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Old 12-14-2014, 09:49 AM   #29
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An engineering perspective

I think whats being missed in this discussion is that the main market pressures on TT manufacturers are PRICE and Light WEIGHT.

You can make things strong and reliable if you use strong heavy materials. But if you want STRENGTH and LIGHTNESS this comes at a much greater cost in materials. You cant have both in most cases.

The Airstream has many Aircraft style attributes of lightness and strength and this accounts for some of their cost.

Competition is fierce for RV MFG's and costs must be kept low to compete. And since the building of a TT or MH is virtually a hand made process which is incredibly labor intensive and cannot be outsourced to cheaper labor markets they must find ways to keep the labor cost per unit low. This results in shortcuts in how things are assembled, wired, installed and tested.

It's sad but true. But there are some good financial reasons for a lot of what they do. If we were all OK with spending $100k for a modest 30 foot travel trailer you would find the quality and lightness to be easily achievable.

It really isnt as simple as it may seem.
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:04 PM   #30
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But how much more would it cost to just put the dang thing together right? Just pay more attention to fit and finish. R&D needs to get out on the floor and build one so they can see where to make assembly changes so they can be built better. CAD is great for design but you still have to be able to build the thing by hand. The old "just build it, we'll fix it later" attitude seems to be where it's at. If I am wrong, please learn me better.
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Old 12-15-2014, 06:44 AM   #31
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But how much more would it cost to just put the dang thing together right? Just pay more attention to fit and finish. R&D needs to get out on the floor and build one so they can see where to make assembly changes so they can be built better. CAD is great for design but you still have to be able to build the thing by hand. The old "just build it, we'll fix it later" attitude seems to be where it's at. If I am wrong, please learn me better.
Highway you are right in many ways but remember that the average joe or jane on the assembly line is under intense pressure to do a certain number of tasks in the shortest time possible. And that pressure comes from the two big pressures I pointed out on the management.

What they have done is made a financial calculation that says that it is cheaper and more efficient to fix the problems under warranty than to slow down the per unit labor time and raise the p/u cost.

What will change this attitude is either a shift in the market brought on by consumers demanding better or by a rise in prices which will maintain profit margins on a p/u basis so they can make the changes needed.

The business of building MH's or TT's is not one that I would ever want to get into if I wanted to get rich. It has got to be so competitive and the costs so unpredictable due to material cost fluctuations and labor that it amazes me so many are still in business as it is.

But let me say I do share most everyone's frustration with the quality issues. But my experience in Manufacturing and Management give me a slightly different perspective on how to fix them.
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:24 PM   #32
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I took a 1 on 1 tour of the OutdoorsRV factory last summer. Management there wants to make a quality unit and stress QC all the time. There are quality assembly processes that can be made that don't always cost more. They have upgraded their units since I have bought mine. I am looking forward to touring the Northwood plant this summer.
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Old 12-15-2014, 05:23 PM   #33
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I am looking forward to touring the Northwood plant this summer.
I looking forward to your report!
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Old 12-16-2014, 08:21 AM   #34
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Highway you are right in many ways but remember that the average joe or jane on the assembly line is under intense pressure to do a certain number of tasks in the shortest time possible. And that pressure comes from the two big pressures I pointed out on the management.

What they have done is made a financial calculation that says that it is cheaper and more efficient to fix the problems under warranty than to slow down the per unit labor time and raise the p/u cost.

This is especially true when you have the shortest warranty in the vehicle market and/or require the owner to travel 100's of miles to get the unit fixed.

What will change this attitude is either a shift in the market brought on by consumers demanding better or by a rise in prices which will maintain profit margins on a p/u basis so they can make the changes needed.

The business of building MH's or TT's is not one that I would ever want to get into if I wanted to get rich. It has got to be so competitive and the costs so unpredictable due to material cost fluctuations and labor that it amazes me so many are still in business as it is.

But let me say I do share most everyone's frustration with the quality issues. But my experience in Manufacturing and Management give me a slightly different perspective on how to fix them.
Maybe you can explain how leaving electrically hot, bare copper wire is a good practice especially when this is hidden behind a staples on panel. or how about leaving a half full can of spray paint to roll around under the floor of the bathroom. or to mount the water pump hard to the wood frame with no vibration isolation BUT expecting me to drive to the factory at my own expense and on my vacation time to have this sloppy "American workmanship" fixed. I bet if there was an electrical fire it would have been impossible to pin the cause on the un-safe practice forced on the workers.

The above are just some of the reasons I will not buy another RV again as I have spent too many hours fixing the junk built in "Elkhart" to go through the same effort again.

I have worked as a QA auditor in Automotive industry. The RV assemblers (not manufacturers as I don't know of any real manufacturers in the RV industry) don't have the word Quality in their dictionary and I don't believe they even care.
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:40 PM   #35
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Maybe you can explain how leaving electrically hot, bare copper wire is a good practice especially when this is hidden behind a staples on panel. or how about leaving a half full can of spray paint to roll around under the floor of the bathroom. or to mount the water pump hard to the wood frame with no vibration isolation BUT expecting me to drive to the factory at my own expense and on my vacation time to have this sloppy "American workmanship" fixed. I bet if there was an electrical fire it would have been impossible to pin the cause on the un-safe practice forced on the workers.

The above are just some of the reasons I will not buy another RV again as I have spent too many hours fixing the junk built in "Elkhart" to go through the same effort again.
Your observations certainly are sobering and direct. Since it appears that nearly all if not all the trailer manufacturers seem to have countless unhappy customers (ie. Online Reviews and Complaints Platform - Pissed Consumer and the various RV forums), are the alternatives to tent camp or travel motel to motel? I suppose one of the alternatives could be just find something else to do other than travel by RV, which seems like a sad conclusion. Btw, thank you for your candid opinions, which I find helpful.
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Old 12-17-2014, 05:52 AM   #36
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Your observations certainly are sobering and direct. Since it appears that nearly all if not all the trailer manufacturers seem to have countless unhappy customers (ie. Online Reviews and Complaints Platform - Pissed Consumer and the various RV forums), are the alternatives to tent camp or travel motel to motel? I suppose one of the alternatives could be just find something else to do other than travel by RV, which seems like a sad conclusion. Btw, thank you for your candid opinions, which I find helpful.

Or Maybe someone should start importing foreign made units that are up to snuff and put the fear of god and layoffs in their minds. SOunds to me like thy have enjoyed a closed market for too long.
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Old 12-17-2014, 07:53 AM   #37
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Maybe you can explain how leaving electrically hot, bare copper wire is a good practice especially when this is hidden behind a staples on panel. or how about leaving a half full can of spray paint to roll around under the floor of the bathroom. or to mount the water pump hard to the wood frame with no vibration isolation BUT expecting me to drive to the factory at my own expense and on my vacation time to have this sloppy "American workmanship" fixed. I bet if there was an electrical fire it would have been impossible to pin the cause on the un-safe practice forced on the workers.

The above are just some of the reasons I will not buy another RV again as I have spent too many hours fixing the junk built in "Elkhart" to go through the same effort again.

I have worked as a QA auditor in Automotive industry. The RV assemblers (not manufacturers as I don't know of any real manufacturers in the RV industry) don't have the word Quality in their dictionary and I don't believe they even care.

Well I am not defending the practices or obvious shoddy workmanship. I just tried to give a perspective from business/management. Reasons these things are so prevalent.

But I also dont think it's fair to paint the entire industry with such a negative broad brush as you do. There are undoubtedly companies who care about REAL quality and work hard to achieve it and there are others where quality is a slogan...not a practice.

Unhappy, poorly paid, and overworked people are much more likely to turn out a shoddy product and leave problems as you describe. Almost no mechanical/electrical object will ever be perfect off the line. especially something as complex as a MH, TT, CAR, Truck, Boat or aircraft.
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Old 12-17-2014, 10:51 AM   #38
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It all starts at management. Those paid by the piece workers are doing exactly what's expected of them. Banging out as many as possible while trying to make the least amount of mistakes. With that model what else would we expect? I think it's really the newbies that are the most disgruntled. I'm on my 3rd trailer and in a couple more years will buy what I hope is our last 5er. I know exactly what to expect. I will take my past experiences and try and eliminate some of the issues that I've had to deal with because of ignorance. I know I will be buying a product that will have defects. How we each deal with those defects will determine our level of satisfaction. I'm pretty much a DIY guy so having some QC things to fix is just part of the purchase process for me. Someone who's not DIY oriented will probably be more frustrated.


None of this takes away from the fact that all brands are built with some issues right out of the gate. Dealers probably aren't going to walk thru the unit and fix all the things that they think might be a concern for a buyer. Just like the manufacture, the dealer is banking on the premise that some of those things will go unnoticed. Both parties save money by doing that. They're also hoping that a buyer like me will take it upon himself to fix some of the QC issues themselves.


It doesn't take away from the fact that RV's are built to lower standards than just about anything else we purchase. IMO it's we as individuals handle the problems. Complain as much as we want, but it will never change a thing.


As of now even a new startup company like Grand Design will not be able to build the perfect trailer. You can't bang out as many as possible in an 8hr day and not expect to have zero issues. Would I be willing to pay 1000's more for a better built trailer? No. I'll take my DIY skills and do it for free.
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Old 12-17-2014, 05:37 PM   #39
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I remember a YouTube video from Jayco on how "fast" they make their trailers. The workers were running down the length of the frame screwing in the plywood floor. zip zip zip....60 seconds and the 2 guys had the whole plywood floor attached. The welder spends about 2 seconds per weld on the aluminum framing. If that was my trailer...I would be saying slow down...slow and steady. I would rather you spend 2 weeks building my RV than meeting a production bonus to complete it in two days.

Jayco speedy RV builders (YouTube)

OOOPPS I was wrong. Only took 7 hours to build a complete RV trailer from the ground up. That is scary

Just think of all the missed screws, glue, staples, caulk & nails not being completely finished or missing there mark during production.....
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Old 12-17-2014, 06:46 PM   #40
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I bought my first Honda in 1963. It was on par with many of today's RV's.
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:45 PM   #41
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Wow.....lots of cynics out there. Well, I DO have an expectation when I lay out $20,000 for a Travel Trailer that the manufacturer is going to try to provide a reasonably well designed and built product. Hell, unless I'm buying from a Dollar store, I have an expectation that SOME effort from any manufacturer is made on quality. Having said that, it's clear some manufacturers are happy to dwell at the bottom end of the quality scale, and the good news is they are easy to figure out.

If you do the research - now so easy with the Internet - and learn how to filter out the idiot quotient, it's pretty easy to tell the better manufacturers for any product. And of course, personal inspection. Quality shows, one way or another. Should consumers have an expectation of perfection? Hardly, but you can improve the odds by thinking, and researching.

I designed and built a rod holder for float tubes, that was in the market for about ten years. I sold over 3,000 of them, and I only had one single complaint, from a gentlemen who didn't have the tools to make a small adjustment. I sent him a replacement unit, no questions. It's not hard to build quality - it just takes commitment. No-one builds a perfect product, but if we as consumers consistently look for higher standards, the message will get out there!

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Old 12-19-2014, 11:37 AM   #42
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you can always start with a quality car hauler like a featherlite, and then go to a high end coach builder (like folks that outfit busses) and have the interior done.
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