Fleetwood/Coleman Popups History and Roof Issues
Fleetwood / Coleman Popup Campers are now a piece of history and "Out of Business". They have been succeeded by Somerset Campers, which acquired the designs and features.
The Fleetwood/Coleman factory in Somerset, PA was the largest in the world for popups, however they were likely impacted by the following factors:
- Major Roof Quality Issues from 1998-2006, on a small but important percentage of campers
- Recent Market trends toward larger vehicles and larger RVs than Pop Ups
- Followed by the Great Recession collapse in 2008
- A huge, high cost structure plant, that needed high volume to stay profitable
- Inability to reduce spending quickly in a recession
- Maintenance of a long history of unique parts for many historical models
Here are facts about the ownership:
1967 — The Coleman Co., Wichita, Kan., opens a trailer plant in Somerset, PA.
1989 — Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif., buys the Coleman plant.
1996-1997 - Fleetwood introduces the "ABS (Plastic) Strata Roof" that turns out to be a major debacle. Time proves that this roof blisters, cracks, leaks, and looks ugly. It looks like they tried to save cost by switching to a cheaper formula of chemicals in the ABS plastic and it was a huge mistake. Maybe only 10% or less of the campers were impacted, but that represents a large amount of warantee replacement roofs that reduces profits to losses quickly.
Here are links to photos of Fleetwood / Coleman Roofs with Quality Issues:
Cracks, blisters, delamination, etc.
Roof Sag, on ABS Roofs, before braces were added inside as standard
Leaks under Roof Rails on Alumitite Roofs
Corrosion from Steel screws on Aluminum Roof
Front Storage Trunk Leaks
(a problem until 2004 when they went to a full plastic trunk, instead of a chipboard floor integrated trunk)
Fleetwood/Coleman is not the only company with roof problems. Here are some other examples from competitors:
2003.5 - Fleetwood switches to the Alumatite roof, but again has another debacle by not ensuring quality control on placing silicon under the screws, causing more leaks
2003 — Fleetwood stops carrying the Coleman name to save license fees. Coleman tries to put their brand name on the Viking Popup Brand but is blocked in court by Fleetwood.
2004 — A business restructuring causes company officials to ask between 15 and 20 percent of the nonunion work force to choose between a factory floor job or being furloughed.
2007 - Fleetwood finally switches to a Filon Fiberglass roof, like larger RVs use.
Fleetwood's brochures state the following about roofs in 2006 - 2010:
All roofs feature durable aluminum exterior skins, folded along all four sides to provide greater side wall strength without additional seams. Competitors' brittle fiberglass skinned roofs require separate sidewalls and additional seams potentially prone to failure due to top latch forces.
[Editorial comment: This comment might indicate Fleetwood engineers' historical disdain for simple fiberglass, and search for something higher tech, like ABS Plastic, or at least stronger, like aluminum. Plenty of competitors did have problems with roof rot as photos above show, so the search for a better roof was a market need.]
• Americana, Highlander, and Evolution models feature an all-weather durable one-piece front to rear Filon exterior, with full length aluminum side reinforcements that integrate our exclusive roof rack tracks. For maintenance-free ownership, this roof employs no exposed caulking.
• Destiny and Element models feature our dependable aluminum exterior construction - folded along all four sides for added strength without added seams.
• Americana, Highlander, and Evolution (exc. Cobalt) series roofs feature a cambered, one-piece front to rear fiberglass skin, and full-length aluminum rails that integrate our exclusive roof rack tracks.
• Destiny roofs feature an aluminum skin folded along all four edges for added strength without side seams.
• Americana LE, Destiny, and Evolution Series Cobalt roofs feature durable aluminum exterior skins, folded along four sides to provide greater side wall strength without additional seams
• Highlander, Americana, and Evolution (exc. Cobalt) series roofs feature a cambered, one-piece, front to rear fiberglass skin, and full-length aluminum rails that integrate our exclusive roof rack tracks
• Americana LE, Destiny and Evolution Series roofs feature durable aluminum exterior skins, folded along four sides to provide greater side wall strength without additional seams.
• Highlander and Americana offer a one-piece seamless aluminum skin.
May 2008 — Folding Trailer Company Acquisition Inc. (FTCA), an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital Partners LLC, from Bethesda, Md., announces a buyout of Fleetwood Folding Trailers
August 2008 — FTCA announces products made at the Somerset plant will once again carry the Coleman name.
Jan. 19, 2011 - FTCA ceases operations at the Somerset plant
Editorial Note: Sometimes I wonder if the lawyers at Fleetwood Enterprises Inc, wanted to prevent Fleetwood customers from suing them for well known problems on the roofs of the campers, for a small but costly percentage of campers, so they found a creative way to "sell off" the division, so they could not be sued for honoring the warranties. I also wonder if some Fleetwood customers will ever mount a class action lawsuit against Fleetwood Enterprises Inc, which still makes high end RVs, to honor the warranties. It would probably have to be fought out in court since their lawyers would claim they sold all the obligations of the waranties to Blackstreet Capital, a "Limited Liability Corporation". Blackstreet Capital lawyers would argue that they did not make those warranties so they are not responsible either. Only their affiliate FTCA was obligated and FTCA declared bankruptcy in court, where their assets were divided up among the creditors. A jury would have to probably decide as part of a class action lawsuit if owners could pierce the veil into the original Fleetwood Enterprises Inc company. It would probably be a tough lawsuit to prove. The lawyers probably did their homework to make it difficult. Enough Fleetwood owners would have to have enough interest to initiate research into all of this. Probably owners with campers between the years 1996-2006 would be the ones to join together for such a lawsuit. Since my camper is a 2007 with a good roof, I would not be part of this group.
Here is more information from the local newspaper in Somerset, PA.
Click on this link for a discussion on Replacement Parts
Latest Breaking News!!!
Columbia Northwest introduces new line of pop-ups,
with former employees of Fleetwood/Coleman and similarities to Fleetwood/Colemans