Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Considering our options

When we canceled the order for our 2016 Newmar Dutch Star 4369 because of some weight issues and uncertainty about the solution, we knew that there were just a few paths we could take:
  1. Wait and see if they would fix it in the 2016 model.
  2. Wait to order the 2017 model - if the problems were fixed (to our satisfaction)
  3. Look for something from another manufacturer
  4. Order an earlier but similar model of the same type
After a lot of discussion, reading every post we could find in the forums and scouring the Internet for information, we came to the following conclusions about each of these options.

Wait for a "fix" to the 2016

For us, this option was full of potential "gotchas".  First and foremost, the proportional valve solution being investigated by Newmar and Freightliner may or may not solve the problem.  Everyone thinks that it will take some weight off the problematic front axle, but it will add weight to the other axles.  That might not be so bad, except that quite a few people believe that the most weight that could be taken from the front is 200-400 pounds.  Typical weights with full fuel, water tanks, people and a reasonable amount of cargo are right up to the maximum 17,000 pounds - or they are exceeding it by several hundred pounds.  There isn't much margin, and a lot of people think that the "solution" is merely a band aid.

Another aspect of this possible resolution is that Newmar Customer Service management called quite a few customers in mid-November and told them that Freightliner was going to take "10 to 12 weeks" to develop a solution.  Once Newmar has Freightliner's part, they have to test it.  Simple math shows that Newmar isn't likely to begin testing until mid-to-late February.  By the time it's tested and available, it seemed to me that we wouldn't get the word (good or bad) until late March at the earliest.  If you try to re-start your 2016 order in late March, you risk them not having enough chassis.  And besides, you can order the 2017's beginning just 8 weeks after that.  If we were going to opt for this path, we may as well just wait and order a 2017.  Scrap this option.

Wait to order the 2017 model

This is a good, viable option for those willing to wait - with one big caveat.  Newmar hasn't announced what they're doing to the 17's and customer service basically says they don't know yet how the axle weight issues will be resolved in the 17's. 

Simply put, if we opted to wait for the 17's, it would be May before we'd know what they did.  And if the solution was reasonable, it would likely be next October before we could take delivery of one.   Lots of ifs and maybe's.  As a matter of fact, too many.   If the 17's are like any other year, we'll likely see a jump in the price, too.  

We aren't willing to wait another year and see.  Pass on this option.

Look for something from another manufacturer

In the same price range as the 2016 Dutch Stars and of comparable build quality and customer satisfaction are Entegra and Tiffin RVs.  If you spend some serious time reading Facegroup groups like Big Rig RVs and Full-Time RVer, and following the topics in forums like irv2's Newmar Owners Forum, you'll soon discover that Entegra is appreciated for their build quality (similar in many ways to Newmar's) and Tiffin seems to have many devoted and very satisfied customers.  If we were to start looking at other manufacturer's, we would certainly begin with these two.

Taking this path is difficult because we have invested so much time in studying Newmar and its products.  Despite the current problems with the front axle GAWR and the overall weight issue, we know that they build a quality coach and are normally very responsive to their customers.  Starting over is daunting.  We originally looked at all of the major manufacturers, including these two.  But we kept coming back to Newmar for a reason.

Order an earlier model of the same type

More than a year ago, we decided that the coach we really wanted and preferred above all others was the Dutch Star.  We visited some dealers and then went to the show in Tampa and felt sure that either the model 4018 or the 4369 was the coach we wanted to buy.  After lots of walk-throughs, a lot of research, and discussions with owners, we locked our sights onto the 4369.  It seemed like the perfect floor plan and it had a phenomenal chassis.

We really hated to see the coach we wanted slip through our fingers because of a technical glitch.  Maybe it makes sense to buy a used pre-2016 model.  We could save some money and still get the same floorplan and basic chassis features we wanted.

The biggest problem would be giving up things like the 2016's emergency door and tag axle - not to mention all of the specials we planned to order.  But we want to get a coach.  It must be safe, without us feeling like we have to pay attention every time we add new cargo or invite an extra passenger.  We want a Dutch Star, and we love the 4369.  And, after all, we felt this way as we walked through all of the 2015's we saw at the 2015 Tampa Show and soon thereafter at some dealers.  

We'll trade some of the new features for confidence in the safety of our coach and enough savings to customize it as much as we want.

After a lot of discussion, this is what we decided to do.  We knew that there were still a few new 2015's out there, so we concentrated our search efforts on new 2015 Dutch Star 4369's.  The question was whether or not we could find one that had the features (floor plan, furniture, and colors) we've been wanting.  

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