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Old 06-06-2012, 01:02 AM   #1
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Why such poor quality and design with RVs?

I've owned several RVs aside from the new Salem TT I just bought so this is really just a critique on all RVs not just FR.

Why are things made so poorly? Of course, money is the main reason but there sure are a lot of things that wouldn't cost much more that would make a HUGE difference.

As an example, I took my new TT home and have been playing around with it in the driveway. About the 5th time I go to open the cabinet door to under the kitchen sink the lower hinge just rips completely out. So, I look at the screw the hinge is put in with and it's about size of a small thumb tack. Really? That's the best they can do. What would it cost to put real screws in all the hinges? An extra $2 per trailer. This is just lame IMO.

Next, I go to open the jack knife sofa. Okay.... pull up the bottom and, oops, it runs right into one of the brackets for a window curtain and rips the bracket off the wall (same crappy screws, of course). Is that really the best someone can do? In looking at it slowly/carefully, there is NO WAY to open the sofa without ripping this bracket from the wall. Really? No one noticed this?

Next come the valance trim above the windows. Has anyone actually touched these? If not, DON'T! Mine have about as much glue as dries at the tip of a bottle of Elmer's. I swear one fell off just from me looking at it. Again, a tiny amount of effort would make all the difference.

Don't get me wrong, I'm overall fine with the trailer. I'm a contractor by trade and can easily fix this stuff. It really just makes me laugh. It sure seems that with a very small amount of effort/planning and a very minimal amount of money these trailers could be much more durable. And, again... this is every RV I've owned. Not just the FR.
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:16 AM   #2
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I had the same thing happen to the cabinet below my sink. I found the hinge to be to tight against the door and was hard to move even by hand. I ended up putting a longer screw in so it grabbed the wood strip inside the cabinet. But like you say about they cheap screws I can expect to replace more in the future .
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Old 06-06-2012, 05:38 AM   #3
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is this how they keep making trailers lighter weight? less screws and glue?
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Old 06-06-2012, 06:27 AM   #4
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Screws are very easy to strip specially when screwed in the luan paper thin and the styrofoam . If the screw dont hit an aluminum brace it is like they are installed in next to nothing.
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Old 06-06-2012, 06:47 AM   #5
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I think even those trivial bits and pieces add up cost. Over the last several years TT units and even 5ths have become accessible to the everyday man, many TT units are competing on price against nicely-outfitted popups... Costing and building to a target pricepoint i think has the most direct impact on quality... Now when the supplier market for appliances and systems is pretty limited and standard, there become few ways to reduce cost to achieve the target price without looking at labor and raw materials.

I suspect also that some workers in these plants are not carpenters and electricians and dont see themselves as such, they are assemblers putting part A onto piece B and doing that 30 times a day. So there is probably an experience gap and maybe even a pride and workmanship issue too.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:03 AM   #6
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This is has been mentioned before, but part of the problem with the TT industry is that is has no competition (pretty much everything is made in Indianna). Not a knock on the state of manufactoring in N. America, but basically the same situration existed in the car industry before international competition occurred, ex. Japan, Germany, Korea etc. Look how many years it took the big three auto makers to finally smarten up and increase their quality baseline. Some of them had to get government bail-outs, just to stay afloat. I totally believe in keeping things at home, however, the quality standard bar may not be raised in the TT industry, until some competition, i.e. foreign enters the fray. Sad, but true.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:13 AM   #7
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Thats an interesting point.... I wonder what type of innovation and exploration a more globally competitive marketplace would create.

Id love to see more innovation in construction, materials and design.... Modularized designs, ruggedized designs... New composites that combine lasting strength eith light weight... Designs that incorporate energy-saving concepts from the drawing board rather than an add-on at the end. Designs build around the systems rather than treating them like cargo that needs to be put into a box.

It seems like there has been a lot Of innovation in the class A market but most of that has not trickled down to the towables... Which are basically the same concept theyve been for 60 years.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:19 AM   #8
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Thats an interesting point.... I wonder what type of innovation and exploration a more globally competitive marketplace would create.

Id love to see more innovation in construction, materials and design.... Modularized designs, ruggedized designs... New composites that combine lasting strength eith light weight... Designs that incorporate energy-saving concepts from the drawing board rather than an add-on at the end. Designs build around the systems rather than treating them like cargo that needs to be put into a box.

It seems like there has been a lot Of innovation in the class A market but most of that has not trickled down to the towables... Which are basically the same concept theyve been for 60 years.
Composites would probably add thousands of dollars to the cost and most people wouldn't pay the price when they can get a "regular" unit for half the cost. I agree, it all comes down to money. Build them as cheap as they can as they watch their bottom line grow. After all, doesn't Warren Buffet need MORE money? LOL.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:19 AM   #9
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I think the consumers ( yes , us) has come to accept the level of quality put into RVs. This is quite evident by the number of posters to this forum who are happy to take the Rvs home and start in with their own modifications. I trhink if we continue to demand higher standards, we should expect to receive them. As you stated, there are very minor improvements that could make a big difference. Compared to the automobile manufacturers, quality control is certainly not on par, while we pay the same dollars for a RV as we do a car. I just recently purchased a 2012 VW Passat built in Chattanooga. Why is it that the quality of this vehicle far exceeds the quality on my RV built in Indiana. The VW cost about $12 grand cheaper. I don't need to go and start tightening screws, bolstering structural components, replacing tires, greasing bearings because not enough was added at the plant and the list goes on. the Rv industry as responded to consumers demands in manufacturing "light weight" RVs, but why compromise build quality.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:28 AM   #10
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Cars are built be robots, campers are built by people. That simply costs more, not to mention the volumes prodcued are mush higher in a car plant, which also lowers cost/unit.
I am definitely not defending FR, and would gladly have paid another 5 grand for a better quality unit.
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:30 AM   #11
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Composites may or may not add cost... There is a lot that goes into figuring out the total cost of something. One of our vehicles is a smart car, it's like 90% recyclable, all the body panels are recycled plastic, it's built upon a formula one type steel cage that's powder coated.... Build quality is very good for price point (it cost less than our a frame trailer)

I would probably pay more for a camper I know was going to last longer, be worth more at trade time and provide fewer problems regarding maintenance or repair.

Look at airstream - clearly far more engineering and design effort went into them than the average trailer... They sell for much more than the other choices... But my impression is the quality is there and justifies much of the added investment... I don't see many used ones come up for sale.... And I see a ton that are are 10+ years old....

We actually looked at one of the tiny Bambi models but couldn't rationalize the $35k price against what a rockwood A-frame would cost us. If there were more choices between $12 and $35 that provided added value and some new concept we might have been swayed. I guess the A frame concept itself was a bit innovative and novel and new to us (we had never seen chalets or aliners before these) so something new I guess did sway our opinion...
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:39 AM   #12
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Composites may or may not add cost... There is a lot that goes into figuring out the total cost of something. One of our vehicles is a smart car, it's like 90% recyclable, all the body panels are recycled plastic, it's built upon a formula one type steel cage that's powder coated.... Build quality is very good for price point (it cost less than our a frame trailer)

I would probably pay more for a camper I know was going to last longer, be worth more at trade time and provide fewer problems regarding maintenance or repair.

Look at airstream - clearly far more engineering and design effort went into them than the average trailer... They sell for much more than the other choices... But my impression is the quality is there and justifies much of the added investment... I don't see many used ones come up for sale.... And I see a ton that are are 10+ years old....

We actually looked at one of the tiny Bambi models but couldn't rationalize the $35k price against what a rockwood A-frame would cost us. If there were more choices between $12 and $35 that provided added value and some new concept we might have been swayed. I guess the A frame concept itself was a bit innovative and novel and new to us (we had never seen chalets or aliners before these) so something new I guess did sway our opinion...
I think you answered your own question, "We actually looked at one of the tiny Bambi models but couldn't rationalize the $35k price", quality costs money anyway you cut it!
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:51 AM   #13
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I think you answered your own question, "We actually looked at one of the tiny Bambi models but couldn't rationalize the $35k price", quality costs money anyway you cut it!
Yes and no. We did spend More on the A-frame than we prob would have needed to for a PUP.... And if there was something like the T@b out there with new thinking and new design and new materials/concepts I would have considered it.... For me the airstream is the Cadillac... I'm not saying we need more Cadillacs... We need more innovation throughout each pricepoint.

Among most of the remaining manufacturers, there is very minor difference in design, construction and materials... Not much fording new ground. Not much innovation.

I would love to see a manufacturer take the lead and spend against R&D to really uncover the existing problems and gripes and then innovate and improve... Solve people's problems, enhance their experience. Really get to understand how consumers use their products, what they want to be able to do with them and what they expect.

I think the manufacturers think they do this now... But it is more a Chinese menu approach... What "thing" can we add this season to get buyers... Outside kitchen, slide out, etc. this is more gadgetry than real innovation....

The automotive industry has concept cars, which explore the wild and ridiculous in the hopes that some of those ideas trickle down to production models. Where is the RV equivalent of concept cars? How are these companies challenging themselves? The reality is they dont need to, because there is no market competition forcing them to.

I think I'd like to see some foreign competition if only to force the US manufacturers to innovate and improve outcomes.
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Old 06-06-2012, 09:06 AM   #14
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Just keep this in mind.
Almost everything in the "average" consumer world is built down to a price, not up to a standard. I had to quote average because there are obviously better quality items in every market. Cars, homes, campers....

Personal opinion warning *The thoughts printed below are my own personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect any individual, industry or manufacturer. Your mileage may vary, results not typical, please consult your physician*

I think most of the world is too focused on profits to become the "richest" at the sacrifice of quality and customer satisfaction. Disposable items have replaced quality re-usable items in almost every industry. I understand that it "lowers the cost to the consumer" but many people will gladly pay extra for better quality and longer use. I don't want to buy a television that I have to just throw away instead of replacing a circuit board or tube. I don't want to buy a camping trailer that "looks nice" only to have to return to the dealer less than 4.5 months to have the frame welds cleaned up and trim pieces put back on. We shouldn't have to modify brand new anything to make the features work properly.

I would honestly prefer a slower pace of manufacturing that was based more on the customer specs than a packaged item that tries to cover everyone's needs. Yes, have a few "off the shelf" items that you can just buy and go, but let's all focus on better quality and take a look back to "the good old days" when American (and Canadian) pride and quality meant something. Be proud to say "Made with pride in ..." and stand behind your products and workmanship. If you mess up, admit it, fix it, and then improve the processes that allowed this mistake through.
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Old 06-06-2012, 09:53 AM   #15
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I think across the board, this is a problem of us as Americans. There is no longer any pride in workmanship or nobody wants to own up to quality workmanship. It is not only management causing it, but the workers themselves. I know that yes some people do take pride in doing their work, but there are way too many people that are there to get paid, period, end of story. An example of this is whoever installed the coax cable in my unit didn't care because none of the connections were even finger tight, someone with pride in their work would have had them all tight. Another trailer put together the same day by someone else could have been tight. The problems arrive because too many instances of people not caring
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:06 AM   #16
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When Prime Time first hit the scene, there was speculation that they were going to use composites instead of luan as a base for the exterior fibreglass walls, which would have eliminated the delamination issue (supposedly).
But when the PT campers came out, it was the same old cheap construction.
So nothing changes.
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Old 06-06-2012, 11:02 AM   #17
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I hear YA!
Perfect example... look how fast the rv manufactures assemble a unit from start to finish with no help from robotics, amazing! This is one area among others where our problems start, assembly workers pushed by time to roll a unit off the line vs quality of built items, do overs being a priority before units are shipped to the end users.
Until this gets addressed, we'll keep having these same issues with every unit we buy....and I'm still buying them to the end!



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Old 06-06-2012, 11:27 AM   #18
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My 2 cents:

Like it or not, American manufacturers have learned the hard way about quality from Asian and European manufacturers, in many sectors: auto, electronics, photography, clothing, etc.

Auto makers had to go bankrupt (with execs still cashing in though..) to realize that things had to change.

I remember buying a Mercury Bobcat (sibling of the Pinto) in the 70's. After an accident forced me into a Corolla for a week or so while the Bobcat was in the shop.

The Bobcat had a big 2000cc engine, gas mileage was terrible, it had no pickup whatsover and it was a low quality automobile, polyglass Goodyear tires, cheap plastics everywhere.

The Corolla on the other hand, was well done, felt luxurious, was well appointed, great on gas, radial tires and had lots of get up & go (and a 1300cc engine). It had lots of little things I loved...

American car makers made cars they wanted to sell, Japanese made cars people wanted to buy.

Well, I got back in my Bobcat, my mind was made up, I was going to buy Japanese from now. I did.

A few friends are now driving new Buicks, Chevys and Fords, and let me tell you: they now have it figured it - fabulous cars. Why oh why did it take that long? Time will tell if they will keep up. But they are on the right track.

Unfortunately, with RVs low unit sales, this will never tickle Europeans or Asians in that market place - not enough volume. Maybe popups, if they ever do, watch out.

So we're stuck with Model T assembly lines and quality we can only afford. I would not pay more for a better quality unit.
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Old 06-06-2012, 12:40 PM   #19
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Well, we, DW and I are perfectly satisfied with the quality of the 2 Flagstaffs we've owned. Every one of the mods we've made are for OUR conveniences only. As a retired design engr, I would prefer an extruded I beam frame, but in FR's defense, we have not had any problems with either of the light wt fabricated designs. We bought a light weight camper knowing full well it was not built like a tank or a stick built home as it would take a Peterbilt or larger to tow it. Also, what few problems we've had were not due to FR's manufacturing, but with the outside vendor's parts. Having worked on the $5,000,000 Multiple Launch Rocket System for Lockheed Martin, we never had a failure with our process, but we sure did with the vendor products and we even had our own inspectors ok the parts before they could be shipped to the plant. So, folks just focus on the mfg that is responsible for the problem.
As long as it is mechanical, it can and probably will fail.
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Old 06-06-2012, 01:22 PM   #20
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Mtofell, I'm really glad you have brought up this question. Am looking forward to all of the comments.

We are new to RVing and have only had our trailer for about 10 months. Over the winter, I did a LOT of modifications and upgrades, mostly to the interior of our Coachmen. I was astounded how poor the contruction quality is. I mean, it is pathetic!! Things are not level, plumb, square or in a straight line. Things are poorly fastened and some things barely hanging together. Poor electrical work, poor plumbing work, poor finishing, things don't fit properly, yada, yada.... And just plain dumb design/layout on many things.... When you look under or inside cabinets and hidden cavities, I found tons of sawdust, shavings and debris.

I ended up completely rebuilding the top and enclosure for our queen size bed because it way out of alignment and the top badly warped, hinges were falling off, poorly built overall, and it didn't open/close properly. Totally pathetic IMO.

As an engineer and someone who has also been renovating and building houses (most work myself) a long time and having been restoring vintage cars a long time, I am really disgusted that they can produce RVs with such lousy quality.

I talked to a local independent RV repair/upgrade shop recently and the owner said that poor quality is pretty much the norm for the industry. He said a big factor is that they simply hire low paid, unskilled labor.

We camped last weekend next to someone with a much larger Coachmen trailer. It wasn't until being there 2 days and packing up that DW discovered it was a fellow manager from where she works. Had a long chat about their trailer. They have had tons of problems with theirs. Makes ours seem high quality in comparison.

I suspect profit margins are very low in the RV industry, at least on 5-ers and trailers which would explain the drive to cut corners. Look around in a campground and see how many brands are out there. It's amazing. I heard that in the past few years, around 80% of the manufacturers have gone out of business. If profits were reasonable, more of them would be able to weather a downturn in the economy. Our dealer told us that Coachmen went out of business and was bought out by FR. I wonder if the quality has changed?

Personally, I'd rather pay a little more to get better workmanship and higher quality components. If we ever buy another RV, we'll be looking a LOT closer at the construction quality and design details.

Anyone have any comments on which current brands and models are considered to be high quality?
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