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Wonder what an RV production line worker thinks about today’s RVs? Read this!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article that generated quite a bit of conversation (read it here). My article was in response to a reader who commented: “I read about so many problems with today’s RVs, I wonder if I should just forget about buying one.” Many, many of you responded with equal doses of encouragement, practical advice, and realistic cautions about owning and maintaining an RV. One reader, who also happens to work on an RV production line, offered his opinion from his unique perspective. I’m happy to share his genuine observations and heartfelt feelings with you.

An introduction to the RV production line worker

Here’s how “That guy” introduced himself:

“Look, I work and live in Elkhart County, where most of these units are made.” If you didn’t already know many, many RVs are produced in the state of Indiana—in and around the town of Elkhart and Elkhart County. In fact, supplying components for the RV industry keeps several ancillary area businesses profitable, as well. Folks throughout northern Indiana have proudly worked in the RV industry and depended on it for their livelihoods for generations.

Elkhart County promotes itself as the “Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World.” According to the county’s website: “For every two RVs you see on the road, one was built in Elkhart County.” RV manufacturers have scattered all across the USA, with RVs now manufactured from Oregon to Alabama to California and more. Still, Elkhart’s economy continues to thrive with more than one-third of its jobs directly or indirectly connected to the manufacturing of RVs.

A reality check

The RV production line worker, “That guy,” continues: “You all understand that an RV is a house on wheels, right? Go move your ‘solid’ house across country and see how it would fare on these brutal roads.”

He’s got a valid point! Is it even realistic to think that a structure moving down the road at 60 mph won’t ever have an issue? Especially given the terrible conditions of our highways and even Interstate roadways. Virtually any structure—no matter how solidly constructed—will eventually experience some damage if it’s shaken, bumped, and rattled long enough, won’t it?

The production line worker sympathizes…

“That guy” understands and sympathizes with the RVer’s plight. With regard to the problems in today’s RVs, he says: “I would be upset if I put down that kind of money and ended up with issues being commonplace.” He gets it and he understands why some RVers are frustrated and disappointed.

He offers us all a bit of advice: “First of all, less will get you more. The likelihood of poor quality increases with every option you add to it. Secondly, avoid newly offered options. If it’s the first year for a new model appliance, or newly designed entertainment system, or whatever, you run the risk of being disappointed. Just like car makers, you never want year one of a new generation. Also, make sure the exterior is sealed and checked regularly. Water damage kills RVs.”

And finally . . .

Most telling in “That guy’s” comment was the following: “We get the same amount of time to build a loaded RV as we do a bare box on wheels. How much time? Never enough.”

I appreciate that this RV production line worker took the time to write and express his views. While I don’t know him personally, “That guy” seems like a hard-working, diligent guy. While he appears dedicated to his craft, he also experiences frustration at the fast pace forced into his work environment.

Does “That guy” speak for all RV manufacturer line workers? Maybe not. But are his comments worth considering? I think so. What do you think?

##RVT1040

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Dan Kehoe
7 months ago

I have owned 5 tents, 2 pop-ups, 2 tow behinds and now a super B motorhome over the last 50 years. Experience has taught me a few things. Considering all the problems of a NEW auto AND all the problems of a NEW trailer rolled up into a motorhome will make first year ownership a nightmare. Considering the warranty repairs needing parts being put onto new units currently in production, and the shared labor in the shop between warranty and COD service, it is no surprise that the first year of ownership is likely to be enjoyed in the parking lot of your dealer with parts delays and scheduling issues instead of the great blue yonder. While some brands are better than others, they all create this same first year experience. That’s why I PREFERRED a used unit when I shopped. And I was not sorry. My maintenance problems come one at a time and can be managed after my forays on vacation. The first owner of my rig had to endure the frustrations at the dealer’s service center for his NEW.

Steve Murray
7 months ago

You Too can build an RV in 7 Hours!…It’s no mystery why they are all “Some Level of Crapola”..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLHux4SuXbY

Nick
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Wow…interesting video! I am surprised that we don’t have more issues

Kenny G
7 months ago

RV manufacturers will not shift their priorities from production to quality unless they are forced to. Think back to American made cars, and it wasn’t until competition from lower priced, quality-built foreign makes forced the Big 3 automakers to focus on quality. They transformed their factories using robots, Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing techniques. The result is today most American made cars are quality built.

Chris Haggerty
7 months ago

One of the most frustrating components of all this is the problem with after purchase service. We bought ours last year and twice I tried to reach out to the dealer for assistance with a concern without help. I had an actual appointment that couldn’t be honored by the dealer in the Fall and is just going in again finally next month……or so I think. This is a dealer that was recommended to us because they HAD a good reputation. I’m finding these experiences are commonplace. I believe the lack of service available will eventually lead to a drop in rv sales.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Haggerty

That is a product of the doubling of unit sales. The wait times for warranty repairs just became unmanagable, and there is no solution.

Get use to it, with more articles in the future adressing the enormous problems coming. If the industry cared, they would reimburse outside repair services, but they dont care, because they have to manage costs, through their dealership network.

Bob p
7 months ago

I will agree with “That Guy” about production lines, I worked in the automobile industry for thirty years, only during the last 10-12 years (‘87-‘99) did I see assembly lines stop to fix a problem. Prior to that the “attitude” was the “dealer” will fix it. I guess the RV industry hasn’t advanced far enough to accept the fact that the dealer won’t find it until after it’s sold and the customer is upset.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

The build quality got so bad, they had to listen to the line workers. Deming tried to teach that decades ago, but the suits knew better.

John Koenig
7 months ago

If RVs had Lemon Laws uniformly applied to them, the builders WOULD make better built RVs. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how NOT performing proper Quality Control checks on ALL units BEFORE they leave the factory ultimately saves them money. It has to be insanely expensive to bring back a unit to remedy an issue than, had a proper QC check been done, would have been caught and attended to. If employees will not / can not build a quality unit. they should NOT be on the line. Retrain them or fire them. When they routinely do excellent work, they should receive a bonus.

Tony Barthel(@tony)
7 months ago

Very valid point indeed. This is why my next RV will have fewer features/complications than my present one. No slides. No built-in sound system (Bluetooth speaker, yes). But just a very substantial structure and no wood on the interior build either. Sort of like the vehicle that tows it.

Michael Butts
7 months ago

I disagree with the “it’s like house in an earthquake with hurricane force winds” description of RVs. Yes, if it’s not designed for road worthiness, it will fail. My daily driver cars that I’ve owned are typically 8-10 years old when I buy them and I run ’em for years. I don’t see plastic parts on cars turning yellow, paint peeling off, doors not working, etc. after decades of use in the rust belt.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Butts

You may need to visit an eye Dr., if your headlights aren’t yellowing after the first 3 years, or your paint isn’t peeling and you live in the rust belt, your vision is failing. Lol

Jesse Crouse
7 months ago

Quality and Quantity are 2 completely different concepts. Why- because profit is in the middle between them.

Robert Velez
7 months ago

I can Sympathize with the mechanic. As a retired mechanic most companies want production with the least amount of time. Get it out the door. Quantity not quality.

Linda
7 months ago

I agree that our units should be built to handle the stresses of travel, but comparing them to the construction methods of an airplane is a little over the top. Most RV buyers would suffer heart failure at the cost of purchasing and maintaining an aircraft. Expecting the same quality without the same cost is unrealistic. We have purchased three different new DP’s, all over 40’, in the past 10 years. We have had some issues on them but very few that would have been easily caught by better QC – and those were on the first. The quality has improved with each purchase. In addition, every problem that developed prior to the warranty expiration, and a few that occurred after warranty expiration, were fully covered by the manufacturer. Bolts that were tight can loosen, electrical connections can loosen, AquaHot’s need annual service. It’s called maintenance. There are good manufacturers out there. Stop purchasing from the bad ones and watch the quality of the industry start to improve.

Paul
7 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Which do you consider the good ones? Just wondering which brand you’ve had such good success with.

tommy james
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul

I have owned 6 rv’s in the last 30 years. All developed water leaks. Just think what happens once the water gets in the roof and walls ? I would never own a wood framed rv again my life. Dry rot have killed many a RV…. I got lucky and now have a 2006 Bigfoot fiberglass foam filled walls, floor and ceiling. Aluminum is another good option.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  tommy james

Ever see delaminating walls where water infiltrates and causes the glue to unbind?

Bill
7 months ago
Reply to  Linda

So, I just googled what it costs to buy and operate an airplane. Yes, private jets are expensive, but private propeller planes are very much in the same cost range as motorhomes, and at the low end at that. The difference is that they aren’t built with all the household appliances, and the inspection, operating, and maintenance requirements are rigorous and strictly enforced.

Joe
7 months ago
Reply to  Linda

We drive a 2020 Motorhome and so far we have good luck with the Freightliner system and the actual build of the motorhome with only a few small build issues. I will not name the manufacture however it is a major brand known for their quality of work. But…… it’s the bolt on pieces that are common with most every new motorhome being built 1 air conditioner went bad, the toilet broke needing new controls (lucky we have a bath and a half), motorized shades stopped working, fireplace stopped heating, awning motor stopped working, microwave/induction oven needed replacement. These items make the manufacture look bad, they did live up and paid for the repair work and parts for most of everything except for the microwave. I’m not sure of the county of origin for all of these items however I suspect it may be China.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

Thanks to NAFTA and the Clinton era 95% off everything is made in China.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Exactly. But raising a valid point, causes the lunitic left to not face the huge mistake NAFTA created.

Carol
7 months ago

More Trump misinformation. While Clinton was a big NAFTA supporter, in 1993, a large percentage of Republicans in Congress supported it, too. In 1993, 75 percent of Republicans in the US House and 77 percent in the Senate voted to ratify NAFTA (40 percent and 49 percent of Democrats voted for it).

Mary
7 months ago
Reply to  Carol

since then, the Dems have turned into liberals, and the Repubs have turned into old Democrats. Had someone fromEurope ask me what the defination of “liberal” was… they thot it still meant someone willing to look at 2 sides of something. Nope, not anymore. politics is weird..

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Mary

Tell your european friend to look at Germany, France, Spain as an example. They have different names for their govts.

You know when the liberals have lost it when you see that dye in the wool Bill Mahar getting all worked up, on how liberals have turned communists.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Carol

Carol, your mistaken when you mention the prior president. You need to stay on topic, rather than spewing misinformation and scatter shot to the recent president. Your reference to the prior president is telling of just how misguded your reply is.

Historically referring to the republican party being on board when Willy signed it into law is correct. But your mistaken when you bring it to the past president. It just shows your not a student of the facts.

Fear not, for the bath the lunitic liberals are going to take in 2022,24 will no doubt drive you guys out of your minds, and increase viewership at CNN.

Dave
7 months ago

I realize component failures are a part of the issues with especially newer units,most of the issues I understand come from poor quality workmanship.
That in itself comes from in part from the worker saying they get similar times for a basic vs a loaded unit.
The other quality issues is basically a {bleeped} for tat between employers not having any respect for their employees and employees in return not respecting their employers or the quality of work they do.
Lastly the fact of so little good qualified workers and a great number of jobs makes for a bad situation.
Companies will not get quality workers or keep workers that may get to be quality workers eventually because it’s all about the almighty profit, and they put profits before quality and looking after workers that are capable of doing better work, but they do not care to do better because the company they work for cares only about money.
I worked for a company for years and I saw the results of operating like this

Jake
7 months ago

As long as demand continues to exceed supply, the mfrs have no reason to improve. Blogs, YouTube videos, etc. sensationalizing travel and RV life got me into this lifestyle a few years ago… along with everyone else. Demand went up, so prices increased and quality decreased. (Not to mention our campgrounds, public lands, and other camping/overnight areas have been swarmed, but that’s another story.) Back on point, as a business decision, if people continue stand in line for months to buy the product regardless of quality, what motivation does the manufacturer have to improve? And with Thor, etc. buying out its competitors, what motivation do they have to improve quality of any one line of RVs? I’m excited about some of the newcomers–some new independents are making some really interesting units that seem to have potentially high quality. You’re paying for it, but I would rather pay twice as much for something that works reliably, rather than pay less for something I can’t use.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Jake

Spot on Jake. I might add, those who are not handy, will get frustrated, and either keep it parked in their driveway, or off load the junk box during the coming down turn. Bargains await, those with the skills and the cash!

Skip
7 months ago

I did quality control at military level to food quality service and QC DMR lasers. I know the first wasn’t about some much time spent in QC but getting quality service and meeting all quality requirements The latter was the insurance in quality met in food service more intense with all foods expirations, cook times and on. Then did DMR reporting in the laser field. It appears there really is not a QC program in place at any RV manufacturers. More of a complaints office sending a post it note to some line work that gets tossed in the trash and life goes on. “that guys” is not sympathetic he’s empathetic only two different words two different meanings.

Richard
7 months ago

I once had the opportunity to speak personally with a vise-president of Holiday Rambler in 2007+/-. He gave me the same cookie-cutter answers. “Driving your house down the road”. I asked him, “Didn’t you design this to go down the road?” He went silent. I offered that I buy a car, change the oil, and it lasts beyond 10 years. He stated if they built RVs as well as cars, we couldn’t afford them. I told him if Japan ever realized the profit margin on RVs he’d be out of business in 6 months.
I found at that time a $250K motor home had $50K of warranty work figured in the MSRP. Add to this you start negotiating purchase price at 60-65% of MSRP. This adds up to plain greed(Read Corp. profits) driving poor quality.
RVTravel once interviewed the CEO of Thor about poor quality. He said he didn’t care as long as product sells. So there!

Bill Richardson
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

I don’t even look at Thor products when looking for an RV. They have some great floorplans and some good interior designs, but I just know the build quality isn’t there.

Cam Daddy
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

And that was back when HR’s were built well! I’ve heard that REV now builds them horribly. I like how Country Coach dealt with QC. Workers had to write their name on every part of the coach that they personally installed. When the coach came back for a warranty item, the employee was called up to the office over the loud speaker so all the other employees knew who had screwed up. Apparently the walk of shame was something to be avoided at all costs, so you made sure your stuff was installed properly the first time.

Mike Whelan
7 months ago

I appreciate him taking the time to share some insight from the “floor” of the industry. I do believe the “excuse” of “a house on wheels” has been accepted for far too long. I compare the build quality of the RV with that of aircraft I have owned. Both were in the same price range. Both are subject to extreme stressors of wind, rain, bumps, shakes and twists. Yet the aircraft if of the same quality build as the RV would not be allowed on the market or if allowed not considered by the aircraft user. It is a matter of engineering and design, care and craftsmanship, and inspection and approval. RV owners for whatever reason accept the idea of we will fix it later or good enough for now. Aircraft owners know that approach can be fatal. As RV purchasers and owners we have the right to expect better and not accept less.
It is not the fault of the RV builder but the fault of the purchaser for accepting poor quality and excuses. Of course it goes down a rough windy road. Build it right.

Last edited 7 months ago by Mike Whelan
Jeff Mattingly
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Whelan

Agreed! Although as long as they’re selling and there’s no regulation there’s very little to motivate change. I think a large part of the problem is ignorant buyers, myself included. Some hard lessons have been learned. I would bet most RV buyers have no idea the unit can become deadly. It seems difficult to get an objective opinion on who’s building better. Most of what we hear is that they’re all the same, just buy the floorplan that suits you best and hope for the best.. I don’t know if there’s a source that evaluates and compares builds and engineering. I agree though, Just Build it Right.. please

Steve
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Whelan

Interesting comment about aircraft. But, Pilots are trained and licenses, Aircraft have annual inspections. If RV owner / drivers had this kind of requirement, it would be a different game. The other point is RV’s ARE a house on wheels in a hurricane and roads are terrible. But we still go! Not the same as pilots. We have restrictions. So this is not a great comparison.

Lou Finkle
7 months ago

More stuff, less time to assemble per unit. Moving from Class A to C helped me. From hauling a “toad” pickup behind the A, to zipping around in a “pickup with box attached” allows me to backup when needed. Reducing total length from 50+ feet to 25 feet cut my parking space in half! Going from a $180,000 rig to a $60,000 rig cut my initial outlay of funds. Eliminating jacks, slides, hydraulics, many electronics, etc… reduced my returning to factory from six time to zero! Less bays to lock, connections to make, adjustments in leveling has helped save time. I haven’t hooked up my sewer hose nor water hose at a campground in 20+ years! Fill and dump when necessary, park where I want, turn around with ease and pull into a drive-in burger place! Now that is freedom, in spite of the fact that I drive one of the “cheap, poorly made, factory-assembled rigs” that we all complain about. Keep it simple, and no need to complain! A safe traveler with S*M*A*R*T groups.

dale
7 months ago

Wow…touched a hot button with this article. just remember ‘the fish stinks from the head down’.

MattD
7 months ago

I think Camping World sales people are trained to mention, “RV’s experience what amounts to an earthquake and a hurricane everytime they go down the road”. I got that line from a sleazy sales guy at a CW in Colorado. I looked him right in the eye and responded “So you’re warning me if I buy one of your products it’ll shake apart when I tow it down the road?” He didn’t like that. I walked.

Mike
7 months ago

The problems in the industry are no secret. From top management down to the consumer, we all know they exist. We bought our 2022 Tiffin knowing that we would probably experience problems and we are. We really wanted this motorhome and there will be costs to us to get it fixed even under warranty. The solution may be if we all quit buying and force better quality from the producers. That’s not going to happen and I am just as guilty as charged.