The state of the RV Industry.

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
A little background on me. I have camped most of my life. From a Starcraft tent trailer to miscellaneous 19-23 footers of my parents, to my TrailManor, Trail Lite, Starwood, Starcraft, WindJammer, and now my Solitude. I've got over 100K miles towing, and now 16 of my own years of owning RV's. As you can tell, I'm a bit of a junkie...not just for RV's, but also for information. I started my first RV site in 1998, and still own it today. I run sites because I love the information flow. That being said...

The RV industry has morphed quite a bit. RV's used to be built "Like tanks". You could buy a trailer and expect great things from it. Few issues, but only basic essentials on board. As RV's have matured, so have their issues. I remember in the early 2000's that many RV's, but even more motorhomes had weight issues. Before you did anything, they were overloaded right out of the factory. Then there were the roof issues. The rubber roofs hadn't matured yet, and leaks were common. Fit and finish issues were also common. I remember my first "New" trailer. I hacked and diced those poor delivery guys to pieces. They cried about how the factory was the one that was setting them up to fail. That was 2001. My Starwood wasn't bad. There were few fit and finish issues - rivets in the shower, wallpaper, but mostly small issues. The Starcraft was so bad during PDI and I made such a name for myself at that dealership by causing trouble that even though I'm on my third trailer with that dealer, they still worry when I walk in. They love me, but they worry. LOL

When we first walked into our Grand Design, there were small things that we noticed. When I did the PDI, there were more issues, but nothing out of bounds. Now that I'm getting close to the end of my first year of ownership, I have a much better understanding. Please, don't get me wrong: Grand Design for the most part has been exceptional with their support. But anyone who's worked in Manufacturing knows that a defect that doesn't leave the factory doesn't have to be repaired, and a bored support team is the ideal situation. Unfortunately, the RV industry doesn't understand that. They rely on the dealer network to patch their mistakes.

It's rampant in the industry. This "let someone else down the line" attitude is pervasive. In my dealings with Manufactures, reps, sales people, and the service departments; I have heard it all. That service is another place for dealers to make their money, that the factories are running so fast that they don't have time to repair them, or to do it correctly in the first place, or that it's just the way the industry is...It's all garbage. We pay good money for these trailers. If anything else that we purchased had a failure rate this high, we wouldn't stand for it. If my truck had trim pieces falling off, I wouldn't stand for it. Nor will I with any trailer that I own. Nor would I with a house I purchased, or the furniture that I purchased, or or or... The excuses have to stop, and quality needs to reign.

This isn't a slam on GD. My trailer is complicated and well built. Overall I'm still very happy. But I'm also very picky. I paid a very nice sum for this trailer, and I didn't expect that I would have to deal with (starting from the front):
  1. Broken screws that stop my closet doors.
  2. Closet guides that were fine on the sides, but not in the middle.
  3. Bedroom hotter than the rest of the trailer.
  4. Bedroom A/C that resonated in the bed slideout.
  5. Trim pieces that fall off under the bed.
  6. Slide (bottom of the bed) rubbing on the floor.
  7. Bed lights that are tightened to the point that they dimple the mount.
  8. Bedroom door that won't stay open.
  9. Bedroom door that rubs against the frame and wears a hole in the contact paper that the door is wrapped in.
  10. Bedroom door frame that separates at the corners (partially due to the dryness of our climate.)
  11. Bathroom door that pops off it's strap and then breaks the latch and damages the frame.
  12. Bathroom sink tilted on counter top.
  13. Bathroom shower "Middle" section separates during travel and has to be pushed back to the fixed section.
  14. Bathroom shower door magnetic strips fall down into shower area and break.
  15. Toilet rotated off center.
  16. Cabinet at corner has gaps in trim pieces.
  17. Entry door would stick during opening in cold weather.
  18. Gap at base of entry door right side (looking outside).
  19. Dining room table glass pops out during travel.
  20. Applique on cabinet glass rubs off.
  21. Molding pieces that pop off - over dinette, near the cabinet by the hallway. Gaps in the wood (due to dryness) above the pantry and the dinette.
  22. Recliner that had trouble unreclining.
  23. Kitchen Faucet has large amount of play.
  24. Creak in floor.
  25. Heater not blowing strong in living room.
  26. Water pump noisy and rattling.
  27. Hole in carpet in hallway (from factory).
  28. Heater, water heater, and exterior trim pieces screwed in too tight causing bowing.
  29. Cap has cracks in paint, and thing paint in center.
  30. Basement separator walls separate due to staples, not screws.
  31. Home theater "Pops" when you change channels.

At the end of the day, I'm happy with Grand Design, and their product. I realize that my trailer could have been assembled by a new guy...but who's checking it before it leaves? Who's my gatekeeper to ensure that what I get is what I'm paying for. Not just with GD, but with all of them. I have looked at literally thousands of trailers in the last 16 years. Just about every major manufacturer. Some stink (GD's don't), some flex (GD's don't), some feel cheap (GD's don't), some look cheap (GD's don't), some are cheap. The industry has got to come to terms with the fact that they are responsible for their own quality. Dealers can only do so much. Pareto your failures, and decide to fix your top 10 issues. Focus on them. Demand quality from your suppliers. Hold them accountable for shoddy performance. Measure your defects in defects per million, not on a percentage. Hire Quality people who are independent and expect the best. Then do what Grand Design does, and monitor your owner's forums for feedback on your products and make changes as necessary.

Quality is a mindset. Whether you're making burgers, painting chairs, repairing radios, manufacturing microprocessors, writing code, working on PC's, managing a service department, manufacturing solar panels, their mounts, or managing IT for a heathcare company...You either incorporate quality into what you do, or you don't. If you don't long enough, then people stop buying your product regardless of the support afterwards. I can't think of a time that my rig has been in for service where it's come out quickly. That time cuts into my time with my trailer and is an intangible cost to me since I can't use it.

Thanks for reading my post. Please don't hesitate to respond to the post or to me directly.


  1. ACDW-Ottawa's Avatar
    Hi Chris!

    I agree completely with your statement and would like to add some additional feedback about the RV industry as I have learned about it since my 1st 5th Wheel trailer I purchased in 2010 which I traded In for a GD 5ver Solitude (last Nov2013) based on the hype from Bill Fenech and his co-owners; however, I have been let down by their assembly line quality and inferior sourced parts.

    While I believe their could be some additional design changes crucial to the viability of the product (ie move the exterior outlet to prevent the door from hitting the outlet cover and damaging the door graphics or worse) they certainly have added so many new and unique features ( such as the pull out computer desk and the large Pantry (every Woman's dream)) to make it a fantastic RV. But here is an issue that frustrate the owners like us. The (hydraulic tube) is installed incorrectly here and throughout the trailer as under the bed. The closed end must be installed pointing up to ensure the internal seal does not dry up. This is such a basic installation issue, one wonders who is installing theses parts and where is the Quality insurance? There are similarly repeated issues throughout the RV.

    I actually called Bill Fenech to escalate the issues (fridge, windows, premature rust, broken parts, leaks, etc) with my trailer and wow! Did everything start coming together after that. I will still have to have repairs done at the factory as only a per of them can be done here locally.

    I am pleasantly surprised how fast Grand Design reacted to send me the require parts and pay my out of pocket expenses for the mobile RV Tech (within 10 days). From speaking to my friends, there is no other RV company providing this level of service.

    My wife and I do LOVE our Solitude 359RL and we still believe we made the right decision to go with Grand Design RV even though they are a new company and especially because they are a new company. I believe in GD's philosophy and was very impressed with speaking to Roger Fenech. I really do believe he is sincere about building an RV that is better than the competition. GD is learning and I hope that GD will provided some free upgrades to correct issues in the earlier RVs

    I also have a similar list of issues with my trailer that I may list at a future time.

    Please feel free to PM me.
  2. Glazier's Avatar
    That is some list. We do commercial glass work, I can tell you for certain a list like that doesn't exist on my projects. If we get a punch list with over 10 items on a large scale project, heads are going to roll. You must start with quality workers to produce a quality product. Attention to detail in the construction phase is key, quality can't be inspected in after the product is put together..
  3. TucsonJim's Avatar
    I've developed a rather lengthy list of issues on my Reflection 337 also. Right now, we are 2000 miles into a 10K summer journey. For the most part, the rig is holding up okay, but I'm starting to see the exact same kinds of quality problems that I saw with my last Keystone Cougar FW. The refrigerator doesn't work on electric, which caused all of our food to go bad. Fortunately, we were able to get the reefer to work on gas. We replaced all the food, and hopefully, it will continue to run on gas until we can get hope to get it repaired in October.

    I'm also dealing with lots of workmanship issues. There are electrical outlets that are falling out and trim pieces falling off. The most disturbing thing I'm encountering now are cabinet faces starting to wrinkle and shrink. I was led to believe that all the cabinets were stained wood, but actually, many of the pieces are wood covered with contact paper. The paper is coming loose, looks very cheap, and it will be very extensive work to fix them.

    I'll keep adding to my list, and when I get home, I'll start dealing with my dealer who so far has proven to be totally inept in completing repairs.
  4. Justaguy's Avatar
    Uh-oh. Dang, I hate to hear this. We are in our 38th night and just started our 7000 mile trip. Right now, we are staying the night at Tom Sawyers RV park in West Memphis. We have had zero issues with our 337. No refer, no tires, no lights, nothing! The Atwood thermostats are a little funky and weird working but nothing has happen yet. I keep holding my breath for when our list of problems begin. I would sure like to hear how this goes, Jim. Please keep us updated. Now, if I can get this refueling thing worked out, I will be fine.........
  5. 2hams's Avatar
    Sad to hear about the issues. Hopefully this will get fed back through the Quality Assurance folks and steps will be taken to preclude such items in the future.

    I know that we expect a lot from our 'little houses' that we bounce down the roads at 60 to 65 mph. That shake rattle and roll has to be tough. We have been fortunate so far, we found a screw that had gone through one of the blind strings - and this is something that you would find only after working the blinds up and down 3 or 4 times.

    I would never buy the first model year of a new car or truck, and would NEVER try the first release of a piece of software (unless I was the author). We were so impressed with Grand Design, and the company attitude that we took the chance. I agree with the above comment that GD is trying to build something better than the competition.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of units have problems. I would expect folks without problems tend not to post them, and the reverse.
  6. G&Jcamping's Avatar
    Thank you for this input Chris, this may be one of the best posts I have read on any forum. My wife and I also have been camping for years and have progressed from tents to pop-ups to TT’s and now our Solitude. Like Chris, we have been in more units then I care to count. We love the shows!!! Once we decided on upgrading to a 5ther we must have looked at 30 different models from ALL the big boys in a two month period but not one had “all” the items on our wish list. We were looking at a Montana high country when the salesman said hey, we just got the new GD in and I think it has everything on your check list. It did and we absolutely loved it

    I also agree with Chris completely that these are huge investments. We saved a long time to get this unit and the truck to tow it with knowing it was a long term adventure. With the money we spend we should demand that everything works as it was designed too. The whole point of this investment is to relax and have some piece of mind away from the rat race!

    We have only had our rig out a couple of times and like many, we have had a couple of issues, nothing major—more annoyances than anything. I agree the GD and there products are not perfect but IMHO they are heads and shoulders above the others in their efforts to get there. Without question they are heading in the right directions and one of the reasons I believe is there willingness to listen to US!!

    The bonus for us after buying our GD was this forum. The information passed on is wonderful. Manuals are great but there is nuttn better than a good ole “been there done that” from someone. I was new to 5thing a month ago and I can’t tell you all the great tips I have already put to use!!!
  7. Eaglehead's Avatar
    I agree with you Chris. I was in the home construction and remodeling business for over 25 years and was licensed in California and Arkansas and I can say without hesitation it is appalling what the RV industry can and is getting away with. WE, as RV owner's are paying huge amounts of money for what is supposed to be a lifestyle of comfort and not have the stress of everyday life just to end up with something that creates discomfort and stress. Do the math and see for yourself how much we are paying per square foot for campers compared to houses. I know houses don't roll down bumpy roads which is all the more reason that RV's should be designed and built to a higher standard but they are not. I do believe that GD has a great attitude but the jury is out on whether they listen and act on what we as owners are reporting. I can promise you that if I ever did anything in construction as lame as they ( meaning all RV mfg's) do I would have lost my license and my ability to make a living.

DISCLAIMER:This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by Grand Design RV, LLC or any of its affiliates. This is an independent site.