Pinto, Vega, etc.) lost more and more market share to the foreign companies whose vehicles were better built, got better gas mileage, cost less, and required less maintenance. During the 80’s, the number of ‘foreign’ cars on American roads skyrocketed turning many companies such as Hyundai into household names.

This kind of competition forced the ‘Big 3’ to make significant changes in order to compete. One significant change was the massive introduction of robots to build cars. The joke in Detroit was that you always want a ‘Wednesday car’. That is, a car built on a Wednesday. Because the line workers were hung over on Monday, getting back into a work frame of mind on Tuesday, were focused on work on Wednesday, losing focus looking forward to the weekend on Thursday, and basically just going thru the motions on Friday waiting for the 5pm whistle so that they could start there weekend, and the cycle repeated.

When robots were introduced, this all went away. The robot would perform the exact same task, the exact same way, all day long, all week long, without complaining, without being late, without slacking off, and without going on strike for higher wages.

This all being said in order for me to claim that the RV industry needs to go thru the same transformation that Detroit went thru in the 70’s and 80’s. Competition that produces a quality product at a reasonable price will dominate a market in only a few short years, and will force the monopoly manufacturers to get their act together or go out of business.

Alvin
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve S.

Steve S, as long as people keep buying, hoping and praying this crap works for them, the industry will not improve.

President Trump’s protectionist mode will not help, improve attitudes or raise quality either.

The Asian product opened eyes & made us better.

Two absolutely essential books on this topic for anyone interested are Micheline Maynards “End of Detroit” and Bill Vlasic’s Once upon a car” What caused the failure (primarily outrageous union demands), how we arrived there, and everything in between is covered

We’ve gotten better, but a check on frequency of repair, consumer confidence and buying patterns does not favor the domestic nameplate much.

We still have a long long way to go on this file. My opinion.

Carl
8 months ago

Chuck, this is why I prefer buying a used RV. If there’s a problem, the original purchasers likely already found it. My grandfather bought RV after RV over the decades, the good ones lasting a few years longer than the bad ones. And only once did he buy a new one. Within 3 months he was ready to throttle the salesman. Right now my experience tells me don’t buy anything younger than ’88, and never buy anything with a plastic or rubber roof.

Darrel
8 months ago
Reply to  Carl

Yes buy used not new. But buy the very highest end used RV you can locate, with full maintenance records and receipts.

Ron
8 months ago
Reply to  Carl

Plastic? Do you mean fiberglass?

Alvin
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

I’m sure Carl is not referring to fiberglass, which is not a plastic. He’s referring to the one single thing that takes more recreational vehicles off the road prematurely than anything else I can think of – roof system failures due to crappy rubber roofs timing out.
There’s not one I’m aware of that will withstand the destructive forces of a southern desert or the freeze thaw challenges of northern locations.

Fiberglas all the way for this kid and watch those seams for signs of failure – religiously.

Jeff
8 months ago

This is one of the main reasons we are on our last RV.

My Wife and I have fixed most of the defects that the RV came with and that the Dealership and Manufacturer refused to repair. We purchased the RV almost 5 years ago from a company that is now owned by THOR! So, needless to say we can get no help from THOR!

THOR is one of those companies, whose CEO makes Millions a year in salary and Stock options. Yet, when one of THOR’s Fledgling companies starts losing money, THOR simply shuts it down and moves on to their next conquest! Approximately 62 percent of the RV industry is owned by THOR, and the rest by Forest River and Winnebago!

And the sad thing is, when you make a negative comment about an RV, like the one we own, People who own similar units, come out of the woodwork attacking us! WHY? And this is the reason we DO NOT go to any RV Rallies or comment on RV Blogs concerning our RV.

OK, once again, off my Soapbox and back to reality!

I hope everyone has a good day!

Bob Godfrey
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

It will be interesting to watch what happens to Newmar since Winnebago now owns them. The next victim will be Tiffin since I have heard that the owner is interested in selling out since his children do not want to continue in the business. These were two reputable companies and it will be a sad thing if they go down the toilet also.

Ron
8 months ago
Reply to  Bob Godfrey

Bob Tiffin has stated many times that he has no intention of selling his company and that his sons will continue building quality motorhomes long after he is gone. The Phaeton model is still (and has been for years) the largest selling diesel pusher motorhome in the nation.

Howard Malpass
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

so true!

Alvin
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

jeff, you’re so right, differ with someone once and its over for you pal. Some of us have only precious friends in the circle because we don’t indulge snowflakes or flakes of any kind. Sort of prefer it that way.
You don’t need lots of pals in this life only ones who show up unexpectedly on moving day – if you get my drift
An open mind is a healthy mind.