RV News RVBusiness 2021 Top 10 RVs of the Year, plus 56 additional debuts and must-see units → ×
 

Go Back   Thor Forums > Thor Community Forums > Thor Owners Community Discussions
Click Here to Login
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 02-24-2015, 10:31 PM   #1
Senior Member
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2013 31L
State: Florida
Posts: 1,989
THOR #908
comparison of RV industry quality to other industries

I posted this on another forum, but it relates to another current thread here so I thought I'd share my thoughts here too.... apologies if you are reading this twice....

I was recently thinking about all the times I have read threads, and even had thoughts myself, about the general lack of quality in the RV industry. Poorly designed features, inferior materials used, poor QC, etc....

This struck me as I was checking out a leaky thumb latch in my outside storage bin door.... trying to figure out if I had rotted wood in the core of the door....
and I found that the door is made from a styrofoam cup, clad with some nice looking skin, but what makes things worse, there is nothing of structure for the locks and latches to tighten against so as the foam compresses, the latches are always coming loose...
just poor materials and poor design.
I was expecting to see untreated wood core, which would have been just if bad or probably worse. (what does it say that this is what I was expecting from Thor???)

Now I believe in the idea that you read far more posts about problems and complaints than you do about happy experiences, but that's just because people don't write about happy stuff as much....
But I think it's pretty much agreed that there are plenty of examples of bad QC, plenty of examples of mediocre materials used, mediocre designed areas in an RV, etc....

Anyway, I started to think about how it might compare to other product industries, particularly vehicles.

Automotive- much higher volumes, and I feel like much better thought designs, better quality materials, and not without fault BUT better qc overall

Marine - This seems like the best comparison to me. I grew up around boats and boating, but never new, and rarely larger cabin class stuff, so I just don't know..... what say you marine buffs out there?

Tractors/Ag Equipment; Motorcycles; etc.... - based on what I have seen I would group these as similar to automotive....

General Aviation Aircraft - clearly held to higher standards

Any other examples?
__________________

__________________
blw2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 12:30 AM   #2
Axis/Vegas Enthusiast
 
JamieGeek's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Axis 24.1
State: Michigan
Posts: 9,183
THOR #1150
Quote:
Originally Posted by blw2
Automotive- much higher volumes, and I feel like much better thought designs, better quality materials, and not without fault BUT better qc overall
There are laws, a lot of competition, the assembly process, and a much higher volume that works for automotive quality.
Every car (at least at the plants I've been to) runs an end-of-line test where they put the car up on rolls and drive it up to highway speeds (yeah standing still..its quite impressive) and test everything before it leaves the plant.
A car's assembly process is a lot more consistent than RVs simply due to the assembly line and how much is automated these days.
__________________

__________________
2014 Thor Axis 24.1
2018 Chevy Bolt
blog - https://spareelectrons.wordpress.com/
JamieGeek is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 01:40 AM   #3
Moderator Emeritus
 
FW28z's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2011 Four Winds 28Z
State: Michigan
Posts: 1,273
THOR #531
One huge distinction is that the auto industry has a lot of automation, wherein both RVs and boats are typically hand-built. Boat factory workers probably make $1 per hour more than their RV counterparts, except for the exotic brands (which no one can afford). Those are true craftsmen. If you want to see some beautiful boats, look at the VanDam brand of boats (made in Boyne City, Michigan).

I have always had boats it seems, from a small 8ft skiff when I was 18yr old, to my last boat, which was a 32ft Carver that met it's demise in a storage building fire in 2013. In between, we have owned 14, 16, 18, 22, and 26ft boats, aluminum fishing boats, fiberglass bow-riders, a cuddy cabin, express cruiser, motoryacht, outboards, inboard/outboards, inboards, single engine, dual engine, counter-rotating props, you name it, we have owned almost every style of boat made.

Our 28Z is the second RV we have had, having owned a pop-up camper in the 1980s.

Comparing boats to RVs, there are a lot of similarities, but I'd give the edge to boats. However, boats typically cost more than RVs so perhaps there is more room to price in a certain level of quality. For example, a 32ft Class A motorhome is typically around $150k or under, depending on brand and options, but a new 32ft cabin cruiser style boat will set you back at least $250k. Of course, part of the cost differential is the cruiser will likely have two engines.

Another thing that gives boats somewhat of an advantage is the US Coast Guard, which has minimum regulations for things like electrical systems and wiring, ventilation, safety, and actually quite a bit of stuff. These regulations are actually federal law, so boat builders are compelled to build boats to a minimum standard that RVs seem to be exempt from.

But there are horror stories with boats as well. For example, a common issue with boats is blistering, which when you put a boat into water for awhile, the fiberglass can swell and actually blister. The reasons for blistering are numerous, but it comes down to basically construction methods and skill level of the boat builders.

Boat manufacturers consider blisters cosmetic, and will really not do much about it. In fact, at least one manufacturer's manual states to reduce the likelyhood of blisters, keep the boat out of the water!

So in some cases, I see a lot of parallels between boats and RVs, but in other instances, I see where the boating industry is better, but I cannot really think of an instance where RV builders do something better than boat builders.

Another phenomenon with boats is something called bow wander. This is most apparent with deep vee boats with single I/O engines, but at less than planing speeds, the boat will not go straight. This usually occurs with all brands of boats having single I/Os regardless of length and type.

Over the years, I've had my share of broken stringer tabs, leaking windows and hatches, wiring and plumbing problems on my boats. In fact, every time I visited a certain lake, something would break and I'd have to stop by the marina for spare parts.

But RVs and boats both have their premium and budget brands, and with both, you get what you pay for. I suppose in a sense, Thor is the Bayliner of RVs (Bayliner being a cheap boat brand).

There are a lot of parallels also in the gear that boats and RVs use, especially plumbing. I often went to a RV shop if I could not find something at my local West Marine store.

Oh, and boat manuals are not much better than RV manuals. But at least some brands include wiring schematics for their larger boats. But that does not mean the schematics are correct. That old "specifications may change without prior notice" clause seems to include lack of changes to the schematics as well.

Both industries have a certification program. RVs have RVIA (RV Industry Association), while Boats have YABC (Yacht and Boat Council) and NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association). In both cases, the certifications are voluntary. Of course, the USCG regulations are mandatory.

Virtually all boats are built in accordance with YABC as are RV manufacturers with RIVA compliance, which kind of makes you question the validity of such certifications.

Quality-wise though, I'd give the edge to boats, if not for any more reason than the USCG regulations they are compelled to meet.
__________________
The only thing that works on a RV is the owner...
FW28z is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 03:18 AM   #4
Axis/Vegas Enthusiast
 
JamieGeek's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Axis 24.1
State: Michigan
Posts: 9,183
THOR #1150
Quote:
Originally Posted by FW28z
There are a lot of parallels also in the gear that boats and RVs use, especially plumbing. I often went to a RV shop if I could not find something at my local West Marine store.
Funny: I have visited more than one marine store for some fixes on our 5er.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FW28z
Quality-wise though, I'd give the edge to boats, if not for any more reason than the USCG regulations they are compelled to meet.
Personally I think boats have to handle a lot more tossing around than RVs (even RVs that go over Michigan roads).

(I've never personally owned a boat but grew up in a boating family--every weekend in the summer we were out on the Great Lakes.)
__________________
2014 Thor Axis 24.1
2018 Chevy Bolt
blog - https://spareelectrons.wordpress.com/
JamieGeek is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 03:26 AM   #5
Moderator Emeritus
 
FW28z's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2011 Four Winds 28Z
State: Michigan
Posts: 1,273
THOR #531
The Great Lakes are the beautiful secret of the midwest...

We had boats on Lake Michigan for the last 12 years... until our last boat was destroyed and we used the insurance money to buy the moho.

They were slipped for the summer and we'd drive to the marina every weekend. So it was kind of like RV'ing on the water.
__________________
The only thing that works on a RV is the owner...
FW28z is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 01:49 PM   #6
Senior Member
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2013 31L
State: Florida
Posts: 1,989
THOR #908
nice write up 28Z
Yeah, i was thinking that boats are perhaps better regulated.....

building from your example of bayliner though.....
let's through out some of the stuff that is driven by health and safety regs....
& lets look at cabinetry as an example.
Every drawer in my new coach had one screw where at least two were needed.
the drawer slides on most were not even aligned correctly
many of the drawers' catches that hold them closed were not catching
I had countless missing screws
they were all good enough to pass an open/close test during my PDI, but not good enough for even light duty use.

Would I see a similar thing if I were to buy a new say bayliner cabin boat?
__________________
blw2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 02:08 PM   #7
Axis/Vegas Enthusiast
 
JamieGeek's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Axis 24.1
State: Michigan
Posts: 9,183
THOR #1150
Quote:
Originally Posted by blw2
Would I see a similar thing if I were to buy a new say bayliner cabin boat?
I would say no: The first time out in any substantial rough waters and cheaply made cabinets will come crashing down.
__________________
2014 Thor Axis 24.1
2018 Chevy Bolt
blog - https://spareelectrons.wordpress.com/
JamieGeek is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 02:13 PM   #8
Senior Member
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2013 31L
State: Florida
Posts: 1,989
THOR #908
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieGeek View Post
I would say no: The first time out in any substantial rough waters and cheaply made cabinets will come crashing down.
yeah, just like my coach drawers did.........
__________________
blw2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 05:52 PM   #9
Senior Member
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: Hurricane 34E
State: California
Posts: 524
THOR #937
I'm one of those guys in the shadows that nobody knows about, but I get paid to implement quality assurance at Fortune 50 companies.


I'm a Mechanical Engineer by mistake, a Manufacturing Engineer because I went to a certain High School, an Industrial Engineer by degree, and a Professional Engineer because it's fun to get paid for testifying in court. Like the Alec Baldwin's old character on 30Rock, I'm a LeanSigma Master BlackBelt, (a certified quality assurance statistical guru), and I get invited into companies to setup and implement their entire quality assurance programs by the BODs, owners, and Holding Companies. In preparation for acquisitions, mergers, and shutdowns, I'm the guy that gets to interview everyone and submit a "report".


All that being said, way back in the stone ages, (2005-2008), I considered working in the RV industry, (I think I came down with the flu in 2005). I was hosted and enticed by several large RV manufacturers during that period. I visited many RV manufacturing and assembly operations during that time.


The bottom line is that the RV industry strives to provide the level of quality assurance that is congruent to the MSRP for the product, (and existing safety legislation). In a nutshell, the more expensive an RV is, the more attention it gets.


However, in practice, the bare minimum of attention is generally given to all RVs due to the prevailing pay rates in the RV industry, education level of designers, management, assembly employees, the company training provided, (or lack of), procedures implemented, (or lack of), the tools and materials provided, (or lack of), and the general design of the products, (or complete lack of).


I decided not to work in the RV industry. I'll stick with medical and aerospace thank you.
__________________
Beacher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 06:01 PM   #10
Moderator Emeritus
 
FW28z's Avatar
 
Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: 2011 Four Winds 28Z
State: Michigan
Posts: 1,273
THOR #531
Something I read recently, that at least in the Elkhart area (I live about an hour away), the starting wage for the RV industry is around $4 above minimum wage.

That does not buy much in the order of craftsmanship in my view. Basically they are unskilled workers.

So perhaps it's a combination of not having the correct skill set to begin with, inadequate training, and the rush to get the units out the door that results in what we see.

Of course this is simply speculation on my part.

In the case with my last boat - made by Carver, it was a mid-level quality boat. One time I had to repair stringer tabbing on it after running in rough water. Stringer tabbing is fiberglass cloth that attaches the stringer to the hull. Stringers are the structural members that run along the hull bottom.

As even the best boats can flex, the tabbing broke off one day. I had to repair it by adding another layer of fiberglass cloth and epoxy to the stringer/hull joint.

I bought it used when it was 11yr old (it still cost $70k after 11 yrs), but I cannot say that the drawers were falling apart. It was at least built better than that, but an 11yr old 32ft RV would probably cost about half my boat did.

Some boats self-destruct over time when they bang around on the water, causing leaks around the hatches and portholes, structural damage such as the stringers I mentioned, and loose screws in some cases. In fact some boats simply wear out over time.

Typically for boats, at least when you get into the 30ft range and beyond, they have to have a "Survey" done. A survey assess the boat's condition, and is often required before a loan can be written for a boat, or have it insured.

I had to have a survey done for my boat before I could get it insured.

Surveys are conducted by independent specialists, and are typically hired by the buyer. Most used larger boats are surveyed, but in some cases, even new boats are if the owner wants to make sure the factory built the boat right.

A surveyor often checks every inch of the boat, looking at structural issues, mechanical, electrical, electronic, safety, and so on.

More than one boat has been denied a sale due to a surveyor finding a lemon. In the worst cases, the hull bottom has turned into a sponge and has no structural integrity. That does not happen often, but it does happen.

Of course, surveys could be done for RVs I suppose, but would the typical RV buyer pay $15 per foot for a survey?

And if insurance and banks required RVs to have surveys, I could almost guarantee that the cost would be significantly higher.
__________________

__________________
The only thing that works on a RV is the owner...
FW28z is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Disclaimer:

This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by Thor Industries or any of its affiliates. This is an independent, unofficial site.




All times are GMT. The time now is 01:42 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2
×