Mar 112009

I can’t say that I was surprised by the news that Fleetwood has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed its three travel trailer manufacturing plants and two service facilities, leaving 675 workers unemployed.

According to a press release announcing the bankruptcy filing, Fleetwood’s travel trailer division alone lost over $63 million in 2007, and nearly $17 million more in 2008. According to the company, their motorhome and mobile home divisions will remain open for the time being. Personally, I wouldn’t want to lay any bets on how long before the company completely closes its doors.

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my dim view of Fleetwood. No company, no matter how big they are, can produce junk and ignore their customers’ problems, and stay in business. While I feel sorry for the Fleetwood employees who are now unemployed in the current job market, I am surprised it took the company’s corporate chickens so long to come home to roost.

When we had our Fleetwood motorhome, we spent months running back and forth across the country from one dealer to another to have repairs made under the factory warranty, and each time when we arrived wherever Fleetwood’s customer service department had sent us, the service facility either did not have the parts in stock, or on two occasions did not even know we were coming!

On one occasion, they sent us to a repair shop in a run down area near downtown Los Angeles that locked us inside their razor wire fence overnight with the warning not to step outside until morning, because of the attack dogs. When someone finally arrived to open up the next day, we had to wait while one of his suppliers came in and hauled away most of their inventory for nonpayment. Then the shop informed us that Fleetwood had cancelled their contract weeks earlier, before they made the appointment and sent us there!

Finally, after months of complaining and many, many nasty articles in the Gypsy Journal, Fleetwood agreed to take the rig into their factory in Riverside, California for needed repairs. We had to move out of the coach and they kept it for six weeks. I called several times to check on the status of the repairs and was told each time that they were making progress.

Eventually, one of their service writers called me to ask why we had not dropped the RV off on the appointed date. I told her we had. “Well, it’s not in my computer,” she said. I again told her we had dropped it off six weeks previously, gave her the name of the customer service manager we handed the keys too, and the number on the work order he gave us back. Her only response was “Well, it’s not in my computer!” Finally, I said “Lady, its 36 feet long. It’s too big to fit in your computer! Get off your lazy butt, walk outside, and find it!” She hung up, and then called back a half hour later to tell me it had sat in the same spot in the parking lot for the entire six weeks, with the keys in it. By then I was hoping that it had been stolen and turned into a rolling taco stand in West L.A.

When they finally called us to tell us the RV was ready to pick up, we drove back to Riverside, only to discover that out of a list of nineteen problems that we were promised would be fixed, only seven of them had been addressed. And within 200 miles of leaving the factory, several of those problems came back!

Our complaints about the rig ranged from having the hydraulic system fail and our living room slide go out while we were driving down Highway 101 in Oregon, to having the bedroom slide fail and drop down to crack the side of the motorhome, big gaps around both slide seals that let insects in at night and cold weather in any time, hydraulic fluid leaking out of the bedroom slide ram to pool under our bed, light fixtures that fell off driving down the road, insufficient caulking in the shower that caused a flood, a water heater that caused a mini-explosion of propane when it lit, a spring poking out of the sofa, oven gaskets that disintegrated the first time we opened the oven door, a stove burner that turned into a blow torch and would not turn off until I went outside to shut off the propane, and major side delamination, not to mention several minor irritations caused by lack of quality and finish, And this was in a top of the line Pace Arrow Vision that was less than six months old!

No, I’m not surprised that Fleetwood is a victim of both the times and its own terrible business practices. I’m only amazed that they held out this long.

Thought For The Day – If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  11 Responses to “Fleetwood Files Bankruptcy”

  1. This explains why we had so much trouble getting warranty work done on our new Fleetwood Jamboree (bought new in 1996)!
    Rig sat for weeks at the dealer w/out anything being done.
    Called to come and get it/work finished… work not even started!
    Called to come and get it/work finished… wrong part installed!
    Exact part needed was on a showroom model but they WOULD NOT remove and
    install on ours.

    I finally made so much noise that the owner of the dealership (whom I insisted come to the shop — NOW) threw us out!!! We ended up at Camping World (of all places) and got the darn part replaced!

    We now own a beautifully warranted and well cared for TIFFIN! God help me if they go out of business, I’ll just have to build a log cabin in the woods w/no “ammenities” and become a recluse! 🙂

  2. Fleetwood has done more damage to the day-to-day living of RVers than any six other RV manufacturers combined.

    As long as Nick’s litany of problems is with Fleetwood, he did not recite all of them.
    We all certainly don’t want to see anyone lose a job — even a Fleetwood employee, but Fleetwood deserves and has earned the situation they are now in. It will be better for everyone if they never rear their ugly corporate heads again.

    If anyone who makes any product would follow the Foretravel and Tiffin models, we have one hell of a better economy right now.

    That is my position and I am sticking to it.

  3. Hey Nick, do you think this horse is dead yet? I’m not a motorhome guy but you’ve got me convinced to stay away from Fleetwood! I’m actually surprised you are considering a production motorhome. That converted MCI seems to really work for you.

    We’ve toured the Tiffin plant and if looks are anything to go by, they seem to be a quality act. It was nice too that one of the Tiffin’s had his own personal bus out back having something installed. Having your name on the door might just have something to recommend it; especially if you drink your own cool-aid.

  4. Do you people realize you are talking about units that were built 7-13 years ago? A ’96 Jamboree, the Pace Arrow Vision? I didn’t realize slide rooms were out yet when the Vision was still available.

    Fleetwood is not the only RV manufacturer to hit hard times in the last year. All have closed plants, and lost around 70% of their sales. Some companies have folded completely. Another RV dealer goes under every day. If Fleetwood tanked this year, it wasn’t because they earned a reputation for quality problems ten years ago- its the economy, combined with the company’s lack of wisdom in not preparing itself financially for an economic sales slump.

    I was laid off by Fleetwood in December. I have no reason to be fond of the company that let me and my hundreds of co-workers out on the street. But Fleetwood the company didn’t build those units. My co-workers and I did. I don’t blame people for being mad if they had a bad Fleetwood experience eight or ten years ago. But we learned and every year we made a better quality product than the year before. The entire industry is building better product than it ever did before.

    It is poor form to cheer the demise of a 60 year old American company founded by a remarkable self-made man and staffed with thousands of American workers at a time like this. It is irresponsibly inaccurate to attribute Fleetwood’s bankruptcy to worker design and craftsmanship in the midst of a recession, banking meltdown and industry-wide collapse.

  5. I too noticed you conviently left out the year of your vehicle leading readers to believe you are refering to a late model.

    I recently purchased a 2009 Bounder 35H. I have 2.5k miles and have no complaints. I had a couple of issues that were taken care of promptly by the dealer, Mike Thompson. It is too bad the economy caused the closing of the trailer division of Fleetwood. There are many fewer manufacturers not because of quality but likely because of a deteriorating economy. Like FOX, you should be fair and balanced.

  6. Tom,
    Ours was a 1998 Pace Arrow Vision. I try to be fair – it was a lemon and Fleetwood refused to address our problems. Why is it unfair to say that? Does the fact that they may have cleaned up their act (and according to many owners of newer Fleetwood units I know, they have not) excuse them for their sins of the past?

    As for being balanced, anyone who knows me well will testify that I am definitely unbalanced!
    NIck Russell

  7. We purchased a Fleetwood Mallard Travel Trailer almost two years ago and after the first week the couch fabric tore right down the middle (the first time my husband and I sat on it) and a pipe located in the shower wall leaked constantly leaving a stream of water running from the wall right to the carpet. To Date the trailer is back (for the 5th time) at affordable R.V in corona (where we purchased it) still dealing with the exact same issues. Now they are telling us that the couch and other warrenty issues may not be taken care of because of the bankruptcy! I am truly disgusted with the lack of customer service. They have had our trailer since March 1st and everytime I call they say we are still working on it! It is my understanding that they are waiting until the court releases Fleetwood to take care of the warrenty issues???? That’s what I was told anyway….

  8. Oops, I should have included that my husband and I purchased the trailer brand new.

  9. I bought a 2006 Fleetwood Cambridge fifth wheel brand new, out here in wyoming. Used it for a month and it went into storage after being winterized ( something you really gotta do out here). This is supposed to be the top of the line trailer. Well here it is may of 2009, I have owned it for less than two and a half years and the sliders slide out when you are going down the road, the water system leaks and I am waiting for the fridge to blow up… that might actually solve my problems…. have been trying to find out if there has been any recalls on the hydraulic systems????

  10. I have had a 2006 Fleetwood Pioner 180ck. A great little trailer. Other than a cupboard door that was a different color, the trailer is good. It has survived 4 Canadian winters without anything happening. I winterize it well in the fall and it has been good. Sorry to hear of others problems, but mine has been all good.

  11. We purchased a brand new 36′ Quantum 5th- wheel with 4 slides in July of 2007 in Hot Springs AR while we were on vacation there. My husband usually researches EVERYTHING we buy but because of lack of internet in the mountains, we didn’t. We bought it because it WAS a Fleetwood and it was a beautiful 5th wheel. it is the upper class of the 5th wheels that Fleetwood makes, geared more toward the full timer. From the minute we connected it at a campground, things started breaking and leaking. The hot water heater sprung a huge leak because the dealership did not test it with city water, only did a pump water test that doesn’t have near enough pressure. Our surround sound speakers would fall, the fireplace only worked for a month or two, then never worked again. Fleetwood kept sending broken and wrong parts to the repair dealer. Upon inspecting closely in cabinets and such, it looks as if it was “pieced and parted” together with some spare wood they had laying around. The microwave didn’t cook past 3 1/2 minutes, leaks in the wall in the bathroom, shelves falling down around our ears. Everytime we took it out something would break. The main slide quit working so my husband would have to crawl under the slide and fix it himself. The dining room table fell apart while we were eating at it. The filtered water spout was connected to the hot water heater. The hot and cold were backwards on the kitchen faucet and those lines eventually ruptured and flooded my camper. All of this was BEFORE Fleetwood filed bankruptcy. We filed suit against them after we’d had the camper for 11 months and it had spent 5 of those 11 months in the shop! I believe the lower cost of the unit, the better the unit. Fleetwood tried to step into the retirement realm of trailers and failed miserably. I have talked to LOTS of ppl in the Fleetwood upper corporation and all they did was drag our case out and make promises, knowing GOOD AND WELL they would be filing soon. I feel for the workers who lost their job because of lack of QC on Fleetwoods part. A lot of those units should have NEVER been placed on a lot for sale. We had to eat $35k to get out of that piece of junk, but it was well worth it. We traded it in on a wonderful 35′ Georgetown motorhome with bunks and have LOVED it since day 1!

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