Reputations and Resale Values

One of the less-admitted aspects of getting information in the internet is that almost nothing from that source is unbiased. There are homers and haters and everything in-between and many of the people providing assistance—technical or emotional—have a vested interest in keeping the faith regarding the thing they are discussing.

For instance, this RV thing in which I am currently struggling my way across a tiny part of the country.

There is a fair body of information on the net about the incompetence of VW authorized service centers and more than enough sad stories of people who invested their life savings in one-or-another of Winnebago’s various hillbilly trailers with motors and ended up either going to work as Wal-Mart greeters or turning Winnebago maintenance into their life’s work. I’m not interested in either option and after experiencing “Winnebago quality” I’m convinced that if Polaris does move their manufacturing from Iowa to Mexico it would be a good thing for Polaris owners. Outside of a couple of brands of whiskey, I’m unconvinced that anything good is made in Iowa. Monsanto owns the damn place and they can keep it, for all I care. If Ioweegans eat enough of that GMO crap, maybe they’ll eventually mutate into electricians, welders, technicians, and engineers.

On the other side of the scale are the homers. Typical of their mindset is a comment someone posted after I’d listed my battle to get my RV back on the road, “in  my opinion there is too much “fright mongering” on the site.  it a wonder than anyone would buy a Rialta with all the chatter about its limitations.” The VW and Winnebago problems are not a secret, though. When I was in an Albuquerque Harbor Freight, two weeks ago, buying a siphon pump, an older-that-me guy asked, “Is that your Rialta out there?” He, then, went on to ask if the motor and transmission were as unreliable as he’d heard. After the last two weeks, I couldn’t deny the facts. He owned a Dodge-powered Class C that he said got 14mpg “going slow” and wasn’t at all tempted to experiment with VW.  That’s 4mpg less than me with a good bit more horsepower and towing capacity AND no VW service problems. If I were an RV-kind-of-guy, that would be incredibly temping right now.

As for the “fright mongering,” I thought I’d done a fair amount of research on the Rialta and VW power train service issues, but there clearly wasn’t enough information out there about both ends of the vehicle or I just didn’t find it. “Fright mongering” could be interpreted as solid information from a buyer’s perspective. I would be in a different situation if I’d have realized how useless VW’s service is and how much most independent mechanics dislike working on modern VW products.  The first bit of information was pretty well known, I didn’t discover the second until I needed service. Even the “experts” on VWs dislike the company, their dealers, and their distribution network.

Back in the 60’s, I hung out with a group of British vehicle owners (cars and motorcycles) in Dallas. In the group, we joked about Lucas being “the man who invented darkness,” Brits being incapable of casting any sort of material that could contain fluids, and Weber fuel systems that were more suited for starting fires than metering gasoline. Of course, when we tried to sell our “bricks with wheels,” none of this was mentioned. Protecting the “Rialta image” is suspiciously close to that experience. 

As motorcyclists, we all know of a few Euro-trash brands that need the same kind of image protection. I’ll refrain from naming names, but even the “king of adventure touring” has suffered some fractures in that over-priced reputation in recent years. Nobody is more unwilling to admit that king is naked and has a tiny penis than those folks. Those of us who have know dedicated Euro-trash owners, watch their gyrations to “prove” the superiority of their sad, underpowered, over-priced, rarely-ridden bikes with amusement. Like those 1960’s Brit-vehicle owners, their need to get back some of the fortune they’ve “invested” in their bikes is pretty funny, too. If you have $18,000 plus interest plus another $15,000 in maintenance costs wrapped up in your overweight, wider-than-a-Goldwing, hippo-dirtbike, you gotta get at least $15,000 out of your investment, right?

I think someone needs to have the word “investment” explained in simple terms. The rest of us need to know that searching the internet for real information about the maintenance costs, reliability, and serviceability of any sort of vehicle is scary business. In the meantime, does anyone want to buy my brilliantly designed, “made-in-America” except for the parts that were made by white-coated, anally-retentive German engineers, economical (18.5mpg, so far), and stylish Winnebago Rialta Motorhome for the low, low price of $25,000? You know where to find me.

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