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Forest River threatens legal action against RV Daily Report

(Dec. 13, 2016) -- One of the RV industry's largest manufacturers has threatened legal action against RV Daily Report following an opinion piece in November about product recalls and their impact on the RV industry.

ELKHART — One of the RV industry’s largest manufacturers has threatened legal action against RV Daily Report following an opinion piece in November about product recalls and their impact on the RV industry.

In an editorial published Nov. 25, RV Daily Report Editor Greg Gerber noted that the RV industry had issued 148 recalls in 2016 through Nov. 21. He indicated that recalls suggested a problem with product quality. The original article can be accessed by clicking here.

Michael Terrell, an attorney with the Taft, Stettinius and Hollister law firm in Indianapolis, sent an email to Gerber late Monday, stating:

“I am outside legal counsel for Forest River, Inc. and am writing to address Forest River’s concerns regarding the misleading and defamatory nature of your recent article titled “Opinion: RV recalls tell story of product quality” published on rvdailyreport.com on November 25, 2016.

First, your article is grossly misleading because it fails to mention that many recalls are not attributable to the end-stage manufacturer as opposed to a parts supplier. As you may know, Forest River builds its RVs on chassis from other manufacturers and uses parts and equipment from a number of suppliers.

In the event a defect is discovered with respect to the chassis or a specific part, both the supplier and Forest River are required to issue a recall. Because you do not make this distinction in your article, the statistics you report overstate the number of recalls that are attributable to Forest River and the other end-stage RV manufacturers you list.

Second, you state: “Let’s not forget that recalls occur only because problems were reported that could cause safety concerns.” This statement is false. Pursuant to federal law, a recall can be issued for two separate reasons. The first is the existence of a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to safety. The second is when a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (“FMVSS”).

As you should be well aware, a noncompliance with a FMVSS often times does not equate to a “problem . . . that could cause safety concerns” to the motor vehicle’s driver and/or passengers. Your incorrect statement misleads readers to believe that Forest River had 40 “problems” that pose an unreasonable risk to safety — which is simply not true.

Next, you state: “So, do recalls accurately reflect the serious problem the RV industry has with product quality? I would argue that yes it does.” This statement makes an erroneous connection between the number of recalls issued and vehicle quality. As stated above, manufacturers are required to issue recalls for any noncompliance with a FMVSS.

Some of the issues you label as “silly things” that are “easily correctable” would fall into this noncompliance category of recalls. While those “silly things” do not have anything to do with a risk to safety or vehicle quality, they still result in a recall. Additionally, you fail to understand that recalls are typically self-reported by manufacturers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and that it is an internal determination within the company whether to issue a recall.

Forest River, in particular, has its own internal process for investigating and issuing potential recalls and errs on the side of issuing a recall in order to ensure consumer safety and vehicle quality. Accordingly, your correlation between the number of recalls and vehicle quality is unfounded and baseless.

More importantly, by erroneously equating the number of recalls with vehicle quality, you are actually encouraging manufacturers not to recall its products. This is exactly the opposite type of behavior NHTSA is attempting to promote among all RV manufacturers.

In sum, the uninformed and misleading nature of your article is clearly a smear campaign against end-stage manufacturers (and Forest River in particular) and has the potential to mislead the general public about Forest River’s — as well as other RV manufacturers’ — dedication to manufacturing high quality and safe products.

You need to immediately correct the many misstatements made in your November 25, 2016 article. Otherwise, Forest River will look at all of its available options, including legal action, to protect its business reputation as one of the leading builders of high-quality RVs.

Needless to say, Forest River regards this as ‘an extremely serious matter and expects a prompt response. Please contact me with any questions.”

Gerber, who is out of the country until Dec. 20, promised to look into Forest River’s allegations upon his return.

He indicated RV Daily Report will also publish a list in early January of every recall made by every RV manufacturer over the past three or more years listing the exact reason for the recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s statement as to what would happen if the issue was not corrected, and what the companies indicated would be done to correct the issues that led to the recall.

Recalls are a hot-button issue for Forest River. Not only has the company issued more recalls than any other RV manufacturer in the industry this year, the company was fined $35 million in 2015 for failing to issue timely safety defect recalls required by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, as well as failing to report critical data, such as technical service bulletins and early warning report data.

People can read the consent order between Forest River and NHTSA.

“Yes, I’d agree that some of the recalls issued by RV manufacturers were to correct simple problems, such as labeling issues that may not have posed a direct and immediate safety hazard, and the editorial was wrong to suggest that,” Gerber said. “We will correct the record in a story Jan. 2 showing how many recalls were directly related to those concerns and how many were directly related to product issues.”

He noted that RV Daily Report will not be publishing any newsletters the next two weeks, and that he does not have access to the recall data in the Caribbean.

“It is also true that manufacturers work with contracted suppliers to issue product recalls when there are safety issues with chassis and other components and that occasionally both firms share responsibility for the recall,” Gerber explained. “But, the RV manufacturer is ultimately responsible because the manufacturer selects the suppliers and the products they install on the recreation vehicles they build.

“Are recalls a reflection of product quality? That may be something a jury will have to decide,” he added. “But, in the original story, we listed nearly two dozen examples of very serious problems. It will be interesting to see if a jury finds those items a reflection of product quality or not.”

Gerber said that list of problems was a sampling from all recalls issued this year, and are not in any way to be construed to be evidence of only Forest River’s recalls.

The full list to be published Jan. 2 will allow readers to see for themselves what was recalled and whether it correlates with product quality or a government-mandated safety standard.

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor and founder of RV Daily Report. A native of Madison, Wis., he moved to Phoenix in 2009 to escape the endless winters and wicked humidity of the six-week "summer" season. He's a DODO -- Dad of Daughter's Only -- who would crawl across the desert on his hands and knees for an In-N-Out Double Double. He has visited every state except Hawaii and is anxiously waiting for some RV company to host a conference in the Aloha State.

66 comments

  1. I worked for a company that sold electronic devices. We may only have sold 10,000 units over a 2 year period but we were fully expected to support them. They were sold for less than $1,000 a unit. If a problem popped up that was a trend across units, we had to fix them. People like to argue that RVs are a low volume business and that we can’t expect quality from them — that’s bogus thinking.

  2. I have only had the pleasure of owning 4 different RV’s, or displeasure at times, but based on my experience the 2 that were Forest River products were down the quality scale from the 2 that were Thor products. Its not a scientific analysis by any means, but my experience supports the recall numbers. That being said Forest River has better communication and support than Thor in my opinion, and the Thor units although better than the Forest River ones, were not exactly peaches. Buying these products is very much like walking up to a Vegas craps table, give those dice a good toss and hope they end up in your favor. Having a few trade and technical skills under your belt and a wide assortment of tools helps tremendously with ownership.

    I would like to see some real numbers as to how many unsuspecting 1st time buyers buy one of these pieces of junk, and are forever turned off to ever buying another? That’s has to be happening to a large extent.

  3. I own a 2001 Forest River Sunseeker purchased new in October, 2002, with 94,768 miles and all but about 12,000 with a tow. Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones because nothing that might not go wrong over the years of wear, tear, use, mileage, etc. has gone wrong. Oh, it arrived with some circuits overloaded and others empty … but aside from minor complaints of workmanship, it has been enjoyable.

    Would I buy another Forest River product? I must say absolutely not. Why? In addition to the horrendous comments in on-line blogs about the quality of their products … my chief complaint is customer service should you need parts or help with replacing older equipment.

    Invariably, Noone is available in the Parts Department, so per the outgoing message, a message is left. Good luck getting a reply if you have a back-up the wall situation. Then, they refer you to the manufacturer of the item and havery no information to help.

  4. It would be difficult to argue that the overall quality is not down across the board in the industry. No one manufacturer should be singled out in my opinion. If you have employees that actually disassemble various RV’s by multiple manufacturers, you may have a valid opinion on overall quality. The underlying issue is the breakdown of the relationship between the manufacturer and the dealer. Many years ago the business relationships were amicable and warranty claims were authorized quickly and paid without issue. With the tightening of margins, both at the manufacturer and dealer levels, there is not very much room for “Good Will”. A serious buyer should visit the dealership and talk to the management in sales, service and parts to determine for themselves if they really care about customer satisfaction. At the end of the day it does not matter what you bought, only if the dealer can remedy any issues and get you back to enjoying your RV.

  5. Tim I agree 100%, “A serious buyer should visit the dealership and talk to the management in sales, service and parts to determine for themselves if they really care about customer satisfaction.”

    I went a step further, after buying a couple small RV I found the 2nd dealership didn’t care once they had my money. They even resisted me doing a complete PDI until I threatened to walk away. But I learned a lot then, and from RV forums

    My next purchase I went to 3 area dealers, and went straight to the service waiting areas. I got a good picture in about an hour, after going to some other out of area dealerships I learned real fast how to spot poor service and attitude. Was it worth my time? You bet it was.

    I ended up with a good local dealer that has worked hard. The PDI service guy has encouraged me to look at other units as he doesn’t want to lose a loyal customer now.

    Fact is the RV industry is not what it should be, plus the fact that FR and Thor own so much of it doesn’t help the consumer. This lawsuit proves one thing to me, FR is not in my future.

    • We’re sniffing around for a new Motorhome, (or Slightly used) for a Major Purchase in the Year.
      My first call is to the Service Department telling them that I am bringing in an RV that I did not Purchase there for Service. If that call is handled, Courteously, Positive and Professionally, they stay on the list.
      Google your prospective Dealer for Google Review, Yelp Reviews and the best, Pissed Consumer.
      Let them know before purchase is made that you require an Attorney Review of ALL Paperwork before signing and money changing hands.
      Build $500.00 into your offer so you can get a Pre-Purchase Inspection.
      Make Purchase Contingent on Repairs needed from Inspection and have Re-Inspection. (Usually Included)
      This is a Corrupt Industry. Hold their Feet to the fire.

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