Alfred N. has two questions:
1. What do you think happened in the 2019 ratings which caused a large number of brands to be given lower ratings vs. 2018?
2. How "solid" do you feel that the higher 2019 ratings are? Were the criteria which were used to downgrade ratings on a large number of 2018 brands also applied to the brands which received high ratings in 2019? I realize that manufacturers can make cut backs and degrade quality, or can increase quality, and this is presumably what if reflected in these rating changes.
Both questions are great because we ask the same questions every day. But I’ll do my best to answer both questions.
First of all, things have changed greatly since you purchased your motor home in 2009. The recession put many manufacturers out of business and the big survivors bought their assets. Of those smaller companies that survived, many were bought by the Big Four but mostly by the Giant Two. Of the approximately 600 brands now in existence, of the giant RV companies (as of January 2019) Thor owns 205 RV brands and Forest River owns 165 brands. Financial institutions own these companies. The two much smaller corporations that trail these two are Winnebago and REV Group—which owns Fleetwood. The four companies together sell approximately three-quarters of RVs sold and greatly influence the volatility of the ratings—which takes us to your question.
Because of availability at your home base, you are considering the North Point (Jayco/Thor) [78/76/68]; Bighorn (Heartland/Thor) [65/64/68]; Landmark (Heartland /Thor) [66/64/68]; Pinnacle (Jayco/Thor) [75/76/68]; and Columbus (Palomino/Forest River) [78/80/73] all fifth wheels.
The next part of the analysis deals with a bit of philosophy. You probably noticed, Alfred, that some of the brand scores (first number in the bracketed series) have dropped or increased since you purchased your motor home.
Today, as soon as they sign the deal, most RV investors bring their purchases in line with their philosophy about profit. For example, through our research we have concluded that Thor Industries holds a tight rein on their manufacturers to make a specific profit. (In a future issue, I’ll tell how Thor companies cut costs to meet those profit targets without you seeing it.) If the profit is met, they get a loosening of the reins—otherwise— Yeah, you get the picture.
With this in mind, let’s consider the bracketed numbers. First, we’ll do North Point/Jayco/Thor, then we’ll do Columbus/Palomino/Forest River.
Thor purchased Jayco in 2016 as it was climbing the stars in RVCG ratings to the four-star level. (See RV Confidential #5) Since that time Jayco has taken a dip [78/76/68] (middle number = 3 stars) but how much of that is influenced by Thor’s 68 (2 stars) is difficult to tell.
On the other hand, Columbus/Palomino/Forest River is getting a rating of [78/80/73]. In this case you can see that the manufacturer is getting an average rating of four stars—which is 2 points above the brand rating and 7 points above the parent’s rating. But these numbers are not quite the full picture.
I tend to look at the numbers backward because I know how much the parents influence the manufacturer’s score and that the manufacturer’s score should be within a couple points of the brand’s score. And regarding Jayco versus Palomino we have hundreds of surveys on Jayco and much less than a hundred on Palomino. This means that Jayco’s number would be more stable than Palomino’s. And remember that 90% of those numbers come from RV owner surveys.
Alfred, I recommend that you look at these numbers and combine them with all your research to determine a risk factor for ending up as a happy camper. Just keep in mind that the RV industry is far from the automotive industry when it comes to quality control. Unfortunately, the RV industry is all over the board when it comes to quality of workmanship, materials, and design. That’s why you must do a complete walkabout (comprehensive consumer inspection) before you determine the brand and model that will be your home on wheels. Don’t forget to double check the weight, balance, and wheelbase of both the truck and the fifth wheel.
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