If you read my post about Fleetwood/REV Group and the problems with our new RV, then you need to know the follow up.
After dealing with so many problems with our 2016 Fleetwood Expedition, I finally decided enough was enough. I wrote to FMCA and detailed out all the problems I had with our brand new coach and what we had tried to do to get our issues resolved. I chose to write to the FMCA magazine so they could consider publishing part of my letter to warn others about the problems with new coaches and I also wrote to several of the board of directors at FMCA. I was hoping that someone would care enough to help us make the right contacts to get things corrected. My letter was about 16 pages of everything that had failed and all the things we had gone through to try to get things corrected.
As it turns out, writing to FMCA was probably the best thing I did. We had the opportunity to meet the FMCA President at a rally. The reason we met him was because FMCA was trying to change their image from that of being a group of retired folks to being more FAMILY friendly. FMCA is FAMILY Motor Coaches of America, but it seems over the years the family of FMCA has grown up and has lost all of it’s youth. A group of us younger RVers put together some events for children at the FMCA rally and because of that the President stopped by to see the kids and we were introduced. When he received my letter about Fleetwood, he called me personally.
Now, that impressed me. He took time out of his day to call me and acknowledge receipt of my letter and to let me know that he was personally going to contact REV Group on my behalf to see about getting our problems resolved. And he followed through with all of his promises. It is rare these days for leaders of organizations to care about their people, but I’ve found FMCA is one of those groups who does truly care and makes good on promises.
So, what did they do? The president called REV Group and talked to the head of after market service in Indiana. They worked with my schedule and got us in for service. When we arrived, I was greeted with great hospitality and quickly had a meeting with the head of service as well as 2 of his people. He had read through all 16 pages of my letter and he assured me that he was going to make sure I left REV Group with a smile on my face. I explained that was going to be a very difficult thing to do as I had tried for a year to get these issues resolved and I was most unhappy. But he insisted he would not stop until things were made right.
I have to say, he went above and beyond getting things resolved for us. Our first challenge was housing. They determined that our full wall slide was broken. It was going to have to come out and have the floor rebuilt. Now the problem with this is how they do service at the factory. Since so many are fulltiming in their RVs they know that we need them to live. So they will pull a coach into service early in the morning and then have it out by 5 pm so you can have dinner and sleep for the night in your “home”. For us, this was going to be a huge challenge. Not only did I have 5 kids, myself and 5 cats but with the way the full wall slide is done all of the beds are in the slide. The back bed had to be completely removed, the sofa sleeper was removed and the dinette was removed. How were they going to make this thing sleepable each day? So we discussed this and staying in a hotel was not possible due to the expense and the logistics. Even if we found a pet friendly hotel, we’ve found many that say “pet” friendly really mean DOG friendly. And then we have the issue that with 6 of us most hotels make us get 2 rooms. Then I have to choose which children will be unsupervised. I’ve actually had hotels make exceptions for us when I point to all the children and say, “would you like to pick which ones don’t have adult supervision?” Incidentally, the same tactic works in crowded movie theaters when there are only 1 or 2 seats open here or there. I start sitting smallest children first and tell them to “be good and don’t bother anyone and I’ll be right over there.” Usually, someone moves to fill those empty spots making room for all of us to sit together.
But, I digress. I asked REV Group if they could perhaps find a coach or a trailer that they could let us use while they work on our coach. This way I don’t have to try to get 5 kids and 5 cats up and out at the crack of dawn and they don’t waste time every day trying to put beds back into the coach so we can sleep only to repeat the process again the next day. They were most accommodating and found us a Discovery that was the same floor plan as our Expedition. They parked it on the lot and hooked it up. We had electric service. They gave us the keys and when we needed water or sewer, we just drove it over to the dump and dumped and filled. It made our time at the service center much more comfortable and I’m sure they were happy not having 5 kids and 5 cats in their lobby all day.
The lobby of the REV Group service center is wonderful. I believe they had a pool table upstairs and some days the kids would go in and play pool. They also gave us access to the bathrooms and laundry facility. We got to do all our laundry during our stay for free in full size washers and dryers! That made the kids happy. You see in order for us to live this lifestyle the kids have to do their share. Since I am the single parent I have to do all the planning, all the driving now that my oldest son is gone, pay bills, and take care of all the things that only I can do. So once we arrive someplace the children have to step up and do everything else. I will write an article about that later. Anyway, one child has laundry duty so they were very happy to get to use full size washers and dryers. There is also a nice patio with a fire pit and we were told to please feel free to use the fire pit any time.
REV Group definitely knows how to make their customers feel welcomed at that service center. We did not feel this same hospitality at their Texas facility. I do know they just bought the Texas facility and were new at being a REV Group center when we tried to get service there. Hopefully, that service center will improve over time.
Then there was the work they did. We had problems with our dinette. The seams of the dinette were all ripping after only a couple of months of ownership. We had a 12 year old RV before and it never had a seam rip but that entire dinette seating service was just ripping to shreds. They had to remove the slide floor which meant tearing out the dinette and rebuilding it completely. Because the dinette hadn’t been working for us, we discussed replacing it. We did love having the dinette with seat belts during travel days but we were thinking perhaps the freestanding dinette with credenza might be better for us now that children were moving out of the RV. So since they had already ripped out the dinette and had to rebuilt it I asked them to not replace it with another dinette but to replace it with the credenza and chairs. So at their expense, they replaced our dinette with the credenza and we have loved the change! Having that extra storage space and the extra shelf has been a great thing for us. We do miss being able to use the table on travel days but we are willing to make that trade. They tore out and rebuilt that entire slide flooring and replaced all the tiles that had cracked due to it’s issues.
The air conditioners were the thing that probably took the most patience on their part. You see we never could get the back bedroom cool. They would stick a thermometer up in the vent and see the temperature of the air coming out and call it good. However, the air coming into the room was never adequate to cool the room. We worked for days on this issue. They had their expert come out several times and take reading and we discussed the air flow and I refused to give in on this point. They added some dampeners to stop so much air from coming out the front vent and then added some deflectors to make the air turn but we still weren’t getting that room to cool. It could be at least 10 degrees warmer in the bedroom than up front and nothing we did would change that. The kids were always freezing and I was sweating. Finally, they agreed to upgrade the rear A/C and with that and the other changes they made we finally were able to get the back bedroom to a livable temperature.
Since we were already there and already had moved out of our RV I decided that we should get rid of the propane stove. One of the challenges we have with cats in the RV is their shenanigans. One of them used to walk on the propane stove knobs and wound up turning the propane on more than once. Since we were already at the service center, I asked them to change out our propane stove with an induction cooktop. This meant replacing the entire countertop in the kitchen. I paid for that upgrade myself and so far we have been happy with the change. The induction cooktop does cook faster even though we only have 2 burners instead of 3 it has worked for us. Unfortunately, the cat is still a problem. It seems if you leave a cookie sheet on the induction top and then place a package of paper plates on that and the cat walks on the induction cooktop and steps on the buttons, he can turn it on. With the cookie sheet being the conductive material it allows the burner to function and it will set the stack of paper plates on fire. And yes, it took more than one fire to convince the children that they cannot leave things on top of the induction cooktop!
By the time we left the REV Group service center, we were happy customers. I know that if we ever need service for something more than just a simple thing we will go to the REV Group service center in Indiana. We learned a lot about RVs there. One of the children took the factory tour. I feel that the service people also got to know a little more about RVing with children and families and we decided if we ever sell this RV and buy a new one, then we will do what they call factory delivery. They cannot sell you a coach at the factory, but once you decide to make a purchase you can have it delivered to the factory and then drive up there to take delivery. So we will plan our first week at the service center working out all the issues that come with a new coach.
Something else we learned in this process is that all of the new coaches being manufactured are having problems. We haven’t quite nailed down the why this is happening but I have some theories on that. But I have spoken to owners of most of the major RV brands and all of them when making a purchase of a brand new coach had several issues. I asked one of the senior REV Group technicians what had changed that was making so many problems with the coaches. His theory was that the quality of workers they were hiring was the problem. He said they had very low unemployment but they had to hire from what was available and that the public school system was not graduating students capable of doing the work. He told me a story of one worker he hired who came to him and was unable to even read a ruler. Imagine high school graduates that cannot read a ruler! My theory is this. I don’t know when but at some point the factories changed how they worked. Most of the coach manufacturers now set a number of coaches that have to be done in one day. So if I work in the cabinet area then I have to get 5 coaches through my area before my day ends. So…if I want to get off work earlier, I cut corners and push things through quickly and I work less hours during my day. However, this pushes out shoddy work. I propose that instead of setting quotas that they have to fulfill each day that they structure the factory where there is a bonus set aside for each employee. It is easy these days to track who works on what coach. If a coach comes back within the first year after purchase with an issue that should not have occurred then the person who worked on that portion of that coach has money deducted from their bonus pool. So at the end of the year if they did their job well then they get to collect the bonus that was set aside for them. If, however, they do shoddy work and lots of their work has to be re-done by someone else, then they lose their bonus. I think it would resolve a lot of issues in the industry. But…I’m just a widowed, single mom. What do I know about things.
In the end, I have to say REV Group went above and beyond. Everyone at the factory made us feel welcome. We were treated with kindness and respect and they fulfilled their goal to make me leave with a smile on my face. It did take several weeks to complete everything, but they all worked hard to make sure our family left as happy customers.