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?