Monday, January 5, 2015

The Alfa Factory

We bought our Alfa motorhome in 2003 soon after I retired. Alfa had been in business several years selling fifth wheel trailers, but 2002 was their first motorhome model. When we started talking and thinking about retirement, we began looking at RVs. We wanted to sell our house and do some traveling, because we did not do much traveling during our working years. We flew to Vegas for a few days each year for several years and that was about it.

We were leaning toward buying a Safari Cheetah motorhome, until I saw the Alfa at Lone Star RV on I-45 north of Houston. The d├ęcor in the Cheetah and Alfa looked similar. The main difference was that the Cheetah had a gasoline engine and the Alfa was diesel. Since my vision was climbing mountains in Montana, the Alfa sounded like a better fit for us. It also had all the options included in the base price, plus a five-year warranty.

Since the Alfa was so new, many RV repair shops did not work on Alfas, so we had a trip to the factory included in our 2004 travel plans. We had several small items that needed repair, including a windshield replacement.

We said goodbye to our son, AJ in San Francisco on July 11, 2004 and stopped overnight at the Viking RV Park in Kingsburg, California on the way to the factory in Chino. We got to Chino on July 12th and checked in at the Alfa factory. It took us a while to get someone’s attention, but we finally found a service writer. Without asking what needed repair or why we were there he produced a service ticket proposal for $1,800. I helped Kathi up off the floor and gave him my complete attention. We negotiated the price to zero and we insisted on doing the work we wanted and not what his computer said we needed. The kicker was, if we left the RV for service, they kept it in a locked area and we were not allowed to stay in it while they made the repairs. Kathi was not happy, so obviously I could not be happy either. We reluctantly turned over our keys and went in search of a hotel or motel to stay for a few days.

We drove by the factory every day to see the progress on our motorhome. It did not move from the locked in area for four days. I am serious, no mechanic looked at it to find out what parts to order and no one seemed to care that we were spending big bucks for California living in accommodations we hated. Kathi was mad as a hornet before the third day and I was fuming quietly on the inside. Yeah, sure, quietly.

They kept our RV for ten days and actually worked on it less than four hours. We were ecstatic when they finally called and told us our RV was ready to pick up. The same service writer we saw when we came in for service presented us a bill for $1,800 and started reading down the list of work they had done. Everything that was on the original estimate was still there and the maintenance that was actually done was added at the end of the list. I had already talked to the mechanic supervisor to find out how repairs were made, so I knew what they had actually done. I could not talk directly to the mechanic, because none of their mechanics spoke English. The supervisor did all the troubleshooting and told his crew what and how to affect repairs. We got the money figures removed for the bill, but the service writer would not remove the other items. He just wrote a note saying recommended service was refused by the customer. For future reference, we marked factory repairs off our list.

Alfa RVs have a problem with sidewalls where the paint blisters and chips, leaving pock marks. Alfa lost the court battle over who was responsible for the sidewall issues, so they declared bankruptcy in April 2008. They closed their sales and service facilities and created a new company called Alfateers who sold Alfa parts to RV owners and repair shops.

This is the sad part of the story. My next post will discuss what we did for ten days while our Alfa was held for ransom. 

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