Time for RV manufacturers to update their business model

For years RV manufacturers have forced “buy local” on all their customers. The way they enforce it is when it comes to service — if you take your RV to a dealer you didn’t purchase from they make you the lowest priority. You, the consumer, is basically screwed if you don’t get warranty work and repairs done while you’re at home.

I think RV manufacturers need to update their thinking to keep up with the changes related to the internet and the growth of full-time RVers. We are no longer a people who purchase campers, trailers, and motor homes and store them for fifty weeks a year and vacation in them for two. We are a people who can research all over the country via the internet and we can also ditch the sticks and bricks for full-time travel adventure.

Internet

I researched all over the place for the best price. I do that with everything. What it came down to is transit charges. If I purchased a trailer up near the factories it would cost me about $400 in travel expenses to go there to purchase. If I purchased it here in Texas then I would pay about $2,000 more for the trailer to cover their cost of getting it brought here. Saving $1,600 is no little thing to me so I drove to Iowa and bought my trailer there.

Now I will be forever punished when I want service anywhere but Iowa. RV manufacturers work very hard at shoving “buy local” down everyone’s throat. So if I take my trailer to any other dealer I will always be put at the very bottom of the queue since I didn’t buy from that dealer. No first come, first served. If I buy a Ford vehicle in Florida and it has problems in California I can get service just as easily in that or any other state as I can at home. Why does the RV industry, which by its very nature is travel oriented, force the “buy and get service local” mentality in this day and age?

Full-time RV Travel

As more and more people ditch their houses and move to full-time RV travel, and we baby boomers are a huge part of that, we are never going to be able to buy local. We don’t have a local. And service means giving you our home for the period it takes to do the repairs.

In the summer months when dealerships are very busy with service, it’s not really feasible for us full-timers to leave our home at the dealer to wait for two, three, four, even five weeks for them to get around to repairing it. Seriously? Where are we supposed to live for that long? If the repairs are covered by a warranty and you have to spend a fortune on hotel rooms while you’re out of your RV it just doesn’t make sense financially, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on the inconvenience.

So while my trailer has some problems that are clearly faulty manufacturing (see earlier post) I will pay a reputable mobile repairman to come and fix them while I am living in it. This repairman is a certified repair person and works at a dealership that sells Forest River products so he called to see if he could get approval to do my warranty repairs on site. He got a big “No” to that question. That battle isn’t over since I have every intention of submitting the bill to Forest River for reimbursement. I may not get anywhere, but someone needs to get the ball rolling on updating their thinking.

My Suggestions for RV Manufacturers

  1. Drop the whole “buy local” business model. Do you think you’re going to lose dealers? They suddenly won’t want to sell you RVs if they don’t have the ability to hold the “you didn’t buy from us” gun to every customer’s head? Because that’s exactly what they’re doing. Start treating the people who really put the money in your pockets, we customers, like we are the most important thing instead of making the dealers the most important thing.
  2. Service should be first come, first served. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, whether it’s warranty or not. Treat us equally. Yes, that means the folks who bought their RV from you won’t get preferential treatment, but it also means they won’t be screwed when they are out on the road.
  3. Come up with a service system that accommodates travelers. If Joe has his RV in for a repair, but is currently working and won’t be using his RV for another month, let John who is passing through, but has a broken refrigerator, get service quickly so he can be on his way.
  4. Allow certified repairmen/repairwomen to do warranty repairs on site at campgrounds. Why the heck not? You certified the person, know he can complete the repairs in a timely manner, let people get fixed up and on their way. If you don’t want to cover the service call, fine. I understand that and will be happy to pick up that part of the bill.

Start treating the root source of your income like we matter, like we have lives, like we travel. After all, isn’t that the business you’re in?


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