Tiffin sold out – Will reliability crash under Thor ownership?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In a move that may be greeted by some with disappointment, RV giant Thor Industries has bought out Tiffin Motorhomes. The selling price, $300 million, was coughed up by Thor through cash and a company draw-down of existing asset-based credit. The official sign-off took place Friday, December 18. With Tiffin sold, will things stay the same?

Independent ownership “makes a significant difference”

Bob Tiffin founded the coach-building company in 1972. Since then, generations of Tiffin owners have unitedly sworn their rigs were some of the best on the market. Here’s a statement from Tiffin, when it still truly was a family-owned RV manufacturer: “Tiffin Motorhomes is proud to be one of the few family-operated manufacturers in the industry, and it makes a significant difference in how our company operates versus our competitors. For starters, with the Tiffin name on every coach, building a superior motorhome isn’t just our occupation. It’s a matter of personal pride, a pursuit we have committed our lives to perfecting.” Here’s the source – but look fast, Thor may take this down soon. 

Thor reliability issues

We know Tiffin owners personally. They’ve told us how reliable their rigs have been, how dependable and, of course, how little their rigs have spent in down-time, awaiting repairs. We also know that when there were glitches, the company stood ready to take care of the problems, and usually did so quickly.

But what happens now, with Tiffin sold and Thor as the parent company? Thor indicates that Tiffin will continue to be managed by the Tiffin family. Will that mean the dependability of the brand will continue in high expectation? If Thor-branded units are any indicator, don’t hold your breath. Reviews across the internet indicate a rash of unhappy Thor-brand customers. Complaints ranged from everything from slide-outs that don’t slide, to cabinets that fall off the walls.

How about other Thor-owned brands?

Another Thor brand? Jayco. A slew of complaints to the Better Business Bureau sent up red flags. Consumers repeatedly complained about excessive repair wait times, unavailable parts problems, and repeated pleas for help suggesting the company’s responses were less-than-satisfactory. We did note that Jayco management did respond to the complaints when they showed up on the BBB’s doorstep. Some customers said the company did come around to a satisfactory conclusion. Still others indicated they weren’t satisfied with how they were dealt with after filing their complaints.

But hang on: How about high-end units? Thor took over Airstream, viewed by many as being a pinnacle of reliability. But taking a look at both Better Business Bureau complaints, and at Airstream owner forums, all is not well in sliver-bullet land. Complaints typical of other brand names pop up.

Here’s what one Airstream Flying Cloud owner had to say: “We had an issue with a water leak in the bedroom and it could never get fixed. Half a dozen tests at the dealer and it kept leaking. Then a new window and even more leaking. Enough water that it soaked the mattress full of water on standard rains. The dealer agreed they had no idea how to fix. Keep in mind this was a four month old unit. After many calls to Airstream they were trying to send me all over the place to get other opinions and the dealer was saying no we are doing everything Airstream recommends. In other words Airstream was throwing the dealer under the bus.”

How did it all end? “We finally had to bring up the lemon law with the dealer and of course Airstream said they have no part in this. It was apparent this was a lemon. We ended up trading this in for a smaller [25’ unit] as a consolation prize and because we all agreed to not get into the lemon law issue.”

Here’s what we’d do

Sad to say, we could go on. Brands that “used to be” considered reliable seem to transform into not-so-reliable when taken out of independent ownership and put into the stable of “Big RV” manufacturers. We sincerely hope this doesn’t happen to Tiffin. But with Tiffin sold out to Thor, if we were thinking about buying the brand, we’d be looking now for a pre-owned Tiffin, or put off our purchase for a couple of years to see just how things go under Thor’s ownership.

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Steve
2 months ago

Interesting how this sounds like the automotive industry in the 70’s, and along came the Japanese. I have long wondered when this was going to happen to the RV industry. Just wonder if we will be buying Toyota RVs in 5 years.

John Koenig
3 months ago

“Tiffin sold out – Will reliability crash under Thor ownership?”
Unquestionably YES, quality & reliability WILL crash under Thor ownership.

Glen Cowgill
3 months ago

At one time, I owned a Thor product. NEVER AGAIN! Thor needs to learn what Customer Service means. Right after hurricane Andrew while trying to rebuild our home living in our Thor motor home, we found it leaked and was unsuitable for anything. Trying to get Thor to respond all we got was excuses and take it to the nearest Thor dealer which was over 500 miles away. After weeks of phone calls we finally got Thor to agree to getting it repaired at a RV dealer 19 miles away.
The rest of the story was not good after the generator pulled through the floor.

Rick H
3 months ago

Not sure how Thor will treat Tiffin product production quality or their owners – time will tell. But I do know – from my time working for an independent dealer as a tech – that Thor customer support was the worst we have ever seen. We could not get parts manuals, service bulletins/manuals, or any tech information at all from Thor – their standard response was “contact one of our dealers”.

It got so bad that we refused to work on any more Thor motorhomes. If you don’t believe me just bring up the Thor website. They say right there that all parts sales must go through their dealers. All service information – go through one of their dealers. Not good – especially when we saw so many product defects on Thor products.

Compare that to Winnebago. You can go onto their website and download parts manuals, service bulletins, order parts, etc. If you call them you can speak with a knowledgeable factory tech who will gladly give your real advice, fax you additional info.

Curt Rigney
3 months ago

One thing one needs to keep in mind: Thor Motor Homes is also a brand “owned” by THOR Industries. Don’t get the names mixed up. THOR Industries doesn’t mfg. RV’s. They own many brands in the RV industry who do mfg. RV’s. If the Tiffin quality goes down (which I for one don’t think it will) then the finger pointing should go to Tiffin. The family will still be in control of their product. Rest assured, Bob Tiffin will be around for as long as he physically can. Oh, In case you’re wondering, I am a proud owner of 2013 Tiffin Open Road 32CA and am quite happy with it.

Gordy
3 months ago

Thinking it may be better to do work on my 2007 Jayco 5th wheel then to buy new.
Based on new prices one could do a lot of restoration on an older model.

Carl
3 months ago

This is exactly what Tiffin owners have always feared!!! Either that or the way Bob Tiffin’s sons would run the business on his passing.
Bob Tiffin stories are legendary in the RV business. I have a Cousin who owns a Tiffin, near their main facility in Red Bay, Alabama, that couldn’t be more satisfied. The repair facility always takes care of any problems quickly and cheaply.
I met Bob once at Quartzsite, AZ.
My favorite Bob Tiffin story, I heard at an RV park once, from the owners of a new Tiffin, out for it’s maiden voyage.
They said that on their first day there, a man stopped by and asked how they liked their new Tiffin Motorhome. They replied, “Great, but there were a few minor problems that most new ones sometimes have”.
Early the next morning, they had a knock on the door from an RV Repairman. They said that they had not called for a repairman.
He said, I know, but Bob Tiffin did, and it’s all paid for!!!
============

James
3 months ago

Shame on Bob Tiffin for selling his company and allowing his name to go with it to an outfit like Thor that had obvious issues of quality and value. His name will be besmirched to RVers going forward. If he wanted to get out of the Rv business he could have found a more respected buyer I’m sure.

C.Lee
3 months ago

“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!”, and 300 million is a lot of them. My guess is that Tiffin will be “family managed” for now, in transition, to lessen the shock of the purchase to a watchful public eye, but in five years, there won’t be a Tiffin family member anywhere near the joint.

Vic
3 months ago

People who want a quality rig that’s well thought out from builders with no history of poor workmanship or warranty issues should read RV Travels reviews. None of those reviews point out a history of such problems and they are done by an industry insider so he would know if such problems exist.

Jesse W Crouse
3 months ago

Oh, guess what? My 2006 Tiffin Phaeton 40QSH looking a lot better now. And worth more also.

Jesse W Crouse
3 months ago

I come from a family owned business. 103 years-1870 t0 1973. What made us get out was all the franchised lines we had were bought out by big corporate conglomerate hacks who only saw how to generate false profits by ruining the product and service which built the brand in the first place. Don’t hold your breath on this one either. Thor’s past and present business model will ruin another good family run enterprise. If ” it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck” guess what?

Ran
3 months ago

So much for customer satisfaction! We too have a 2016 Tiffin Allegro Open road and have had numerous attempts to have warranty work done, with no satisfactory results. Spot welds on the frame to body, simulating a motor home on a chassis of stilts! We were looking at new and different, think it’s time to get out of the motor home excitement now. Most Manufactures are pumping out garbage and its hard to get good help or assistance from anyone right now!

Nanci
3 months ago

I was shocked and saddened when I heard that Thor bought out Tiffin. We love our 2017 Tiffin and the customer service from Tiffin, both at Red Bay and over the phone. I always look at the new models as a possibility, no more. We will keep what we have. I think I should stock up on spare parts too. When Forest River bought out Coachmen I could no longer get schematics or parts for our Coachmen Aurora.

Really
3 months ago

The beginning of the end!

RV Travel should do a research article on the number of companies THOR has acquired over the years and then CLOSED THE DOORS!

For anyone who has traveled in Northern Indiana, you can drive around Elkhart and see all the manufacturing building that are standing empty. I’m talking about huge buildings that once were RV companies.

Ray
3 months ago

For those of us that were adults back in the early 80s, doesn’t this kind of remind you of the US auto industry’s slide into “planned obsolescence”? They kept putting out crap until the Japanese introduced their cars, reliable and well-made. They competed and took a market share still evident to this day. Tariffs did not work. They simply moved their assembly plants onto US soil. It was the death of planned obsolescence. Thank heavens it happened. We need something similar now to stop this slide.

Barb Foreman
3 months ago

We are in Tampa now waiting on the show to buy a Tiffin. Not any more with Thor ownership and lack of customer service.

John Stewart
3 months ago

I worked at damon for 12 years then thor bought my company. guess what. they ran out all us workers that had been with damon. we made a good product then they replaced all of management and foremen on line. guess what. shxx went down hill from there. they make crappy units now. it was a small company then damon was

Mark O.
3 months ago
Reply to  John Stewart

“Jayco will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Thor, and the existing senior management team will continue to lead the business”.
Does this look and sound familiar? That was from a July 2016 industry article on the Thor takeover of Jayco.
We have a 2007 Jayco Greyhawk 33 DS super C on the Chevrolet Kodiak 5500 chassis and it is probably the best R/V we’ve ever owned, Quality throughout. And the 2nd best? A 1995 Damon Hornet! Pretty soon there won’t be ANY quality left anywhere. I wouldn’t touch a new unit with someone else’s money!!!

Bill T
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark O.

Agreed. I am happy I bought my 2015 Greyhawk 31DS before Thor bought out Jayco. My rigs build quality is good with no issues I couldn’t take care of myself. I have known a few owners who bought 2016 and newer models and they have had nothing but problems with them, from drive train issues to cabinets and microwaves falling off and plumbing and design issues as well. Keeping my 2015 until I’m done RV’ing.