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Old 06-04-2004, 02:16 PM   #15
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Eric,

Have you looked at Thor's annual report?? -- I do nto recall the number, but they have warrantee costs broken out, and across Thor it was a significant fraction of gross income.

Mine shipped with defects we pointed out while still at the factory. I did not want to make a big deal out of it on line, as I did not want them to limit customer visits to see trailers while under construction -- ours was at the end of the line, too, right next to the door...and I only have two explanations:

1) Production pressure.
2) Thor is gaming the system -- it is cheaper for them to let us find their visible defects than for them to employ better QC. It could be that we only catch a portion of them, thus saving them money in the medium and long run...than them catching and fixing *all* of them.

I have worked at an Aircraft Factory, which is a low volume critical quality type of thing -- each discrete step in the production required a QC sign-off.

One QC guy could cover several airplans during a shift -- we could not work as fast as they could inspect, so one inspector could cover an area -- I worked in the flight test area, and we usually only had one inspector covering eight crews or so. (A crew was 1 to 4 mechanics per airplane).

If I was installing an engine, the QC guy would be pretty much hovering over me -- if I was screwing a floor panel down, he would be nowhere in sight...
and would only inpect things before I started and after I was done.

Any rate, QC this way fits a low-production environment and also only adds an incremental cost...

And another thing -- we would never leave an airplane plugged in and powered up unattended inside a hanger...we turned stuff off if we were the last ones out, and we disconnected the batteries, so nothing bad could happen...
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Old 06-04-2004, 02:32 PM   #16
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I hear you clear on that. It would seem to me that if they are spending so much on warranty work, every dollar they saved in warranty work by doing it right the first time would:

1) Build stronger customer satisfaction and retain customers to the brand--not to even mention doing a job worthy of the higher cost of these coaches.

2) Save the company money by giving the folks responsible, be it a supplier or a production team a hit for each defect found.

3) Create less customer frustration as there are not dealers spread out like let's say a Chevy or Ford dealership.

Maybe my expectation is too high and that this last article if true, just kind of hit home. After all we've now owned 2 Airstreams in less than 2 years. Nobody is perfect, but I as I said, perhaps it's just me and my expectation...possibly they are not realistic or too high?

At any rate, I still love our Airstream and I do have confidence that whatever I come across will be taken care of....and I am sorry for hijacking this thread...it's just that when I read this, it kind of struck a cord with me.

Eric
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Old 06-04-2004, 05:07 PM   #17
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Warranty Costs

According to Thors 2003 annual report they paid the following in warranty expense (this is all of Thor, not just Airstream):

FYE 2001 $12,187,000
FYE 2002 $22,971,000
FYE 2003 $35,047,000

Their warranty expense as a percentage of sales was:

FYE 2001 1.5%
FYE 2002 1.8%
FYE 2003 2.2%

And their warranty expense as a percent of income before taxes was:

FYE 2001 28%
FYE 2002 28%
FYE 2003 28%

As a percentage of sales, not bad. As a percentage of profits, huge. Their warranty expense also has a "hidden" cost - customers that will not come back. I'm sure they would love to reduce their warranty expense, if it can be done at reasonable cost.

As a reference, Winnebago shows $10.7 million in warranty paid in 2002 and $11.5 million on 2003, or 1.3% and 1.4% of their sales respectively. This may imply that their products are better, or that they are stingy in taking care of warranted problems, or their accounting practices differ... who knows.
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Old 06-04-2004, 05:22 PM   #18
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I wonder how the numbers relate to the 2 year warranty? If you had warranty work done on a 2001 unit in year 2003, the numbers would be included for the 2003 year, right? So, 2004 units with warranty problems would go through year 2006?
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Old 06-04-2004, 05:27 PM   #19
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Here's my take on QC (although this is somewhat generic and can apply to many businesses.

I think we reach a balancing act where they build in a certain amount of warranty work into the production equation.
You can bet someone has already done the cost calculation which says if I add X amount of quality control time into the production then the offshoot is a minus factor to the amount of product output. From that equation they then compare the cost of warranty work against the cost of lost production using more QC.

Bottom line its cold $$ and cents. Obviously the dealers don't mind doing some (within reason) of the QC since that work is billable and helps support their service depts.

There were those business owners like Wally who would literally tear out a defective component on the production line and demand that it be done right. Now he knew it had some effect on production but it was his company and the buck stopped with him. Today its stock options, stock prices, shareholder value etc.

Nobody wants to take responsiblity and no CEO could stand up in front of the stockholders and tell them that profits are down because he decided to slow down production to make quality better, especially if quality on the most part is pretty good.


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Old 06-04-2004, 05:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmac
According to Thors 2003 annual report they paid the following in warranty expense (this is all of Thor, not just Airstream):
This is an important statement because Thor sells a potful of other stuff, some of which can't stand in the shadow of an Airstream (I know cause I owned a Thor SOB).

Unless we knew what A/S's numbers are, this comparison may not be germane to the discussion.

Jack
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Old 06-05-2004, 05:01 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcanavera
Here's my take on QC ~~~SNIP~~~
There were those business owners like Wally who would literally tear out a defective component on the production line and demand that it be done right. Now he knew it had some effect on production but it was his company and the buck stopped with him. ~~~SNIP~~~

Jack

Ah.... the shaping of legend.
moderator Jack is this documented fact or just percieved hope? or should I say hype?

The Big Lie is apparently, not that perfection is now (nor was it ever) possible or expected (most of us know that $#!% happens). Not that Byam's ghost is looking over the shoulders of the JaxCtr workforce (I doubt that they are driven toward perfection by apparitions), but that the marketing device that "handbuilt" "Rolls Royce" "Yacht Quality" is what you get when you buy Airstream has taken on a life of its own.

Once that perception is "out there" in the public psyche (and it is with Airstream) the laws of supply and demand can be tweaked a bit, always upward . In other words they can get away with a higher markup. After all people expect to pay more for the "finer things in life" don't they..?

Many factors have lead to the horns of the dilemma that I see Airstream being upon. But I have no solution. Perhaps they will become victims of their inability to live up to their own propaganda and perception, hopefully they will overcome the situation. Perhaps the problem is engineering instead of management or production (including QC). One thing appears to be sound, and that is Marketing.... How wonderful to budget so little and get so much..(free word of mouth advertising). Thanks in no small part to you members of the High Church of Wally aka LatterDay Holy Rollers. Wallyites, Alumapalians. (but that is a whole nother book).

But there are 2 things that transportation owners will not tolerate. LEAKS & SQUEAKS. If I were the CEO at Airstream, stopping LEAKS would be my war on Terrorism, my absolutely highest priority. Instead of being known as the trailer that could be pulled by a bicycle I would want to be known as the one that NEVER leaks. IMHO if the leaks are not eliminated (almost completely) then it will eventually be Airstreams Waterloo. pun intended.

Oh so fortunately... I am mere vintage* trailer trash, so as Alfred Byam (or was it Neuman) said "What's Me Worry..?
*and leaking
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Old 06-05-2004, 08:56 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaco
Ah.... the shaping of legend.
moderator Jack is this documented fact or just percieved hope? or should I say hype?
Well of course I was not a viewer of the deed, but it has been reported that his visits to the assembly area sometimes did produce some betterment to the line. Part of the process included his "corrections" of imperfections that he observed.

The statement that the trailer that started this fire "leaked pretty bad", is unclear and makes a person think that this new unit had water coming in all over. Personally I doubt it. It obviously had a leak and in an Airstream, its like looking for a needle in a haystack. Water takes the path of least resistance so where it surfaces can be very far from its leak point.

Based on how they test these units for leaks when they are built, I think the QC on the shell is good. I think most of us have seen through repeated postings that the problems when they occur are with the interiors and appliances, not the shell.

Even the Airstreams built in the "good old days" have eventually developed leaks and yes even SOB's leak. My new SOB in 1986 had a leak on day 1 and developed additional leaks over the course of the next 4 years. Nobody builds a leakproof TT.

Short of a defect at production time, most leaks in RV's, come from inadequate maintenance by the owners (and that statement includes me). Yes that means getting up on that roof and checking everything and anything that penetrates it. In 2002 I started the process on my '01 Safari. Not that I had any leaks, but in order to prevent them.

Jack
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Old 06-05-2004, 10:44 AM   #23
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Airstream does extensive leak checking before the inside is installed. The 'Made in America' show on the Travel Channel recently showed how they do this. This process might be one reason why everything inside the outer shell is installed through the door as they do this leak checking on the finished outer shell first.

It is difficult to rationalize significant leaks on a new Airstream with this process just as it is difficult to understand how a converter/charger could get water damage to fry it. More information is needed about the failures.

Also note that condensation is another problem often confused with leaks.

The classic Airstream has another advantage in regards to leaks as well in that its shape does not tend to trap or slow water.

One significant source of leaks in older Airstreams from what I can tell is around the plumbing vents.
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Old 06-05-2004, 11:18 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leipper
One significant source of leaks in older Airstreams from what I can tell is around the plumbing vents.
This goes along with my thoughts. Anything that is cut into that roof is a potential leak point. The sealer used at these openings has a minimal life. On my new Classic that means roof top TV antenna, radio antenna, two skylights, 3 roof hatches, tank vents, refrigerator vent, air conditioner....all potential leak points. That's my point in doing some type of annual rooftop maintenance.

Somehow I'm just not sure we have heard the complete story on this fire...and probably never will. There are other ways to leak water into the trailer that the leak test will not find, and are not plumbing induced...but that's another story for another time.

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Old 06-05-2004, 07:52 PM   #25
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Jack,
You were correct, first version was not accurate.

I am at J.C. and from a good source, a trailer was in bay one as Andy said, not sure why, but overhead cabinets had been taken down. A workmen left the rear overhead cabinet laying on the bed with coach hooked up to 110 volt and they think the overhead lights were on. This is still the unofficial version of what has happened. Fire did start inside the coach.

My source said the workman felt really bad that unit had been left hooked up and he had forgot and left.

It is being view as an accident at this point. Not a short, etc. but a fire started from a light on the bed.
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Old 06-06-2004, 11:17 AM   #26
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Wonder if the owner of the fire ravaged Airstream got a new 2005?
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Old 06-06-2004, 12:14 PM   #27
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A few thought:
As stated before, where there is sealant, there will eventually be leaks. Depending on what kind of roads a trailer has been on, will probably determine how soon a trailer will leak. Twisting, bouncing, etc. play heavily into anything pulled on the roadways today, and will contribute to leaks, just as the weather does i.e., hot makes many sealants soft, cold makes many sealants brittle.
There is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for a trailer coming off the line with leaks! THAT is a sign of shoddy workmanship. The adhesives industries is constantly researching new ways to make a better product. If they don't, they will soon be out of business!
I wonder if the cost of a new Airstream has gone up in proportion to the cost say of a loaf of bread, minimum wage, etc? [Let's don't talk about gasoline.*]
With any type of complaint, I now always document who I talk to, date, time, etc. All letters are sent certified.
I can only presume I am younger than many of the Airstream owners on this forum [52], but I wish I would hear again sayings like -
"The customer is always right."
L8R,


* - p.s. - Speaking of gasoline, a good friend returned last week from an extended business trip.
His wife want him to take her somewhere expensive, so he took her to a gas station.
He should be out of the hospital by the end of the month!
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Old 06-07-2004, 07:37 PM   #28
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While the facts that a customer was having warranty work performed at the Service Center is true ,the rest of the information is not.The seal tech machine used to test for leaks uses air pressure and a soap solution sprayed on with a garden sprayer; so exposure to water was not an issue. The Fire Marshall has not completed his investigation.He was at Airstream today and a cause of the fire is still undetermined.
Quality is always a concern and is an everyday part of the production process at Airstream.
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