Greetings RV enthusiasts. This post is about the problem of RV dealer service
In a previous post on this subject, I outlined the set of issues with my trailer, expressing the opinion that my experience was probably on the favorable side, compared to others. As regards the trailer itself, I still believe this to be true. Alliance RV produces good quality trailers and they have been exceptional in their support. In short, I would not buy a trailer from anyone else.
My experience with dealer service has not gone so well, however, and thats where the weak point of the RV industry is. After one year of RV ownership, I can tell you that the RV dealer’s cash cow is sales, not service, so you can guess where the investments and process polishing go.
I’ll say this up front: If there is anything that should give you pause, before buying an RV, it is the subject of dealer service. The comedy of incompetance that I have observed is just appaling — so appaling, in fact, that I’m not sure I would purchase an RV again — unless it was an Alliance. Without Alliance in your back pocket, I just simply would not do this. I’m actually looking forward to working directly with Alliance, after the 1-year warranty expires, as this will remove the dealer from the equation. That will be very good.
At the dealer, I observe no end-to-end responsibility to make sure that repairs are completed. Things happen and people appear to be working, but the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. When they fix something, they break something else or cause cosmetic damage. When they mess up, they apologize but nothing changes.
Additionally, there is a culture of “I’ll do my job and the next step belongs to someone else”, which means work happens in silos and there is no communication between them. If you were to follow any arbibrary work item through the dealer’s service process, you find that work happens, then it stops, then it happens again, and then it stops. Sometimes it stops for weeks at a time, with no communication with the customer! Yes, there are many challenges facing RV dealerships that aren’t present in auto dealerships, but here I am talking about things that are within the dealer’s control. When the dealer starts hiding behind external challenges I say “don’t tell me about your challenges, tell me what you are doing to fix them”.
they don’t get fixed.
A short Chronology of in-warranty repairs
I’ll start in early October, 2021, when I listed out a set of issues that required resolution, sent email with photos and clear discriptions. the list included:
- replace the electric theater seat under warranty (The motorized seat supplied by Lippert had a mfg defect)
- replace the drivers-side rear metal skirt (which was damaged by mistake during initial transport seven months previous)
- fix two seam-tape installations where the seam tape came loose from interior wallpaper
- repair a site on the roof where a staple worked loose under the PVC roofing material
- fix 1/4″ paneling under the master bed that came loose
- replace three leaking hydraulic leveling jacks
- replace the front baggage door that was warped upon initial delivery seven months previous
- fix upper (roof) slide seals that don’t relax properly when extending the slide
November 8, 2021: I took the trailer into the dealer to address the above list, and I found out that the three leaking hydraulic jacks had not been submitted yet for warranty replacement. With a series of emails to Alliance RV, I accelerated this process to bring in replacement jacks. Through the sharp eye of one particular service writer, four jacks instead of three were replaced. This is to illustrate that in between the regular drama of appaling incompetance, disorganization and blaming others, there is an occasional bright spot in the experience. I will not forget this particular service writer who’s quick action saved me from camping with leaking jacks.
December 1, 2021: The trailer finally made it into the service shop after sitting on the dealer’s lot for four weeks. Here’s what they did:
- They identified that the replacement front baggage compartment door was itself defective, so there was no progress on this point. Apparently there is no incoming parts inspection for manufactured parts that are defective at first.
- The theater seat was installed, but during the install they damaged the linoleum beyond repair. An outsourced vinyl company attempted the repair, but damaged the surface further (making it appear more glossy in one area), so the dealer initiated full vinyl replacement.
- They relocated the screws holding the propane tank straps at my request, so that the straps will latch. thumbs up.
- They started an evaluation of the refrigerator door “dr” code at my request (this involved replacing and shimming up a warped door). so far so good.
- They postponed looking at the roof-top slide wiper seals. They just didn’t do anything
- replaced the metal skirting under warranty. That was succesful
- hydraulic jacks were replaced. Also succesful.
December 7, 2021: trailer was returned to me, with these outstanding issues
- Front Baggage door still warped
- linolium damaged
- refrigerator “dr” code unresolved
- roof-top slide seals still don’t relax properly when extending the slides
- staple coming loose in the roof unresolved
- 1/4″ paneling under the bed still un-touched
January 4, 2022: I summarized the outstanding issues again via email to the dealer
January 21, 2022: Alliance bypassed the dealer and ordered a local repair shop to fix the roof-top staple issue described in October, 2021. This was highly succesful
January 25-28, 2022: The refrgerator repair was stalled, due to lack of information, so I supplied photos and documentation of the refrigerator door issues (“dr” code). Working with Alliance directly, I obtained a warranty replacement for the door itself.
February 8, 2022: I corresponded with Alliance for guidance on the roof-top wiper seals (for the slides). Alliance supplied very clear instructions to remove and re-install the wipers slightly higher — so that not as much rubber material “bunches up” when the slide is retracted.
February 15, 2022: I supplied the dealer with a new list of outstanding issues, including:
- replace front basement door
- vinyl replacement from December 1, 2021
- refrigerator door replacment and “dr” code
- roof-top slide seals
- plywood panelling under the master bed, from October, 2021
- passenger side baggage door locks need adjustment (they open while locked)
- Damaged Pullrite capture plate on the pinbox, caused by their own forklift
February 18, 2022: I took the trailer back into the dealer to complete the remaining items
March 10, 2022: I learned that the Vinyl (linoleum) was completed and they found no trouble with the wiper seals that I had carefully documented, including recommendation from Alliance re: how to fix it. I insisted that they go back and read emails, but to take the time to do the job right, as I would be out of town for the following week. The service writer insisted he would keep me informed via email
March 21, 2021: I had not received any email communications, so I visited the service manager to see why. I was told that the trailer was 100% ready except for the Pullrite capture plate which they would install at delivery time, to avoid damage from their forklift. I requested a delivery of 4:30 pm on March 22, 2022. I also requested that the trailer would be plugged into shore power and the refrigerator powered up to level “4”.
March 22, 2022: Upon arrival at the dealer this is what I found:
- The roof-top wiper seal on the living room side did not relax properly when the slide was extended. It had not been repaired per Alliance instructions and previous commitments.
- The refrigerator was not turned on, but when it was powered up it displayed the same “dr” error that it did back in October
- The linoleum was so dirty I couldn’t inspect it for workmanship, and I gave up after finding a site that I couldn’t rub out with my finger
- The plywood paneling under the master bed had not been touched
The above list is the incompetant part. they washed the trailer’s exterior but no one tested the refrigerator or checked anything else, for that matter.
March 28, 2022: The dealership called me late in the afternoon to tell that they were not able to plug the trailer in (to test the refrigerator door) but that it would be ready for pickup at 5pm. I declined to pick up the trailer, asking that they fulful my request to plug the trailer in for several hours before pickup. At the end of the day I received an email stating that they had inspected the trailer, that all repairs were completed, and that i would be free to conduct my own pre-camp inspection at my leisure. I thought that part was good.
March 29, 2022: I went in to pick up the trailer and found the following:
- The front door frame was badly damaged. Someone had slammed the folding stairs with such force that it bent the aluminum, preventing proper latching.
Damaged front door frame, likely caused by someone slamming the hinged stair assembly into place without operating the latch. Such a force bent the aluminum out of place.
- The perimeter of the kitchen island (near the floor) was littered with streaks of putty (of the wrong color) and several nail holes, There was even a small piece of OSB missing near the floor (damage due to taking out the kitchen island, making me wonder where and how they stored it)
The permiter of the kitchen island sustained some damage while it was removed and replaced as part of replacing the vinyl. This putty job passed the quality inspection of both a service manager and a service writer. They offered to install molding around the perimeter to cover up the pro blem, so that was good.
- The refrigerator performed very well – no “dr” code, but the doors weren’t aligned. They had shimmed up the right-side door without shimming up the left side door to match.
The refrigerators doors were misaligned, with the right-hand door having been shimmed up, without shiming up the left-hand door to match
- The bed structure paneling was re-assembled but it looked very sloppy. One corner isn’t even fastened — there is already a staple coming loose, and the edge of the wood was mangled.
This mangled piece of 1/4-inch paneling, part of the master bed supporting structure, also passed the pre-delivery quality inspection. The dealer’s first response was to add more staples!
- The dealership lost my large rubber wheel chocks. However they bought me new ones, so that worked out in the end.
After that experience I took my trailer back home, awaiting next steps from the dealer.
March 31, 2022 (the next day): I wrote an email to the service manager, asking
- if the molding had been ordered
- what the plan was re: fixing the damaged front door frame
- If they had obtained color-matched putties and pens from Alliance
- what priorities inhibit them from taking action on the above issues
May 7, 2022: I received a text message from the dealer stating that most repairs were completed, that I can come pick up my trailer now while they wait for parts, and that I owed nearly $400 in repair bills! Let that sink in: I had my trailer at home for five weeks, and yet they invite me to come get it and tell me I owe for out-of-warranty work! I replied to that message asking for clarification, and it turned out that a new service writer had been assigned (#5 in one year), and the previous service writer had not updated the work order. The new service writer asked me if I was in physical possession of my trailer, and assured me that there would be no out-of-warranty charges
May 10, 2022: I wrote (via SMS text again) and asked for the status and next steps. The service writer replied the next day, saying that they have parts on order and will schedule the repair when they arrive. I asked the service writer to layout the next steps, tell me what parts they are waiting for, what will happen when the parts arrive, and what is the plan to finish things up. I’m waiting to see if their list is complete — it should include (1) new 1/4-round molding around the kitchen island to cover up their damage, (2) new bed panels to replace their awful workmanship noted above, (3) fix the door frame that they damaged, and (4) fix the fridge doors that they left out of alignment.
June 4, 2022: The dealer contacted me via SMS, stating that “a part ordered on 5/7/22 and two other parts on 5/11/22. We have a seal for the slide on order and some parts for the kitchen island.” I asked what slide seal they ordered and to tell me what they planned to do with the damaged front door frame. no response, and there is still no recogniation of the door frame damage.
July 1, 2022: The dealer contacted me via SMS, stating that they got parts in and that their schedular “has a big list to go through so she will get to you as soon as possible.” Something didn’t make sense so I contacted Alliance and discovered that they had ordered the wrong parts for the island (to repair their own damage) and that they (Alliance) had been able to straighten things out.
This story is geting long and arduous, and I just don’t have the engergy to babysit this dealer anymore. Its now July 12, FIFTEEN WEEKS after reporting the issues on March 29, when they told me the trailer was “100% ready”. I have encountered a couple of new minor issues which by themselves don’t concern me — one is a staple coming loose in the roof (an easy repair. just make a short slice through the PVC membrane, pull the staple, and then repair with self-leveling sealant). I also found a cracked plastic cover for the breaker panel in the main living area, which probably happened during one of the dealer’s previous repairs. Alliance sent me a new one.