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Old 04-07-2018, 02:23 PM   #1
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Default Wonder why RV quality seems to be slipping?

I found this short video on another forum. Some (like me) think the overall quality of RVs in general (and certainly Bs are no exception) has noticeably declined in the last couple of years. Since most are made in Elkhart this is pretty informative. Pushing for numbers always seems to be a route to problems in any industry.

Many Bs, of course, are not made in the Elkhart area but it is reasonable to assume the supply and demand and hiring issues are the same. Just look at the wait time on new Bs to prove that point.

https://on.mktw.net/2uTYh8g

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Old 04-07-2018, 03:27 PM   #2
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I lived through a boom... in North Dakota. It totally sucks for those who are retired because we only get the inflation and poor service from places that can't get workers. WalMart and McDonalds etc unable to get help for $15-20 an hour. It is why I left the state. The inevitable bust only makes things worse because the workers leave... and the trash (and their crime wave) stays behind.

Of course most Class B rigs are built in Canada... as they always have been.
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Old 04-07-2018, 03:33 PM   #3
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I don't think it is just RVs that are having the quality slippage, although RVs are a prime example of the problems.

Before the recession, companies had really started to figure out that having poor quality was not a good thing, and that higher quality paid off in the long run with happier customers, better reputations, and less warranty costs.

Unfortunately, when things got tight, the first thing to go was anything that was seen as non value added by accountants, and that included lots of quality related things. Training, good tools, improvements, etc all went away for many, many, companies during that time period.

Unfortunately, now that times are good and profits up, the bar for quality has already been severely lowered so there is not as much incentive to get back to doing a better, quality job. When you see $150K high end RVs with the lowest end import electronics in them, you know that they are just maximizing profits and not concerned about quality and reliability, or their customers.

I don't think the RV quality will start to improve much until the market saturates with more manufacturers so quality gets to be more of a visible determining factor between brands and the weaker players either have to improve or vanish.

In the 80s and 90s, there were lots of programs from consultants that claimed that "quality is free". The premise was that the costs of improved quality would be covered by reduced scrap, returns, rework, etc. Places I worked went through many of the programs and found the improvements didn't turn out to "free" in the short term dollars evaluations, which disappointed many of the executive and accountant folks. What the improvements did do was assure survival when markets got very competitive or there was a slowdown, when all the low quality suppliers would start to go under.

IMO, there is really no reason to have poor quality and customer service in this day and age, and with the economy doing well. The only reason things haven't gotten better is because of greed for profits over sustainability and because the public hasn't yet revolted and demanded better.
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Old 04-07-2018, 04:18 PM   #4
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I just finished reading an article that says the RV Business is super booming....they are so short of manpower that they are paying bonuses! I can just imagine walking the assembly floors of travel trailers....can just see the attention to detail and the QA before it rolls out. On the buyers end, I keep reading on FB about people so peeved at Dealers and Manufacturers for selling them crap, refusing to acknowledge the problem.....but wanting everyone to buy that Extended Warranty Service. Ironic, the only satisfied customers of these seem to tout CW's and their high praise of service and work - makes me think these are from CW Corporate....for everything else about them is disastrous.
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Old 04-07-2018, 06:13 PM   #5
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Since seventies we had 3 reasonable quality RVs among some below average ones. 1977 and 1985 Westfalias and 1997 Bigfoot truck camper. My first exposure to NA made RV appliance was an LPG heater (brown louvers) which I installed in 1977 Westfalia in place of the spare tire. This was a disaster, it sounded like 2 years old child learning to play a violin.

With good experience from our Bigfoot we followed with a trailer, and this RV was appalling. Afterwards I learned that original Bigfoot owner with his staff perished in the airplane disaster. The management replacement team had different objectives and experiences and then the financial crash hit them hard. Change of management resulted in different quality attitude permeating the company. I was left with my own repairs such as preventing the awning of becoming a missile.

In my view there is an optimum balance of engineering, manufacturing technologies, and price point to be successful. I donít think we are at this point in NA. Manufacturing technologies are often old like, my most favored, staple gun. Shops are often too small to hire engineers unless charging high prices. This optimum balance is met by a few companies in EU, large manufacturing sites, molding tools, engineering departments, automation reflecting in decent prices.

My hope was for Hymer to bring their technologies to NA, did not happen.
Methodologies of building RVs are stagnant but there are some new RV appliances such as combining water with space heating by Truma or Webasto, new battery management systems by combining inverters with chargers, or multiple DC source chargers.

And The Lithium, from my perspective a little like this, just change the CAR for Li:

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Old 04-07-2018, 07:12 PM   #6
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The video on Elkhart features one of my favorite stops, the Lechyd Da Brewery. I've been there a few times.
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Old 04-07-2018, 07:30 PM   #7
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How much of the perceived quality decline is because of forums and other electronic media allow us to share problems? My parentís RVís in the 1980 to 1995 era were way worse than our 2013.
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Old 07-05-2024, 03:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Of course most Class B rigs are built in Canada... as they always have been
This would a bizarre statement in Australia, bit like saying all Class,B's come from New Zealand
My take on it, the more players in a segment the better the overall quality. Think you are lacking quite a few Class B manufacturers and outfitters in the US. Combining Australia and New Zealand you have about 50. Not going to change unless you have more competiton and chassis variety
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Old 07-06-2024, 03:41 PM   #9
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This would a bizarre statement in Australia, bit like saying all Class,B's come from New Zealand
My take on it, the more players in a segment the better the overall quality. Think you are lacking quite a few Class B manufacturers and outfitters in the US. Combining Australia and New Zealand you have about 50. Not going to change unless you have more competiton and chassis variety
Good point.
And it will be very interesting to see which global region takes the lead on the production of hydrogen driven camper vans.
https://firsthydrogen.com/first-hydr...ion-campervan/
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Old 07-06-2024, 04:18 PM   #10
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My take on it, the more players in a segment the better the overall quality. Think you are lacking quite a few Class B manufacturers and outfitters in the US. Combining Australia and New Zealand you have about 50. Not going to change unless you have more competiton and chassis variety

I wouldn't count on that happening in the US, though, where "race to the bottom" seems to be the number one operating theory. More competition just makes it worse.



In the US we have way, way, too many companies run by accountants and hedge funds that only count dollars and their bonuses. They are not interested in long term quality improvements to improve reputation in the market.


I spent 5 decades in the manufacturing atmosphere of all kinds of products from cheap homeowner stuff too complicated machinery and circuit boards. I was a manufacturing engineer so responsible for actually making the stuff. In that time I saw the "payback" requirements for manufacturing and quality improvements go from about 15 years to breakeven to 3 years or even less. All the accounting types wanted to do was get short term profits by reducing costs, like inspectors, better equipment, and better trained employees who all took it in the shorts to get the short term gains and the management bonuses. The worst part was the severe effect it had had on the actual people on the shop floor who did the work. They were beaten to go faster and faster with less tools, worse parts, an no regard for quality or they got written up and/or fired. Soon those bean counters were gone to greener pastures and companies left to rot in their depleted capacity to compete.



Think Boeing. Early one they were the gold standard of quality when engineers ran the place, and often used by over priced consultants as the gold standard of companies. The engineers got booted and the bean counters ran the company into the ground for short term profits over quality.


I think almost no companies think more than about 6 months ahead anymore.
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Old 07-06-2024, 05:14 PM   #11
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We could check it all up to a bunch of whiny self entitled no nothings on the internet.

https://www.motor1.com/news/537319/r...ty-complaints/
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Old 07-06-2024, 07:09 PM   #12
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It isn't that hard to get a high quality RV, especially a Class B. You just have to be willing to pay for it which most people are not willing to do.

We are frequently stopped by people asking us about our van. Invariably, the question they get to quickly is what did it cost. I always ask them to just make a guess. They usually quess at about half the true cost. I then often suggest that they start adding up the cost starting with an expensive van, high quality components, skilled labor, etc. and it quickly becomes more understandable. They usually walk away forgetting that idea.
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Old 07-06-2024, 07:12 PM   #13
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I wouldn't count on that happening in the US, though, where "race to the bottom" seems to be the number one operating theory. More competition just makes it worse.



In the US we have way, way, too many companies run by accountants and hedge funds that only count dollars and their bonuses. They are not interested in long term quality improvements to improve reputation in the market.


I spent 5 decades in the manufacturing atmosphere of all kinds of products from cheap homeowner stuff too complicated machinery and circuit boards. I was a manufacturing engineer so responsible for actually making the stuff. In that time I saw the "payback" requirements for manufacturing and quality improvements go from about 15 years to breakeven to 3 years or even less. All the accounting types wanted to do was get short term profits by reducing costs, like inspectors, better equipment, and better trained employees who all took it in the shorts to get the short term gains and the management bonuses. The worst part was the severe effect it had had on the actual people on the shop floor who did the work. They were beaten to go faster and faster with less tools, worse parts, an no regard for quality or they got written up and/or fired. Soon those bean counters were gone to greener pastures and companies left to rot in their depleted capacity to compete.



Think Boeing. Early one they were the gold standard of quality when engineers ran the place, and often used by over priced consultants as the gold standard of companies. The engineers got booted and the bean counters ran the company into the ground for short term profits over quality.


I think almost no companies think more than about 6 months ahead anymore.
I think that the race to the bottom started before COVID. In 2012 we started to look for a camper van and decided on DIY for multiple reasons but two key ones were low quality and lack of a layout we wanted. Romex, wire twist connectors, staple guns, particle boards, peel and stick wood finish, carpet hiding, horrible fit and finish are examples of reasons for our decision for DIY. It is not just B-class, I almost lost the awning on my Bigfoot trailer attached to fiberglass with sheet metal screws without backing or badly design trailer weight distribution compensated with solid steel crossbars weighing about 330 lbs. I had hopes that Westfalia acquisition of Roadtrek will bring some fresh air in quality and prices but as far as I know I was mistaken. In 1985 we paid about $60K in todays money for VW Westfalia Pop-top, far less than 2024 Westfalia New Wave for $170K, (so Lithium and bathroom priced at $110K)

I am not certain if bean counter ought to be blamed for all, some of the decision like with Boeing 737 Max started from the top. Decision to utilize old 737 for the new 737 Max to compete with a quieter Airbus A320 was by McNerney - CEO. Larger engine forced Boeing to change their location resulting with different flight characteristics. Boeing utilize terribly implemented new software for flight control to prevent stalling. This single McNerney decision almost put the company in bankruptcy. McNerney got richer by $40M but Boeing got poorer.
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Old 07-06-2024, 07:32 PM   #14
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I am not certain if bean counter ought to be blamed for all, some of the decision like with Boeing 737 Max started from the top. Decision to utilize old 737 for the new 737 Max to compete with a quieter Airbus A320 was by McNerney - CEO. Larger engine forced Boeing to change their location resulting with different flight characteristics. Boeing utilize terribly implemented new software for flight control to prevent stalling. This single McNerney decision almost put the company in bankruptcy. McNerney got richer by $40M but Boeing got poorer.

I agree that the race started way before Covid. I saw signs it was coming in the 1990s.


Re the beancounters. The entire Boeing hierarchy by that that time had been taken over by the accountants so the "decision from above" came from the accountants, not engineers. They decided a ground up plane would cost too much and take too long. They got huge pushback from the designers about it all, from the ground clearance because of the engines to the new software that was needed to make them controllable, not to mention the getting rid of the redundant airspeed indicators that was a major cause of the two large, fatality, crashes, all to save money.
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Old 07-06-2024, 09:21 PM   #15
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I agree that the race started way before Covid. I saw signs it was coming in the 1990s
Re the beancounters. The entire Boeing hierarchy by that that time had been taken over by the accountants so the "decision from above" came from the accountants, not engineers. They decided a ground up plane would cost too much and take too long. They got huge pushback from the designers about it all, from the ground clearance because of the engines to the new software that was needed to make them controllable, not to mention the getting rid of the redundant airspeed indicators that was a major cause of the two large, fatality, crashes, all to save money.
IMHO, any business with a properly designed safety management system has its safety manager separate and above other managers on the org chart, reporting directly to the CEO.
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Old 07-06-2024, 10:04 PM   #16
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IMHO, any business with a properly designed safety management system has its safety manager separate and above other managers on the org chart, reporting directly to the CEO.

But...does that do any good when the CEO is one and the same in thought and training as those that the safety team is trying to hold in check? And, of course, does the safety team only address safety in the business and not in the products they produce (as it was in all the places I worked where the "design review team" took care of that job of product safety, hopefully with the aid of the liability attorney).
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Old 07-06-2024, 11:14 PM   #17
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US products do not have a great reputation for quality. You need a change in mindset, otherwise many US businesses will be acquired by overseas companies
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Old 07-06-2024, 11:17 PM   #18
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US products do not have a great reputation for quality. You need a change in mindset, otherwise many US businesses will be acquired by overseas companies

Totally agree, and it is too bad it is that way after the stellar quality we had in quite distant past.
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Old 07-07-2024, 12:00 AM   #19
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I am no Ford fanboy, but I do have to say that, with the exception of the well-known drainage problem in the windshield-wiper stowage area, I have yet to find any issues whatsoever in our 2022 Transit chassis. There were two recalls on the audio system and backup camera software, but we experienced no symptoms from either.
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Old 07-07-2024, 12:17 AM   #20
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But...does that do any good when the CEO is one and the same in thought and training as those that the safety team is trying to hold in check? And, of course, does the safety team only address safety in the business and not in the products they produce (as it was in all the places I worked where the "design review team" took care of that job of product safety, hopefully with the aid of the liability attorney).
You are correct. In such situations, it does no good at all.

FWIW, Canada's Federally run Air Traffic Control System was privatized in 1996. The Canadian government looked at all possible business model options, then choose a "private not-for-profit" operation. IIRC, the private-for-profit option was rejected due to the conflict of interest risk between safety and profit.
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