Consumers in California and Florida have filed a lawsuit alleging that the manufacturers of Norcold brand gas absorption refrigerators used in RVs and boats knowingly sold defective refrigerators that posed a serious fire risk but hid that information from the public and federal regulators, according to a press release from the plaintiff’s attorneys, Zimmerman Reed, PLLP, Minneapolis.
The release states that the class action lawsuit filed Dec. 12 in Orange County, Calif., seeks relief on behalf of all persons who purchased or owned RVs or boats in California and Florida equipped with three models of Norcold-brand gas absorption refrigerators. The complaint names Norcold Inc., Thetford Corp. and Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation (DKM) as defendants.
“Although Norcold has not been officially served with the class action suit, we have in fact received a copy of the court filing as well as a copy of the press release issued by the attorneys who initiated the suit,” Norcold spokesman Larry Weis told RVBUSINESS.com via email on Thursday (Dec. 20). “We’ve referred the matter to our lawyers for review. On its surface, the claims are totally without merit. The suit apparently was filed in the Superior Court of California in Orange County. There’s no indication that a similar suit was filed in Florida.”
The lawsuit alleges that since 1999 Norcold’s refrigerators have caused at least 2,000 fires resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, personal injury and death.
“The refrigerators contain flammable gases under high pressure, including hydrogen,” plaintiffs’ attorneys state in the release. “The gases are heated by electricity or propane to circulate and provide the refrigeration effect. Fires are caused when defects in the refrigerator design release the flammable gases, which can then explosively ignite and spread quickly through the refrigerator compartment and into the passenger area of the RV.”
The lawsuit alleges that the companies knew of the potential fire hazard associated with these refrigerators, yet “tried to conceal and minimize these dangers through a series of limited manufacturer-initiated product safety recalls through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), beginning in 2000.”
Atwood Mobile Products LLC recently launched the industry’s only RV refrigerator that utilizes helium in the cooling system and an integrated tilt sensor.
According to a press release, the Atwood Helium Refrigerator is now standard equipment in several Keystone RV Co. towable products, including the Bullet, Passport and Hornet brands. The Helium Refrigerator is also available in the aftermarket through many of the major distributors around the country.
As the name suggests, helium gas has replaced hydrogen that is traditionally found in gas absorption refrigerators. The Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier said that helium allows the cooling system to run at a lower temperature, minimizing stress that can be caused by using a traditional gas absorption refrigerator. An exclusive integrated tilt sensor also provides a visual cue to the consumer showing if the refrigerator is in an “out-of-level situation.”
Atwood Helium Refrigerators are available in 7- and 8-cubic-foot class sizes. While both models provide the largest cubic foot of storage in their class, Atwood Helium Refrigerators are designed to fit other brands’ traditional 6- and 8-cubic-foot cabinet openings.
Atwood said the refrigerators also boast several standard upscale features including built-in door ajar alarm, designer blue crisper bins and LED lights, intuitive door handles and a modern display panel.
Ford’s RV Training Center, also the headquarters of the RV Referral Network (RVRN), has invited all RV refrigerator manufacturers to participate in an independent, side-by-side RV refrigerator evaluation.
According to a press release, Atwood Mobile Products LLC and Dometic Corp. will participate in the evaluation and have donated the required refrigerators and cooling units.
“This adventure has been inspired by the many questions RV owners have daily asked all of the members of the RVRN. Therefore, they will be evaluating these refrigerators with RV owners in mind,” said Roger Ford, co-owner with his wife Onna Lee of Ford’s RV Training Center, where the multiple stages of testing are being performed.
Ford said he anticipates the evaluation will have a positive impact for RV owners and the RV industry.
The Fords have 34 years of experience in the field. They have also scheduled the release of a 2012 edition of their third book about RV refrigerators that will be sent complimentary to more than 23,943 RV parks, campgrounds, clubs, dealers, repair centers and manufacturers throughout the United States and Canada.
For more information, visit www.rvrefrigeration.com.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels today (Aug. 4) joined executives from Dometic LLC, an international manufacturer of recreational vehicle accessories, and praised the company’s plans to expand its manufacturing operations at two northern Indiana plants, creating more than 350 combined jobs by 2012.
The company, which makes accessories ranging from air conditioners to sanitation systems for the RV market, will invest a combined $10 million to increase production capacity at its Elkhart and LaGrange manufacturing operations. That includes more than $6.8 million to move its refrigerator manufacturing operations from Sweden to a 150,000-square-foot facility in Elkhart, creating 241 new jobs, and $3 million to move production from a plant in Mexico, which was lost to a fire in April, to Dometic’s LaGrange facility, where it will increase manufacturing capacity of retractable RV awnings, creating 116 new jobs.
“We’ve never had a doubt. RVs will be back. Elkhart will be back, and will resume its place as a major center of economic strength for our state,” said Daniels.
The company currently employs 60 workers at its Elkhart operations and plans to begin hiring assembly, welding, maintenance and management associates immediately as the facility is prepared for production launch later in the fall.
“Our growth is a direct result of our product quality and the dedication of our associates. This new RV refrigerator factory in Elkhart allows us to serve over 70% of our customers located within a 50-mile radius,” said Doug Whyte, president of Dometic.
The company will sponsor a jobs fair early next month and plans to begin production by early November, Whyte said.
Daniels made a point that the two expansions were examples of Indiana insourcing jobs from other countries, and that the two Hoosier communities were in competition with cities in China and Mexico.
“Don’t tell me we can’t compete efficiently with the world,” Daniels said.
Elkhart’s (and Indiana’s) central location with excellent transportation connections make both ideal places to do business, Daniels added. He called Elkhart “a great part of Indiana to do business” and added that though the county fell fast and hard, “all the elements are there” for a strong recovery.
Daniels was cautious in predicting when the economy will turn around, however. He does not expect the economy to “roar back,” but he sees signs of an upturn.
Including today’s announcement, projects announced for Elkhart County so far this year are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs. That includes Electric Motors Corp. (EMC), a manufacturer of electric power drive systems for heavy trucks, which will partner with RV manufacturer Gulf Stream Coach Inc. to invest more than $80 million to establish manufacturing operations in nearby Wakarusa. The partnership holds the potential to create more than 1,600 new jobs.
EMC CEO Will Cashen was present for today’s press conference and drew praise from Daniels, who called his EMC plans “fantastic” news for the community.
Dometic, which was founded in 1958 as a division of Electrolux, now holds operations in 10 countries and employs more than 4,200 associates. In addition to refrigerators, the company manufactures retractable awnings, climate control systems and sanitation systems for the RV, automobile, heavy truck and marine markets.
Whyte said Dometic has made 35 acquisitions in the past 37 years and continues to look for other businesses to acquire to add value to its business.
“We are pleased that Dometic has selected Elkhart as the site for the relocation of its Swedish production facility. This announcement and the subsequent creation of up to 241 net new jobs to the area could not have come at a better time,” said Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore.
“While the job losses that we as a community have experienced over the past 16 months have had a negative impact on our local economy, I am confident that better times lay ahead. We are a resilient community which has both faced and overcome adversity in the past. By partnering with the state, the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County and the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, we will leverage this success and will work diligently to bring additional positive economic development news to the community,” Moore said.
Moore said the Dometic announcement was an example of the “great news to tell” President Obama who is scheduled to visit nearby Wakarusa, Ind., on Wednesday and announce major economic assistance for the county.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) offered Dometic LLC up to $1.1 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $320,000 in training grants across the two projects based on the company’s job creation plans. The Elkhart City Council late Monday approved additional property tax abatement for the project at the request of the Elkhart County Economic Development Corp. The town of LaGrange will consider additional property tax abatement.
“Dometic has been a great partner in the LaGrange community and we’re excited that they have chosen our county as the appropriate place to grow their operations,” said Keith Gillenwater, executive director of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. “We look forward to working with Dometic as they grow.”
The IEDC has at least four other deals on the table for new business ventures coming to Elkhart County, David Behr, senior project manager for the IEDC’s North Central Region, told RVBusiness.
Dometic Group is a customer driven, world-leading provider of leisure products for the caravan, motorhome, automotive, truck and marine markets. Dometic supplies the industry and aftermarket with a complete range of air conditioners, refrigerators, awnings, cookers, sanitation systems, lighting, mobile power equipments, comfort – and safety solutions, windows, doors and other equipment.