Editor’s note: Forest River strenuously objects to the tone and content of this editorial and has threatened legal action against RV Daily Report for publishing it. To read Forest River’s position on this editorial, see the response published Dec. 13.
By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
While at the RV Dealers Association convention earlier this month, several people pulled me aside to comment on the number of recalls that RV Daily Report has published in recent months.
We have been publishing recall information for years, often on Monday’s when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases its most recent list of recalls. It’s possible that we missed a few, but I am confident we have published the vast majority of recalls issued in the past six years.
The question was a good one because I have sensed an uptick in the number of recalls being issued by RV manufacturers in 2016. So, I took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to do a bit of research.
The number of recalls issued by RV manufacturers in 2016 — so far — is 148, with five more Mondays to go in the year for NHTSA to add to that total. But, how does that compare to previous years?
According to the number of recall-related stories appearing in RV Daily Report, there were:
- 148 in 2016 through Nov. 21
- 123 in 2015
- 71 in 2014
- 107 in 2013
- 101 in 2012
- 91 in 2011
- 27 in 2010, when we started publishing recall information
So, yes, to answer the question, there have been significantly more recalls issued in 2016 than in any other year since we’ve been publishing the notices. The number is already 20 percent more this year than the second-highest total in 2015 — and it will only go up in the countdown to the end of December.
I opened each of the stories we published in 2016 and started looking at which manufacturers issued the most recalls. Here are the Top 10:
- Forest River — 40 recalls (27.03 percent of the total)
- Newmar — 18 recalls (12.16 percent)
- Jayco — 16 recalls (10.81 percent)
- Winnebago — 14 recalls (9.46 percent)
- Thor Motor Coach — 9 recalls (6.08 percent)
- Keystone — 7 recalls (4.73 percent)
- Starcraft — 7 recalls (4.73 percent)
- Tiffin — 5 recalls (3.38 percent)
- Heartland – 4 recalls (2.70 percent)
There was a four-way tie for 10th place with Entegra, Highland Ridge, Open Range and Triple E each having three recalls accounting for 2.03 percent of the pie.
Others who issued recalls this year included Cruiser, Grand Design and Motorcoach Industries with two each or 1.35 percent of the total.
CrossRoads, Evergreen, Foretravel, Freightliner, Haulmark, Outdoors RV, REV, Riverside, Spartan and Vintage each issued one recall or 0.68 percent of the total.
Pace of recalls increasing
My observant readers were absolutely correct that the pace of recalls has increased in recent months. Here is how the recalls were distributed this year, by month:
- 10 – January
- 12 – February
- 10 – March
- 12 – April
- 8 – May
- 21 – June
- 6 – July
- 22 -August
- 11 – September
- 20 – October
- 16 – November through the 21st
A total of 52 recalls were issued between January and May; however, 96 recalls were issued in the following six months.
Reflection of product quality
So, do recalls accurately reflect the serious problem the RV industry has with product quality? I would argue that yes it does. A cursory glance at RV-related forums and social media posts will confirm that Forest River, “the quiet company,” has a huge problem with its reputation for producing poor-quality RVs — and the company has issued more recalls than any other manufacturer.
In fact, Forest River issued more recalls than the next two closest manufacturers, Newmar and Jayco, combined plus 4 percent
Some will argue that the recalls were for silly things, like an improper label depicting the wrong gross vehicle weight rating, tire size or tire pressure. Those are all problems easily correctable.
However, other recalls issued centered on these problems:
- Risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- LP gas leaks
- Improper calculation of gross vehicle weight rating — surprise, it was often rated higher than it should have been.
- Inadequate seat belt anchors that pull loose in a collision
- Inadequate A-frame safety chains that snap, rather than keep a towable RV attached to the tow vehicle
- Turn signals that were improperly wired so that activating left signal, turned on right blinker
- No circuit breakers on a 30-amp RV
- Loose main power cords
- No brake activation signal alerting drivers following the rig that it is slowing
- Risk of power loss to power steering pump
- Improperly installed sway bar mounting brackets
- Axles that can’t handle the load built onto them
- Steering wheels improperly connected to the axle
- Non-fire resistant materials installed in RV, like mattresses and shower curtains
- Wood trim inadequately attached posing risk of falling on driver or passengers
- Poor wiring throughout that increased risk of fire
- Exhaust pipes so close to compartments it posed a risk of melting
- Defective pin box
- Tires incapable of supporting the load or improperly installed
- Improper support for entry steps
- Underrated fuses
- Shock hazards
- Spare tire couldn’t be attached to rim because lug layout was different
Let’s not forget that recalls occur only because problems were reported that could cause safety concerns. The government doesn’t monitor — yet — problems in product quality related to appearance or overall usability of a recreation vehicle.
Consumers have noted a serious and increasing product quality problem since the recession. However, as RV manufacturers significantly increase the number of product safety recalls for units they assemble, is there any doubt that the government is taking notice as well?
Yet, today we published the October RV shipment report that showed the industry is on target for its seventh consecutive yearly increase in total RVs made and the best year in 40 years. Despite the well-documented problems, unsuspecting consumers are still buying new RVs in record numbers. So why change?
Like Brian Wilkins, the outgoing chairman of the RV Dealers Association, noted so eloquently in his final presentation to members, “When are we going to change because it is the right thing to do?”