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.