Thor Axis RV: Buyers, Beware

| October 24, 2017

If you’re wondering why I haven’t been blogging about Der Wanderbus, here goes:

Remember all the excitement when we brought home Der Wanderbus?  We bought this vehicle with the hopes of road tripping with our dogs. I had plans to use it when traveling between cities for book events. We were hoping to drive to Utah to spend the holidays with our family. We had plans for overnights in our region. I was totally psyched to have some mother-daughter trips.

But nope.

I want you to remember the following words (which will be hard to forget by the end of this post)

 

We are paying over $700/month for a brand new vehicle that does not start without a jump start.

 

Thor Axis RV 

I had been hoping that when I finally blogged about the Axis, it would be “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I’d tell you the “Good” (at the moment, it’s hard to remember what those things are, but we definitely liked the look of it–a flat front instead of an overhang.  I liked that there is an outdoor shower hose, there is a working desk for the passenger seat, the fridge is roomy, and the windows are giant); the “Bad” (things not fitted properly, an inoperable night shade at first, no console or good storage up front, nowhere to store a golf bag, etc.); and the “Ugly” (power issues, pieces literally falling off of the vehicle, etc.).

Unfortunately, months have passed without repair, replacement, or repurchase of this vehicle, and we are left remembering only the ugly.  To repeat: We are paying over $700/month for a brand new vehicle that does not start without a jump start.

And now it sits on a lot.

WE ARE PAYING OVER $700/MONTH FOR AN INOPERABLE VEHICLE TO SIT ON A LOT.

Before I start, here are the players:

Us

Beckley’s (the dealership)

Thor Motorcoach (the manufacturer of the Thor Axis)

Ford (who makes the chassis for the Thor Axis)

Now, here are some details:

In March, we ordered a Thor Axis through Beckley’s in Thurmont, MD. The RV was delivered in April.  We immediately took a road trip to SC and FL. Our maiden voyage!  So exciting!

thor axis RV

The first morning, we woke to find that the night shade would not go back up. We couldn’t drive with it down, so there we were stuck in the Walmart parking lot for a couple of hours while my husband troubleshooted. Long story short, my husband rolled the shade by hand.

A couple of days into our stay in SC, the RV wouldn’t start. We assumed that we, totally new to this, had left something on in the RV overnight. We jumped the battery and were on our way.

jump start thor axis rv

For that trip, we drove the vehicle daily. We were dismayed to find that the vehicle does not protect from mosquitoes—they can get into the vehicle through vents and such (the dealer said that’s just something you have to deal with when it comes to motor homes).  Otherwise, while we returned home still having issues with the night shade, we had no reason to believe we would have future issues with the battery/power.  But…problems turned out to be the norm.

We had it in the shop multiple times over the months that followed.  The night shade was fixed after one or two visits, but by then, we were having power issues *every time* we attempted to start the vehicle, if it had sat for more than one day.  We were constantly jump starting it, and eventually had to replace the battery on my husband’s car (I wonder why?).

When neither the dealer nor Ford service could identify the problem, I emailed the dealer, copying Thor Warranty Service:

Please contact me regarding a request for buy back under the Maryland RV lemon law.

We have been having problems starting it since Week 1.  We’ve had it in to the Beckleys service department several times, and now to Ford (picked it up yesterday). Yet the RV still won’t start today.

If neither Beckleys nor Ford can fix it, then we have no options left.

We’re also hearing a new alarm beeping, for a circuitry issue.

We’ve attempted to call the “24/7” Thor factory support line, but are waiting for a call back.

We have to cancel this weekend’s plans because Paul is afraid to take it out of town.

I’m not really sure where this will leave me with our summer RV trip, or what kinds of major costs I will now incur rearranging those plans, but I also don’t know what I’ll do if I’m stuck on the side of the road, me and my 10-year-old daughter, without my husband, who will be absent for a large portion of our planned journey. I feel completely unsafe about the vehicle at this point.

At that point, I honestly had no idea if the planned summer trip was going to take place.  This issue was consuming a lot of time that was supposed to be spent on trip planning, writing endeavors, etc.  Everything was in limbo, and my family (particularly my mother) was worried about me and Sequoia being stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

After receipt of our request for a buyback, within thirty days, Beckley’s returned the vehicle, which they said was repaired.  Although, I should note, when the service technician said, “Let me know how it goes, either way,” I suspected it wasn’t completely repaired.

And it wasn’t.  I’m telling you: they knew that when they released it to me.

I had to use the emergency start to get Der Wanderbus started on the first day of the summer trip.  After that, we drove it every day, and the charge was maintained.  We experienced issues with shore power during our summer road trip (ironically, we couldn’t get electricity WHEN HOOKED UP TO ELECTRICITY, which took two days to deal with).  We returned to find the same power issue after the vehicle sat for two days.  If the vehicle is not driven every single day, the battery dies.

My #OverIt face as we sit at a campsite continuing to have power issues with our RV. #glrvrt17

A post shared by kari martindale (@karilogue) on

We wrote a certified letter to the dealer and Thor, explicitly requesting a buyback.  At the time, the vehicle had just over 8,000 miles on it and had been inoperable due to service appointments for over 60 days.

It included the following information:

In addition to Beckley’s, the manufacturer, Thor, has also been notified many times throughout the time that the vehicle has been inoperable. After the dealer’s unsuccessful attempts to fix the power issues, we began contacting Thor directly on 24 June 2017, by phone and by email. Thor has already been involved with Beckley’s in the process of repairing the vehicle, and the vehicle remains inoperable.

The defects of the vehicle, in particular the power issues, substantially impact the use and value of the vehicle. Therefore, under the provisions of Md. Code Ann., Com. Law II, §14- 1502, we are requesting:

A repurchase of the original purchase price…

Tow/removal service from our home…at dealer’s expense.

(before I go on, I should note that it turns out that Maryland doesn’t have your back for motor homes—the Lemon Law doesn’t apply to them—so, if you’re keeping tally, we’re being screwed by Beckley’s, Thor, and the Maryland Attorney General’s office…)

I then listed all of the problems:

POWER: STARTING THE VEHICLE – The power issues with the vehicle began one week after pickup when, on 17 April 2017, the vehicle would not start.  We started it with jumper cables.  Despite repair attempts by the dealer, as well as service at Sheehy Truck Center/Ford Service Center…the battery issues persist still today, 19 August 2017.  The vehicle, if left for more than one night overnight, does not start without either using the emergency start switch or jumper cables.  (A video of our attempt to start the vehicle today after it sat for three days is available; a video from 20 July, after the most recent service visit, is also available.)

At least four service attempts have been made by the dealer or Sheehy (copy of service receipt enclosed) for this single issue.  The batteries have been replaced, but whatever the issue in the vehicle is, it persists.

Thor Axis RV

TRIM/WHEEL RIM – On 30 July 2017, Paul noticed that the trim on the front right side was loose.  The trim was hanging off. Paul purchased hardware to secure the trim until we could get it to the dealer.  During the drive home on 16 August 2017, we noticed the flapping of the trim while driving north on Route 79 in Fairmont, WV.  We pulled over onto a shoulder as soon as it was safe to do so.  Paul cautiously removed the flapping trim.  As we continued north, additional trim was flapping, so we pulled off of an exit in Pleasant Valley, WV. Paul removed the trim around the wheel so that it would not come off and cause damage and/or injury to vehicles and/or drivers behind us.

NIGHT SHADE – On 15 April 2017, we woke up and the night shade would not go up.  We could not drive anywhere because the shade was down.  After troubleshooting through a phone call to the dealer and searching for online tutorials, we were unable to fix the issue.  Paul hand-rolled the shade so that we could drive.  The night shade issues persisted.  Paul hand-rolled the shade again on 14 May 2017.  (Photos available.) The issue was eventually corrected by the dealer.

SHORE POWER – On 30 July 2017, we plugged into a campsite in Bemidji, MN.  The next day, 31 July 2017, we plugged into the campsite and the vehicle had no power.  The battery worked, but there was no power in the vehicle if we attempted to use the campsite electricity.  Eventually, we got power, then lost it again.  On 01 August 2017, we moved the vehicle to a different campsite in the campground, and still had no power (and both campsites were tested by the campground host, as was our cable).  We were unable to resume electrical power that day.  Troubleshooting with the Thor Warranty department did not solve the issue, and we were having trouble getting an appointment with an authorized Thor service department, the closest of which was over 3 hours round trip.  On 02 August 2017, Paul went to Home Depot and purchased a square bit to remove the inlet, where he discovered loose wiring, repaired it, and we regained electrical hookup for the vehicle

ALIGNMENT – The alignment has never been straight on the vehicle.  It pulls right.  When we first mentioned it to the dealer, they said that Ford would have to fix the alignment.  When the vehicle was at Sheehy Ford Truck Service to check the battery, Sheehy was unable to check the alignment on a Class A Motorhome.  They recommended another truck service center, but the vehicle had to return to Beckley’s for further service on the battery, so we did not have the opportunity to take it to another Ford service center.  The issue remains unresolved.

CAMERA – We often get a NO SIGNAL message on the camera when we turn on the turn signal or have the vehicle in reverse.

Other issues that we have had with this brand new vehicle include, but are not limited to, the cable for the bunkbed was unattached (dealer repaired); the dinette table has too much play (this was from day one and was tightened once by the dealer, later tightened by us, still unresolved); a sticking use/store switch (resolved by dealer after two visits for same); window screens not sized properly for the vehicle (still unresolved after two screens, the first of which was for a window in the opposite orientation, and the second of which is too small to remain in its frame and therefore affects opening and closing the window at the dinette); a shelf not the proper size for inside of an armoire (dealer replaced); small nails sticking out of the bathroom walls; the pocket door was warped and the door would not slide (dealer repaired); the magnetic/latching handles on the sliding door do not stay closed; the plastic cap to the under-cabinet light at the slide-out headboard periodically falls off despite being screwed on properly; the USB power outlet next to the slide-out bed came out during our first trip and has been loose ever since; the shower water pressure is very low, unlike the sink water pressure; we have not been able to get DVDs to play on the living room TV, whether stopped or while driving, as we were told we could do, both during pickup and in an email dated 14 April 2017; circuitry alarm periodically goes off, lights flashing (beginning in June, still persists, video footage available); the generator switch often requires several attempts before the generator will engage.

Quite a few problems, no?  And most importantly, remember the first item: THE VEHICLE DOES NOT START WITHOUT A JUMP START.  OUR BRAND NEW VEHICLE DOES NOT START.  STILL.  IT STILL DOES NOT START, GUYS.

But I digress…

When the Thor representative contacted Beckley’s about our vehicle, the service technician told the Thor rep that our vehicle had never failed on their lot.  When the Thor rep told me this, I almost lost my mind.  There is very little in this world that pisses me off more than lying.  Fortunately, I had service records from Beckley’s, in which they’d indicated that our battery was not holding a charge.  I could very easily prove that the service tech was lying.

Beckley’s, after receiving our certified letter, was not cooperative with us OR with Thor.  They didn’t transfer our service records to Thor despite multiple requests, and they didn’t call us.

Recently, though, after almost two months, the Beckley’s service manager called me (my guess is that they saw the very honest 1-star review I had put on google about the dealership).  The service manager said he thought he had it figured out, and that he was willing to order the part he thought was failing, and he’d come to our house and switch out the part.  Nice enough offer, right?

Only, when Thor learned which part Beckley’s was ordering, they were like, waaaait a minute—Beckley’s already switched this part out a few months ago (or at least said they did).  No one has confidence in Beckley’s at this point, so Thor had us take the vehicle to a service center in Baltimore (read: an hour away—just keep piling on the time and mileage, guys).

That’s where it still sits.

I reminded Thor of their failure to uphold the terms of their limited warranty:

Furthermore, we are advising you that we believe that you have not upheld your terms of the warranty, which include that

TMC’s sole and exclusive obligation is to repair any covered defects discovered within the warranty coverage period if:

1)      Within 10 days of your discovery of a defect you notify TMC or an authorized dealership of the dealer.

2)      AND you deliver your motorhome to TMC or an authorized dealership (at your expense).

Since we the owners did advise Thor and/or the dealer of our issues—most importantly, the power issue—on multiple occasions, always within ten days of the issue occurring; and since we the owners of the vehicle also delivered the vehicle at our expense repeatedly, we met our obligations.  However, Thor failed to repair the vehicle on every occasion.  Thor has therefore failed to uphold its obligations set forth in the warranty.

At the writing of this letter, we have not yet received justification for Thor’s claim that Thor has not failed to uphold the warranty.

But there was no response to that.

I made multiple attempts to work this out with Thor directly, rather than involve an attorney.

In addition to multiple requests, from June through September, for a repurchase,

I told Thor that I was open to them repairing the vehicle and reimbursing us just over $8000, for the months of payments on a vehicle we can’t drive without jumpstarting, the insurance, mileage for vehicles going to and from (and to and from and to and from and to and from) service appointments, etc.  I didn’t go nuts, demanding compensation for mental anguish and all that jazz.  Just a straightforward, reasonable figure.

Nope.  They don’t want to take responsibility if it was an issue with the Ford chassis.

I told Thor that we were even willing to negotiate a replacement vehicle.

Nope.

When I mailed a letter to Ford, I received a canned response telling me that this is a dealer-level issue, so I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen now. We didn’t buy the vehicle from Ford, or from a Ford dealer—we bought it from Beckley’s, an authorized Thor dealer.  But I guess Thor doesn’t find themselves responsible for the vehicle as a whole, and for ensuring that the vehicle they release from the factory is in working order.

Remember that tally?  Add Ford to the list of who’s screwing us right now.

Anyway, my guess is, this vehicle is going to continue to sit on lots, not working, while we pay for it and everyone tries to pass the buck. I want to repeat these words:

We are paying over $700/month for a brand new vehicle that does not start on its own.

The situation has been reported to the Federal Trade Commission, as this violates the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

Thor is aware that they and Beckley’s have been reported to the FTC (and that they’d previously been reported to the Maryland Attorney General’s office).

The Thor warranty rep is nice enough, but Nice doesn’t fix our RV.

Nice doesn’t make up for us paying over $700/month to own an inoperable vehicle that has spent more time in service in the past six months than all of the cars we have ever owned, combined.

Nice doesn’t pay for the hotels and kennels now required if we want to travel.

Nice doesn’t help us afford to travel while also paying for the RV that was supposed to be our method of travel.

Nice doesn’t give us back the missed weekend getaways we’d planned.

Nice doesn’t give me a place to sleep for my next book appearance.

Nice doesn’t do *anything at all* to get the horrible taste of this situation out of our mouths.

Well, I’m done with Nice. I’m done with the Thor rep’s Nice, and I’m done with my own Nice.

So now I’m going to have to go with the attorney I met with last week, which is the very last thing I wanted to do.  I tried dealing with this directly for as long as possible, but in the end, I will have to pay $500 for someone’s fancy letterhead and their official threat of a lawsuit.  When I consulted with the lawyer, he shared my surprise that I continue to get the run-around on a brand.new.vehicle bought directly.from.the.dealer.  He said I had a viable case.  The Federal Trade Commission had already told me that a lawyer would be my best bet at this point, so everyone agrees: This is a shitty situation, we deserve resolution, and no one is resolving it.

Frankly, here’s the deal:

It doesn’t matter if the fault lies with Thor or with Ford.

The Thor Axis is the Thor Axis,

and it is not a vehicle you should purchase if you want peace of mind that

1) you will be able to go out to your vehicle and turn the key and start it, and/or

2) you won’t battle for month after month over being sold a lemon.

And if you’re new to RVs and don’t have a *lot* of time to devote to everything that can go wrong, just rent one. Don’t buy. Weigh the choices: a $5K vacation that you enjoy; or a 15-year mortgage payment for a vehicle that sits in a lot, broken down, while you KEEP PAYING FOR IT.

And the worst part is, if they repair it and return it to us, and even if they reimburse us (hah!), we are stuck with this flaming turd that I now hate.  I look at it and I hate it.  I look at pictures of it, and I hate it.

I look at the Thor name, and I get pissed.  I look at RVs, and I get pissed.  I watch the automatic payments get deducted every month from our account, and I get pissed.  I. Hate. This. RV.

So yeah, maybe they’ll fix it.  And then I’ll get to walk by it every single day as it sits out in my driveway, and I’ll be reminded of the 6+ months of battles, and paying for a vehicle that doesn’t work. Awesomesauce.

Anyway…that, my friends, is why I haven’t been blogging about Der Wanderbus.

Summary:

We are paying over $700/month for a brand new Thor Axis RV that will not start without a jump start.

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Category: Der Wanderbus, Travel, Uncategorized, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (1)

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  1. Just to add an update: Thor is still “evaluating” our vehicle. This latest trip to the shop began on 14 October and will be another week at least.

    Also, our bank has no consumer protection for cases like these–no dispute resolution process, no way to defer payments on a loan that isn’t 12 months old. So you have no choice to keep paying for your vehicle to sit in a lot.