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Old 12-08-2016, 01:08 PM   #1
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Default RVDA Quality Circle Awards

I just noticed that the 2016 National RV Dealers' Association Awards have been made. Here's a link to the page.

Airstream and Pleasure-Way are the only two Class B mfg's that made the grade. [Are Class B's the only motorized RV's sold by Airstream? I know Pleasure-Way makes only B's and B+'s.

Meanwhile, Roadtrek, Coachmen and Winnebago fell off the list (they had been on it in 2015).

Of course, manufacturers who sell direct (Advanced RV, Avion, etc.) will not be rated here.

For those of us contemplating our first Class B purchase, quality control is important. Various Facebook pages detail problems with certain Class B manufacturers.
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Old 12-08-2016, 04:06 PM   #2
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It's important to note those RV Dealer Association awards are based on Dealer Satisfaction Index surveys of satisfaction with manufacturer delivery, financing, advertising support and profit margins to the dealer, not the end consumer.

Knowing friends and co-workers with Keystone and Durango towables listed under the Quality Circle award winners I can assure you those awards do not represent the end customer build quality.

In fact I think most Class B units tend to have better build quality (as in not so terrible) than the vast sea of mass market towables - with Grand Design and Airstream being the possible exceptions.

RV Daily Report, an RV trade publication, has an interesting series titled RV Industry Death Spiral that details the industry consolidation, cost cutting, and marketing strategies that have resulted in poor quality and satisfaction for the end customer.
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Old 12-08-2016, 05:12 PM   #3
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The Death Spiral series (it can be downloaded here) is sobering and even sickening. Reading it should be a must before purchase.

I'm only half-way through, but have two comments:

First: the report does, indirectly, seem to corroborate the claim that RVDA Quality Circle Awards DO mean something for consumers. For the report details how poor quality leads manufacturers to screw dealers, who become upset when they take the fall for the manufacturer's shoddy quality control and sharp business practices. The report details how the "no service unless you bought it here" developed -- it mostly makes sense if dealers lose money on service because they kindly repair things with inadequate reimbursement from manufacturers. So a manufacturer who is liked by dealers is likely to be a manufacturer who makes a good product.

Second: I wonder how many of the author's comments apply to Class B RV's. The examples I've read so far have not dealt with Class B's. Maybe dealing with an already-enclosed van reduces the chances of snafus?

Anyway, as I wrote above, please read the series, as I am doing. And of course the cautionary lawyer's tale "Please don't buy an RV" is a good accompaniment (mostly, the lawyer's point is that lobbying by dealers has gotten them exempted from state Lemon Laws, so you may not return perpetually defective units without extreme anguish and litigation).
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Old 12-08-2016, 06:54 PM   #4
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...The examples I've read so far have not dealt with Class B's. Maybe dealing with an already-enclosed van reduces the chances of snafus?
I think that's likely correct. Our friend's Keystone trailer was littered with quality problems but the most serious (and dangerous) was faulty mounting and alignment of the dual axle system. On a Class B that type of chassis engineering, manufacturing and quality control are all under the control of the motor vehicle manufacturer. And generally car and light truck manufacturing quality has improved notably in recent years.

It's interesting to compare the American car and RV industries. Since the late 1980's American car manufacturers have greatly improved manufacturing and quality control to compete with higher expectations set largely by Japanese auto firms. By comparison Grand Design RV, known for better than average towable quality and customer service, basically offers a promise of ascending back up to 1980's RV quality combined with modern features like slide-outs.
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Old 12-08-2016, 07:22 PM   #5
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It's interesting to compare the American car and RV industries. Since the late 1980's American car manufacturers have greatly improved manufacturing and quality control to compete with higher expectations set largely by Japanese auto firms.
Unless the American RV manufacturers get their act together, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing RVs from overseas, or American RV companies being bought out by overseas interests. Hymer/Roadtrek will not be the only one.
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Old 12-08-2016, 07:30 PM   #6
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Unless the American RV manufacturers get their act together, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing RVs from overseas, or US RV companies being bought out by overseas interests. Hymer/Roadtrek will not be the only one.
I think that importing would be a lot easier for the trailers than the motorhomes do to the country specific vehicles required, for emissions and safety, as well as market desires.

Add to that the cost of of shipping big ones like a 40 foot 5th wheel or big class A, and it would probably make them cost prohibitive also.

Mergers and acquisitions, absolutely, but it will be interesting to see how Hymer does against Winnebago, especially on the lower cost stuff.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:08 PM   #7
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I think that importing would be a lot easier for the trailers than the motorhomes do to the country specific vehicles required, for emissions and safety, as well as market desires.
All a foreign company would have to do is to build an RV based on one of their country's vehicles that was already built for the U.S. market. Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and of course Mercedes already build trucks and vans for the US market. Any of these could be converted in their country of origin and shipped here.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:28 PM   #8
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All a foreign company would have to do is to build an RV based on one of their country's vehicles that was already built for the U.S. market. Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and of course Mercedes already build trucks and vans for the US market. Any of these could be converted in their country of origin and shipped here.
Mercedes, Ford, Nissan, and Dodge all build the US versions here, so they would have to be shipped for fitting, or all the specific parts sent to wherever they are built. That would be kind of silly I think, from their perspective. Better to send the parts here, and use a US built version, than duplicate base vehicle production at the vehicle supplier.

That said, we surprisingly found out that Honda makes some US version CRVs in Japan if they need the capacity, but also because they are a bit over the top on model changes, which they prove out in Japan before turning loose US production on them. DW got one of the first 2009s, and it was Japan built, as were all the other early deliveries at the dealer. I have not seen many Japan built ones and they seem to be pretty rare, at least around here.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:40 PM   #9
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Whether a foreign RV is upfitted here or elsewhere, I think it's fool hardy for American RV companies to think that they're invincible and will never face foreign competition. General Motors thought that way and look where it got them.
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Old 12-08-2016, 09:47 PM   #10
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Whether a foreign RV is upfitted here or elsewhere, I think it's fool hardy for American RV companies to think that they're invincible and will never face foreign competition. General Motors thought that way and look where it got them.
Certainly, that makes sense, but building a version you already build here doesn't, which is what I said in the first place.

Winnebago could really get a handful if someone starts building RVs on a Mexico built US van, and doing the upfitting there. Talk about a price advantage. We still don't know where the next GM van version will come from, so stay tuned.
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Old 12-08-2016, 11:47 PM   #11
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Mercedes, Ford, Nissan, and Dodge all build the US versions here, ........
Not true for Mercedes Sprinter vans. They are all built in Germany for US market, then disassembled and shipped to South Carolina for reassembly thanks to the infamous "Chicken Tax". Large volume B-van builders like Winnebago, Airstream and Roadtrek get their bare cargo vans directly from Germany without the reassembly mess.

In the future ( 2019?) the new Mercedes Sprinter plant in South Carolina will be on line and providing North American Sprinters.
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Old 12-09-2016, 12:09 AM   #12
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Not true for Mercedes Sprinter vans. They are all built in Germany for US market, then disassembled and shipped to South Carolina for reassembly thanks to the infamous "Chicken Tax". Large volume B-van builders like Winnebago, Airstream and Roadtrek get their bare cargo vans directly from Germany without the reassembly mess.

In the future ( 2019?) the new Mercedes Sprinter plant in South Carolina will be on line and providing North American Sprinters.
Apparently WGO avoids the nutty disassembly/reassembly routine by having a trade free zone proximate to their factory. I didn't know that Airstream and Roadtrek has accomplished the same. Does Canada also have a similar Chicken Tax?
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Old 12-09-2016, 12:32 AM   #13
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I should have stated that included the yet to be completed factory for the Sprinter in the original answer, as that is common knowledge, and will happen sooner than any foreign RV builder would get tooled to much of anything for the US market, from Europe, I would imagine. Doing it the way they are now would make it easier to get started ahead of time by doing it all in Europe, but would certainly drive up the cost due to the tax situation if it was charged on and entire RV. I would certainly expect MB to stop making US version overseas once they can be built here.
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Old 12-10-2016, 05:07 PM   #14
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Apparently WGO avoids the nutty disassembly/reassembly routine by having a trade free zone proximate to their factory. I didn't know that Airstream and Roadtrek has accomplished the same. Does Canada also have a similar Chicken Tax?
Sprinters for the Canadian market are imported directly into Canada and complete. Sprinters for the US market come from Germany via South Carolina, shipped to Canada, upfitted and sent back to the USA dealers. That's the way I understood it when I bought a Pleasure-way and a Great West Van and assumed Roadtrek had the same conditions. I don't think that has changed. Winnebago has their deal but I don't know about Airstream.
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Old 12-10-2016, 09:38 PM   #15
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Apparently WGO avoids the nutty disassembly/reassembly routine by having a trade free zone proximate to their factory. I didn't know that Airstream and Roadtrek has accomplished the same. Does Canada also have a similar Chicken Tax?
I'm not sure it si a trade free zone because we don't have such arrangements with Germany - they are a NAFTA thing.

I was told by a Mercedes executive a few years ago that Airstream and Winnebago got their bare B-vans direct from Germany through the Baltimore port. Apparently they when through the effort to convince the US tax people that the vans they import would become passenger RV's and thus not subject to truck tax.
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:54 PM   #16
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Winnebago has a free trade zone set up in Forest City for direct importation.
The FCA Promaster van/Ram HD pickup plant in Mexico is a free trade zone itself. They ship to all of North & South America directly from there.
There's a free trade zone set up at the Ford Plant storage lot in Kansas City so they can ship direct to Mexico & Canada.
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Old 12-11-2016, 12:32 AM   #17
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Sprinters for the Canadian market are imported directly into Canada and complete. Sprinters for the US market come from Germany via South Carolina, shipped to Canada, upfitted and sent back to the USA dealers. That's the way I understood it when I bought a Pleasure-way and a Great West Van and assumed Roadtrek had the same conditions. I don't think that has changed. Winnebago has their deal but I don't know about Airstream.
I wonder why RT/PW can't import Sprinters directly into Canada with U.S DOT specs for coaches destined to be sold in the U.S.
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Old 12-11-2016, 01:34 AM   #18
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Sprinters for the Canadian market are imported directly into Canada and complete. Sprinters for the US market come from Germany via South Carolina, shipped to Canada, upfitted and sent back to the USA dealers. That's the way I understood it when I bought a Pleasure-way and a Great West Van.
Our GWV was sourced from a dealer in Pennsylvania (by some amazing coincidence, it was the same one that ARV uses). The vehicle was sourced BEFORE the move to the USA.
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Old 12-12-2016, 12:47 AM   #19
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Our GWV was sourced from a dealer in Pennsylvania (by some amazing coincidence, it was the same one that ARV uses). The vehicle was sourced BEFORE the move to the USA.
That was perhaps a step I overlooked. The point was the Sprinter converted by a Canadian company in Canada for US citizens had to come through South Carolina and not through a Canadian import source.

As for coincidence it might be very simple and not so amazing. Mike Neuendorfer owned a Great West Van. The easiest thing to do was look at the window sticker and go with the dealer that had experience with delivering to Class B converters. Maybe they gave the best deals. Mine was from a dealer in State College, PA via Ladson, SC. Just checked. Who knows if it actually ever went to PA. Those are details that don't bother me. I sat down with ARV, not a dealer, and worked up a specific order with all the options I wanted. Basically I got everything possible but that parking assist option which I didn't think necessary.
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Old 12-12-2016, 01:02 AM   #20
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My guess is that these dealers the converters work with never see the vehicle unless it's a really small converter, such as Great West was in Alabama, or Morehead Design Lab in North Carolina
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