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RV Owners Are Far Too Patient (And Manufacturers Take Advantage of It)

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  September 30, 2012

Recently I reviewed an RV case. The number of defects was astonishing. This was a Class “A” RV that cost the client over $400,000.00. The list of defects went on page after page. As I continued to review the case, I noticed how every visit was in excess of 15 days and for the visit I am going to relate here, it was in the shop for 38 days. For the record, I have seen cases where the vehicle was at the dealership for six months! In one case it was discovered that repair personnel were using the vehicle for parties with their lady friends. They left behind certain articles of clothing identified as not belonging to the owner. In another the vehicle was left at the back of the lot, open and rats infested the vehicle. If this happened with the average person’s automobile they’d be down at the dealership with weapons of mass destruction and serious attitude.

Of course RV manufacturers don’t sell as many units as Ford but the lists of defects boggled the mind. I asked myself, “Do RV owners expect this sort of thing? Is it simply that they don’t care? Do they think that this is always how it is and nothing can be done about it? What’s going on?” I concluded that RV owners must be the most tolerant, patient and decent people in the world. I also concluded that they don’t really understand their rights when confronted with a lemon vehicle.

Consider the following repair visit for a common automobile defect:

There is a clunk sound when pulling the gear selector out of park. When driving at highway speeds, above 50mph, the vehicle suddenly slows down, shifts on its own and loses power. Days in the shop = 2

If the owner of this vehicle had four problems like this, and the defects started while the vehicle was still in warranty, and the dealer can’t or won’t fix it, the vehicle may qualify under California statute as a “lemon.”

Now let’s compare a typical motor home repair visit. This visit was for the Class A motor home mentioned above. It should be noted that frequently motor homes have very few owner miles before the defects show up. I say owner miles as several of the major manufacturers of motor homes have their factories in the Midwest and the Southeast, so when the vehicle arrives in California it already has several thousand miles on the odometer. One wonders what the driver/transporter thought about a vehicle so shoddily made that it was falling apart well before it was delivered to the owner.

The following information was taken directly from one repair order:

  • Passenger side awning (Girard) blew out in the wind.
  • Replace wallpaper in the bathroom, toilet and closet.
  • The navigation system (GPS) doesn’t work.
  • Passenger side dash has a clunking inside.
  • Step cover granite needs to be redone.
  • Steering wheel is incorrectly aligned.
  • Install new reefer door handle.
  • Constant whining noise in the Bose® audio system.
  • Cracking noise in the ceiling on the driver’s side.
  • Plasma TV has lines on the screen when the interface charging system is on.
  • Cabinet drawer under the dishwasher is too long.
  • Shower water is cold.
  • The Pronto charger doesn’t work.
  • Condensation forming in drawer beneath the dishwasher.
  • Grout missing on floor near reefer.
  • Many cabinet door locks jam.
  • The door above the reefer is not flush.
  • The remote receiver for direct TV doesn’t work.
  • Living room blinds are defective.
  • The leather on the front door is torn.
  • The fresh water hose reel is inoperative.
  • Overhead lights are inoperative.
  • Bathroom panel wallpaper has buckled – this panel was replaced twice during service done in January and has again separated from the panel.
  • Water leakage at living room slideout – water leaked through the roof staining the ceiling and fabric above the dinette.
  • All TV, GPS monitors and backup monitors have horizontal lines running through the picture.
  • The high voltage power box in the bay with the generator has black burn marks on the cover and gets so hot it cannot be touched.
  • Driver side windshield leaks.
  • The S/C causes a power surge that resets the on-board electronics equipment.
  • The generator temperature gauge fluctuates from 0-250-60 etc. It also pulsates as though being overworked.
  • The front A/C has a bad fan motor.
  • The keyless remotes are intermittent.

Number of days in the shop = 38. This vehicle was an electrical nightmare. Repair orders indicate most of the defects were the result of shoddy and incorrect assembly, poorly made components and poor design. Like a Hollywood character, motor homes are often beautiful on the outside but there’s nothing beneath. On this visit less than half of the listed defects were fixed. Either there were no parts or the dealership simply neglected to repair them.

What’s going on here? Is this a unique example I dreamed up for the sake of drama? No, it is not. Unfortunately this sort of thing is common. It really doesn’t matter if the vehicle cost $500,000.00 or $50,000.00, or that it was an utter failure of quality; if the seller cannot repair it, make it like new, the owner has the right to get a replacement or a refund.

Remember the keys words of the lemon law are substantial impairment of use, value, or safety. This one visit to the dealership repair facility wasn’t the first or the last; it was one of many. The defects for this specific repair attempt easily qualified the vehicle for substantial impairment of usevalue or safety.

On more than one occasion motor home owners have told me, don’t buy a motor home if you aren’t handy fixing things. What the heck is that about? If I paid $400,000.00 for a car or truck it better damn well work the first time or there’s going to be hair on the walls.

There is a basic problem or condition here. It is the problem of diminished expectations. As a people we have come to expect less: we expect less good manners, less useful knowledge being taught in the schools, less honesty from politicians and journalists, less care for the other person’s well being, ruinously expensive healthcare, drugs that are more harmful than health giving and so little quality in all the things we purchase.

It is a truism, that if you expect less, you get less. When people continuously expect less they become cynical and begin a downward cycle of existence.

Consider for a moment who buys motor homes or recreational vehicles. I don’t know the exact statistics in the U.S., but in France 85% of motor home buyers are couples over 53 years of age. Intuition tells me that such percentages are probably similar in the U.S. These are people who have worked hard, raised their children and sent them out into the world to create their own lives. Now they want to enjoy the time they have earned seeing their country and enjoying the company of like-minded people. Such people are self-reliant, honest, and helpful and have a positive attitude �their largest common organization is the Good Sam (Samaritan) Club.

When they first go to the RV/Motor Home dealership they aren’t cynically waiting for the dealership and its personnel to betray their trust and sell them a product so encrusted with defects, one would expect it to be ten years old rather than brand new. So they patiently wait for the dealership to fix their RV or motor home. Time after time they bring it back. When they finally call us for help you can hear the sadness in their voices, the disappointment, and the loss of humanity’s better nature.

When these decent people become cynical and suspicious it is a sign that must be noticed, it must be understood as important. We know with certainty, just as we know with automobiles and trucks, that for every person who asks for our or any other Lemon Law firm’s help with their lemon RV or motor home, there are twenty nice people out there still trying patiently to get their lemon fixed.

I, for one, don’t want them to become cynical and suspicious; there are more than enough people like that about already. The best outcome would be that RV manufacturers would understand that workmanship sells and improve the quality of their assembly, service and products. As this is not likely at the moment, my advice is find legal help and get rid of that vehicle from hell. Please, stay as cheerful as possible. Maybe the manufacturer simply needs to feel the financial pain and realize there’s more money in quality than cynicism.

Finally, here’s a thought for the manufacturers out there. Get the idea of a Motor Home coming down the road toward you. It’s beautiful, powerful and has superior quality. Now look closely at the front where is says Honda or Toyota. Sweet dreams.

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