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Old 09-07-2014, 01:27 PM   #11
2012 Solera
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 769
My Solera is a 2012 and is therefore just over a year out of warranty - so my experience may be dated. Also, my experience is mine - it may not be representative. I have great respect for BClemens, and from comments on this board I believe he is working to improve our dealer experience.

That said, in my opinion, based on my experience and on multiple comments on this board and from others at campgrounds, if I had the purchase to do again I would put ZERO weight on dealer support in deciding how or from whom I would buy.

My closest local dealer - whom I bought from without any price haggling and without a trade - is about 70 miles away. Of the two Forest River dealers in the (150 mile radius) area, he is rated highest on the internet - including some positive reports on this forum. Given the 70 mile distance, as I would need to accompany the motor home with a "chase car" to drop it off - required for any warranty service by the dealer - my wife and I would drive over 400 miles to drop off and pick up the MH (70 miles each MH and car to dealer, 70 miles home with car for 210 miles to drop off; same in reverse to pick up). The dealer would not pre-order parts or schedule technician time to enable same-day repairs. Said he needed to see the MH, then order parts from FR, two week minimum for parts to arrive, then schedule repairs. No help with regard to loaner, rental car, vehicle pick-up, or other "car industry" service facilitators.

I also ended up re-doing or fixing essentially everything the dealer "fixed" or installed (items ID'd at time of purchase or during PDI; aftermarket installations of an outside shower and a passenger seat swivel).

I ended up using a local RV repair shop for warranty work I couldn't do myself. FR pre-authorized and reimbursed me for repairs. Even without the FR reimbursement, I believe I would have been better off with the local RV repair shop - the techs know what they are doing and I have not had to re-do their work. The dealer said "3 to 4 weeks" to repair my one major issue (slide motor mount broke off frame in about five actuations - poor movement had been highlighted to dealer both at purchase and at PDI - dealer said "normal", "lubricate"). Local RV shop fixed properly in 3 days (local shop is just 15 miles away.)

If you have a "good" dealer with competent techs (check online reports, BBB, local small claims court records, try to find other owners, etc) and he is convenient - may be worth some money. I believe such "good" dealers are the exception rather than the rule, however.

I believe FR and the dealers could improve the customer experience quite a lot with relatively minimal effort. Pre-order and stage parts and tech time - to do this trust the customer reports of the issues and plan accordingly. Try to make most warranty calls a less than 4 hour (from customer arrival to check-out) experience. This would allow customers to wait - no need for (very inconvenient) drop off. Make arrangement with a local car rental company to at least allow customers on-site car rental (better if complimentary). Set and measure "return issue" incident frequency. Tie bonuses / raises to repair quality.

As stated above, based on my experience, the availability and quality of dealer service is not something I would value in a future purchase.

2012 Solera "S"
Calif SF Bay Area
JLeising is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-07-2014, 03:57 PM   #12
Junior Member
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 5
Thanks, everybody, for taking the time to help me decide what to buy, and from whom. The RV business seems to be light years behind the auto manufacturing industry. Whenever I buy a new car, I get surveys from the manufacturers, e.g., Ford and Toyota in my case, checking up on the quality of repair service I received from the local dealer. And then, after the work had been done, I've gotten phone calls from the dealerships too asking if they did a good job and if not, how so, and would I "please, please" give them a perfect grade on the manufacturer's survey? I've had reason to talk with at least one dealership owner and he said that they get into a huge problem if they don't rate A+ on these surveys, including from owners who did NOT the buy the vehicles from them. The manufacturers get very upset if the repair work (under warranty or not) isn't done properly, fairly and in a timely manner. Apparently, RV manufacturers have no such control over RV dealers. If Toyota yanks a dealership concession, I would imagine the dealership might be out millions of dollars. I get the feeling that the RV dealers don't live or die from the disciplinary actions of an RV manufacturer. For one thing, they don't sell just a single brand.

I will pay several hundred dollars above what I will pay to a wholesaler, like RVDirect, to a local RV dealer in purchasing an RV to win his loyalty, but not thousands of dollars, and, in the case of the Solera, the nearest authorized FR dealers are a long, long ride away.

I have a couple of additional questions. Perhaps BClemens can best answer them, and I hope to be able to read his posted, written thoughts, but I'd very much like to hear also from anyone and everyone who has ideas.

1. In my limited Internet research on RVs, I've come across a number of slide mechanism problems, in all sizes and in many brands of RVs. Are the slide mechanisms in the Solera any more robustly engineered and built than the norm for the industry? This would seem to be one of the bigger and more expensive items to go bad. Newmar, a manufacturer of relatively pricey, class-A motorhomes shows in a video the tiny, flimsy drive mechanism from what they say is in a competitor's RV, and then show this huge industrial looking cog device that they use. I'm not an engineer or mechanic, so I don't remember the name of the item, but it needs to make only three revolutions to move a slide three feet. The other ones I've seen seem not much sturdier than a toy. (YES, I know the price for even one of Newmar's least expensive, smallest, gas-powered units is more than the Solera costs.)

2. I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that most manufacturers who offer a back of the vehicle camera offer it together with side cameras. I see that FR offers the back-up camera as an option on a Solera, but I don't see the left and right side cameras being offered. I think the idea of driving down the highway, without the aid of a front seat, "co-pilot" to help me in changing lanes or turning right, is unnecessarily disconcerting. I've had to do it driving moving vans, and hated it. And I had to drive those vans only once every so many years. Driving an RV is supposed to be fun, not scary. Does FR offer the side cameras and I'm just missing it? If they don't offer them at least as options, WHY? Probably, it is offered and I just missed seeing it.

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Old 09-07-2014, 06:48 PM   #13
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 78
You will go to Mercedes for any "running gear" problems anyway. And frankly I have had the best luck over the years going thru independent RV repair shops. Generally they can handle warranty repairs on major components anyway.
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Old 09-07-2014, 11:36 PM   #14
2012 Solera
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 769
If you have quality and/or service expectations based on the auto industry you face severe disappointment. Actually, you should seriously consider whether or not you should buy at all...

With regard to the slide mechanism on our 2012 Solera "S" FR used an "industry standard" Lippert "flush floor" slide mechanism. Don't know what they are using now - suspect similar Lippert mechanisms including the Schwintech mechanism. Pretty much the same as used by most.
Our 2012 does not have sideview cameras. Again, don't know if available on 2015s.
2012 Solera "S"
Calif SF Bay Area
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:57 AM   #15
bclemens's Avatar
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Elkhart, IN
Posts: 5,064
1. You're talking apples to oranges on the slide mechanisms. They NEED huge hydraulic slides to push all that weight. Solera, the slides are smaller and very lightweight. No matter how robust the slide only takes one part (like a shear pin or gear) to keep the slide from malfunctioning and those small lightweight slides can be repaired by most anybody. As I have said before...with the hundred of thousands of slides in the field...yes, you hear problems. But that's because people that come on here have problems. No one on this forum is coming on here to brag about how their slide has been trouble free for 10 years. So you will get a higher ratio of problems. Its still a small fraction of the number of slides in the field.

2. We are offering side cameras, it will be added to the price sheet this week. I for one am not a big fan, but people seem to like them. The RV mirrors are very large in comparison to van or auto mirrors. Next to no blind spot based on the convex mirror and large size. My problem with the side cameras is...lets say you want to move into the left lane. Well, you have to look to your right. It is counterintuitive. But to each his own.

The only reason we didn't offer it was that all our side cameras were mirror mounted and the Sprinter mirrors do not have that option. So we were simply testing body mount locations that gave you the best viewing angle.

PLEASE do not send questions via Private Message, my inbox fills up too quickly. Post questions in the forum as a new thread so that other users can benefit from the answers. Use Private Messages for sensitive information only (VIN, Contact info or things you do not want the public to see).
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