ELKHART — Forest River RV yesterday issued a policy and procedure addendum for dealer service warranty repairs that has sparked nationwide outrage among the company’s dealer network, RV Daily Report has learned.
Here is the policy notice sent to dealers May 17:
Forest River builds quality, dependable recreational vehicles that enable our customers to thrive in the pursuit of adventure and comfort in the great outdoors. Forest River’s commitment to quality extends to all facets of the customer experience, including maintenance and repair of our recreational vehicles. In order to achieve these goals, Forest River is making the following service addendum to its Warranty Policy & Procedure for all of its authorized dealers.
CUSTOMER UNIT DROP-OFF FORM
The Forest River Unit Drop-Off Form (download) is required to be recorded for each customer warranty service visit.
CONTACTING FOREST RIVER
The dealer must contact Forest River whenever there is an intake for a second repair on a vehicle for the same issue where that issue may substantially impair the use, market-value or safety of the vehicle.
The dealer must contact Forest River whenever the vehicle has been in repair for seven or more days, whether at one dealer or in combination with other dealers, for an issue that may substantially impair the use, market-value or safety of the vehicle. [NOTE: Most state Lemon Laws are 30 days cumulative.]
Forest River has set up a central dispatch for these communications. The number is: 574-825-7000.
To the full extent permitted by law, Forest River reserves the right to withhold dealer indemnification if dealer fails to comply with any of the dealer requirements in this addendum.
Thank you for your continued efforts. It is because of our unique relationship, cooperation and focus on quality that every part of a customer’s experience with Forest River is exceptional.
For additional information, or to discuss these requirements, please contact:
DIVISIONAL WARRANTY SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES ARE LISTED ON PRODUCT WEB SITES UNDER “CONTACT US” PORTAL
RV Daily Report has reached out to corporate executives to elaborate on the reasons for the new policy and to answer some of the questions dealers have raised. However, the company has yet to respond to the inquiries.
The news has raised the ire of RV dealers across the country who are incensed that Forest River has shifted liability for repairs to the dealership level, and then threatened to remove legal protection from the dealers if they do not comply with the policy.
“The company is being very unreasonable and wants its dealers to jump through a lot of hoops to take care of Forest River customers — and then only get paid whatever the company thinks is fair,” one dealer told RV Daily Report.
The policy also opens the company to major legal issues with it’s dealers, one person suggested. Others have indicated that lawyers are being contacted to prepare a more formal response to the new policy.
“Forest River is putting liability concerns squarely on the dealers. Our 20 group is furious with this,” another dealer told RV Daily Report. “They’ve crossed the line when they threaten to not indemnify us if we don’t follow this procedure to the letter. Some of the items in the policy cannot necessarily be followed by dealerships.”
The legal definition for indemnity means protection from being sued and security against a loss or other financial burden.
While at first glace the policy appears directed at spurring dealership service departments to more quickly respond to customer service requests, which is one of the biggest complaints among RV owners. However, dealers question how it is possible to complete repairs quickly when the company has problems delivering parts to service departments in a timely manner.
“When does this stop? When do manufacturers start taking on at least a portion of the responsibility? They build the unit, we finish building the unit and when a customer comes in for work (warranty or otherwise) we are at the mercy of receiving Forest River parts,” one dealer explained.
“The burden should not be put entirely on dealerships to try to keep Forest River customers happy. Warranty is a no-win scenario for dealers,” he added. “The dealers generally get half of the revenue they would receive from external paying customers and we spend three times as much work trying to get paid for the lesser amount.”
He referred to the frustration dealers have considering the number of pictures the manufacturer requires, frequent contact with Forest River tech support lines, excessive documentation that must be submitted, and delays in getting a part shipped to the dealership, only to discover the firm shipped the wrong one.
“How do we comply with that? There are so many loopholes or judgment calls in any repair situation,” he added. “Yet, if we don’t comply to what they feel should have been done, then we are no longer indemnified by Forest River. This makes no sense.”
“It’s frustrating that warranty repairs are being looked at so critically,” one dealer noted. “It sure would be nice to see the RV Dealers Association get more involved with some of these manufacturers to smooth out processes, and build more trust between dealers and manufacturers. Look at the automobile industry and how quickly and efficiently it can provide service to customers — and in a fraction of the time.”
Some of the provisions of the new policy are leaving dealers scratching their heads figuring out how to comply with them. For example, a customer is required to sign a form indicating he or she is electing to “store” the RV at the dealership until repairs are completed. However, the customer is told that storing it for repairs does not prevent the use of the recreation vehicle.
That puts dealers in a major bind if the RV is disassembled waiting for parts and the customer expects to be able to pick it up at the dealership and use the RV in the meantime. According to the policy, the dealer must allow the consumer to use the RV or Forest River will remove legal protections from the dealership.
The company provided dealers with a special drop off form to use when bringing in a unit for repair. However, Forest River did not supply a form to use when people want to pick up the RV to use it before the repairs are complete. That leaves dealers facing liability should something happen to the RV or the occupants when the unit is removed from the dealership for temporary use.
Dealers feel they are unfairly singled out for doing second repairs for the same problem when warranty payments don’t reimburse dealers for time to properly diagnose the situation. As a result, service techs often address what appears to be the symptom without being able to take time to diagnose the true cause, one dealer explained.
The new policy is fueling discontent among dealers in light of a recent decision to impose what Forest River calls a “Spring Logistics Surcharge” on every invoice to cover costs to get recreation vehicles from the factory to dealer lots.
“It is bothering that Forest River appears to be making decisions that take advantage of the dealer body without any recourse,” one dealer asked. “What’s next? Imposing a “Had to get out of bed” surcharge?”
Should Forest River executives respond to RV Daily Report’s request for comment and clarification, a follow-up story will be published.