This is the 11th in a series of articles written by motorhome manufacturers that address the subject of quality control. Recently, FMCA commercial members involved in the production of type A, type B, and type C motorhomes were invited to describe the quality-control strategies they have in place at their manufacturing facilities. Their stories appear monthly.
At Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., quality motorhomes begin at the design stage. Our engineers utilize state-of-the-art computer-aided design technology to build quality into every motor coach right from the start. After hundreds of hours of analysis and refinement, these designs are converted to prototypes. These full-functioning prototypes are then punished on the test track and also subjected to accelerated longevity tests wherein a few weeks equal years of normal use. At the same time, components and component systems are test-cycled thousands of times in an effort to ensure years of problem-free use.
Once approved for production, each unit is manufactured from high-quality materials and components. Many of the components are sourced through or manufactured by Fleetwood subsidiary companies, such as Gold Shield Fiberglass and Continental Lumber Products. These companies have strength and knowledge of the RV marketplace, enabling Fleetwood RVs to be built with the best materials for the job.
The Fleetwood advantage
- Fleetwood uses real plywood for floors in all of its motorhomes rather than particleboard.
- Fleetwood uses automotive-style bonding for windshields rather than rubber gaskets.
- Fleetwood uses strong aluminum under-floor liners rather than wood and plastic.
- Fleetwood uses all-electric slideouts instead of those with a high-maintenance hydraulic system.
- Fleetwood ensures the strength and integrity of the motorhome’s sidewalls by using Vacubond lamination on all of its motorhomes.
- Fleetwood uses either aluminum or steel construction for floors, sidewalls, and ceiling structural framing.
Fleetwood continually evaluates its production methods with an eye toward increasing product quality. For example, in September 2001 the company began construction of a new state-of-the-art paint and finishing facility in Decatur, Indiana to be used for Fleetwood’s diesel-powered motorhomes. The decision to build this 120,000-square-foot facility was necessitated by the industry trend toward increased use of exterior paint as well as more detailed and exotic graphics. Fleetwood officials conducted an in-depth review of the existing production capacity and capabilities in this area, including every aspect of application and finishing. Two of the most significant objectives of the review process were to determine how to increase paint and finishing capacity and improve the quality of full-paint coaches. Enhancements at the new facility include improved lighting, leading-edge application equipment, and new convection drying booths. This facility is scheduled to open for full production in July 2002.
Quality customer service
The Fleetwood Owner Relations department is designed to provide answers to Fleetwood RV customers seven days a week via its toll-free line (800-322-8216). The Owner Relations staff answers an average of 700 calls from customers or prospective customers per day and is capable of assisting customers over the phone with simple service or repair issues. These individuals also have the ability to conference with dealers and component suppliers to assist customers with more complex concerns. Fleetwood’s Owner Relations associates make every effort to find a solution for the customer during the initial contact or call, and then follow up with the customer to assure the problem is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
Felicia Kleeberger, Fleetwood Owner Relations coordinator, noted, “The quality of an RV is one reason people buy again from the same manufacturer. Another is how they are treated after the sale. I am proud that customer service is just one of the reasons nearly half of our sales are to repeat buyers.”
Accessible service dealer network
With more than 1,100 service locations in the United States and Canada, Fleetwood RV has the largest service dealer network in the RV industry. In addition, Fleetwood RVs are covered by a warranty that not only treats customers the way they want to be treated, but is backed by the largest RV manufacturer in the industry. After all, a warranty is only as strong as the company standing behind it.