Our first stay in Indiana was in Nappanee, home of the Newmar Motorhomes. It’s not far from Elkhart, which many know as the capital of the RV industry. I thought about making the tile of this blog “Amish Buggies and Bikers” because we saw so many of them at this stay. I didn’t realize Northern Indiana had such a large Amish community, but they sure do. Also, it seems to be a popular spot for bikers – as in motorcycles – judging by how many we’d been seeing on the roads. Of course, the Amish ride bicycles too, so we saw horses and bicycles everywhere.
Nappanee was a cute and quiet town and the Amish presence was everywhere. Below are pictures of their water tower with the town slogan “Embrace the Pace” and a funny little building we saw everywhere which turned out to be covered parking for the horse and buggies.
The town is home to the Amish Acres and although we drove by it often, we never visited. Because this stay was all about motorhomes.
In hindsight, we probably should have scheduled a once-over with the Newmar service department while we had our motorhome at their facility, but on the other hand I doubt they would have found anything we don’t already know about. Even though we were only there for the tour of their plant, they told us there was no problem staying a few days at their factory parking lot. Free electricity – no problem – so we stayed longer than originally planned. We arrived on Thursday and left on Monday.
That gave us Friday to attend their factory tour. We went to the morning tour, so we could tour the nearby Thor factory on their afternoon tour. These two tours, along with our recent tour of Winnebago, gave us a lot to consider about the difference in companies and workmanship.
The first, and largest difference I’d like to talk about is the tour itself. Winnebago gave u access to limited areas of production. They had a knowledgable tour guide (a retired banker) but it wasn’t always easy to hear him above the noise. So the first thing that impressed me about the Newmar tour was the fact that we wore headsets to hear everything the tour guide said – even if we were in the back of the group. Also, we did a full tour of their assembly plant, seeing every stage of production. Thor, in contrast, had their tour after working hours, and it was presented by a Thor salesman so it seemed more like a sales pitch rather than an informational tour. And it was quite a bit briefer.
I’ve already given my thoughts on Winnebago, so I’ll keep this blog to comparing Newmar to Thor. That said, there really is no comparison! Here are my take-aways:
While we didn’t see Thor employees in action, their workstations were a mess. Sawdust, glue, scraps and screws littered the floors. To us, that says a lot about their craftsmanship and pride in work.
Newmar was the exact opposite. They even had a conveyor system under the floors to haul trash away, and there were brooms at every station (and used often). We were told (and you could tell) that they had a lot of pride in their work. Tom read that if someone did something wrong, the entire department would have to stay late to fix it. Their quality control was more than excellent, with the coaches being inspected at every phase of construction. Not just at the end as with the other companies.
Both companies used a system of hoisting the wheels onto air jack thing-ies and actually manually pushed the RV’s from station to station. I found that fascinating even if I can’t describe it properly. The wiring was done completely differently with Newmar pulling each wire through separately from big rolls, and Thor had all the wiring pre-cut and pre-assembled inside black wire harnesses. I’m not sure one is better than the other, but it was a significant difference.
Every company has its points of pride and will tell you they do this or that better than other companies. I don’t have the space or the knowledge (or the language!) to describe all the technical aspects. All I can say is that if you’re looking to invest in a high dollar motorhome, it would probably be worth your while to tour a few factories. They are quite different.
Since we were near Elkhart, we had to plan a trip to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and museum. We spent quite a bit of time there looking in all of their vintage RV’s and camping contraptions.
Some of the highlights were a $550,000 renovation on a GMC (that put in a washer dryer, but left out a stove or range), and a model of a motorhome factory.
Hopefully these pictures give you an idea of the assembly because it looks kind of like the factories we toured but were unable to photograph. Here is a sampling of the many other units they had on display:
It’s amazing how far we’ve come in comfortable driving:
Of course RV’s have gotten larger as well. Good thing because Tom could barely fit in some of them:
There was a model of a1994 Pace Arrow that Fleetwood had built to use for the exterior photographs in their sales brochures. Apparently it was less expensive to build than to take a unit off the production line for pictures. I wondered why they put so much money into those models!
I found these interesting as well. Are we Tin Can Tourists or Wheel People?
Now we move on to the great lakes. We plan on heading up the westside of the Michigan, another new state for us.
Peace & Love, Joy