Thursday, June 01, 2006



RV Business
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

With the sales of recreational vehicles on the rise, the number of incidents involving defects or repair problems has also increased, according to a May 31 article in the Wall Street Journal.

The RV Consumer Group, a nonprofit that rates recreational vehicles for safety and handling, said it gets about 100 complaints a month related to structural deficiencies with RVs, up from about 50 complaints a month a decade ago.

Adding to the problem, according to WSJ, are the inconsistencies, and in many cases the nonexistence, of state-mandated RV lemon laws.

Nationwide law firm Kimmel & Silverman, which specializes in lemon laws, said that lemon laws in 18 states and Washington, D.C., don’t cover RVs at all and those in 20 states cover only motor vehicle components. In addition, motorhomes are covered in the lemon laws in 13 states – but often only those under a certain weight.

“So-called lemon laws, which guarantee consumers replacement motor vehicles or refunds after a certain number problems or days in the shop, vary by state and often don’t apply to RVs," the article noted. "Consequently, RV owners, stuck awaiting repairs, often have little recourse.”

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which has lobbied against including RVs in lemon laws, argued that RV repairs are unfairly gauged against the automobile industry. RVIA President Richard Coon maintained that because of the wide range of components and mechanics, RVs should be compared to residential homes. “Put your whole house on a truck bed and drive it down the street and things start happening,” he said.

The association also pointed to industrywide efforts to upgrade overall quality. Builders Thor Industries Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc. related they adhere to “lean manufacturing” processes that cut down on how often parts are handled during production. Monaco Coach Corp. has instituted an inspection system for each vehicle that comes off the assembly line, while Coachmen Industries Inc. has set up a center in California to service vehicles on the West Coast so that customers don't have to rely on dealers for warranty repair work. And many manufacturers have implemented electronic warranty processes to speed up approval on repairs.

“In states where RVs aren’t well covered by lemon laws," the WSJ noted, "consumers who end up with problem motorhomes often have few choices other than to sell the RVs at a loss or postpone trips and make repairs. The good news is owners often aren’t responsible for repairs during the first few years of ownership. RVs are generally covered under one-and two-year warranties and additional ones for various parts."

WSJ reported that the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) is addressing the issue at the retail level with a new pilot certification program for service managers while also publishing a guide for parts personnel.

The article said reforms were under ways in many states, pointing to bills in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Montana that have been introduced to either create RV lemon laws or expand existing legislation.

In Florida, where the lemon law covers only the motor-vehicle components on motorhomes, RV makers are funding a new mediation program operated by an independent third party in which RV owners and OEMs try to reach a solution before going through the lemon-law arbitration process.

RVIA said it would like the Florida program to be a model for other states, according to WSJ.

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