In a segment of the auto industry where originality can be as rare as a pink paint job, Mercedes-Benz had cut out its own little corner of exclusivity: a big yet fuel-thrifty European-style commercial van line.
USA Today reported that the Sprinter van has proven to be a success since it arrived in 2003, initially under the Dodge brand when Daimler owned Chrysler and later under Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand. The Sprinter has also become a popular platform among Class B motorhome builders.
But now several competitors are on its doorsteps with competing tall, Euro-style vans for the U.S. and Mercedes-Benz hopes to fend them off and protect its turf with an all-new version of the Sprinter, the first redo since 2006.
When the new van arrives in the fall, it will sport a more serious-looking, work-oriented front-end styling. A four-cylinder diesel engine choice will be added for the U.S. in addition to the six, along with a raft of safety options. The van will be aimed at not only the plumbers, contractors and ice cream vendors who have been its mainstay market, but also for those who convert it for use as a small motorhome or executive van, where it has found a nice niche.
And it will still have a drawing card that none of its competitors can match: that three-pointed Mercedes-Benz badge on the front of the grille, made even a little bigger for the new one.
If anything, Mercedes executives see new Euro-style commercial van entries coming from Ford, Nissan and Chrysler’s Ram Truck division as an homage to their decision to bring Sprinter to the U.S. in the first place.
“For 10 years, we were the oddball in the van market. Now I truly believe we are the benchmark,” says Claus Tritt, general manager of Mercedes’ commercial vans in the U.S.
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“Rollin’ On TV” announced the addition of Canadian Class B builder Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd. as its newest sponsor.
Executive Director Jose Moniz reported that ROTV is currently working with Pleasure-Way CEO Dean Rumpel and his staff in producing a couple of TV commercials that will begin airing in April along with an active web ad tied directly to the TV spots.
“The new Pleasure-Way ads will air on all ROTV stations and networks throughout the country along with Direct TV and Dish Network,” said Moniz.
Pleasure-Way, a family owned and operated company, located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, began manufacturing van campers 27 years ago and has grown to be the second largest Class B motorhome manufacturer in North America.
The Era model from Winnebago Industries, Inc., has been recognized by Statistical Surveys Inc., a retail reporting service in Grand Rapids, Mich., as the No. 1 Class B motorhome model in North America with the largest volume growth in retail registrations during calendar 2012.
In the December report from Statistical Surveys, the Era model was listed as the top-selling Class B model for 2012, with market share of 16% compared to 7.6% in 2011. Winnebago’s volume growth was 167% above retail registrations for 2011 compared to industry growth of 28%.
“We have worked hard to develop a great Class B product, and the Era model growth reflects the product development successes we have had to date,” said Scott Degnan, Winnebago vice president of sales and product management. “Despite our success, we are not content to rest on our laurels. We are preparing to launch an exciting new product segment into Winnebago Industries’ Class B lineup at our upcoming Dealer Days event scheduled for April 29-31 in Las Vegas.”
He added, “We will continue to look for innovative changes that will enhance our products and anticipate even more excitement as we go forward. We congratulate our loyal employees for their dedicated service and our great dealer partners for making the Era a huge success in the Class B arena.”
Kitchener, Ontario-based Class B builder Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc. reported strong fourth quarter and year-end results, according to a press release.
“We are pleased with the strength of our revenue growth and profitability as we finished the year with strong operating performance,”said President Jim Hammill. “Roadtrek’s position in the improving RV market is the best it has been in five years. Our improved financial condition and flexibility has allowed us to focus engineering resources on product development, broaden our supply chain and sign new dealers in strategic locations.”
Hammill said that Roadtrek’s dealers also experienced a good year “with average sales per dealer up and significant gross profit improvements.”
Andy Weller, an operating principal at Industrial Opportunity Partners (IOP), Roadtrek’s majority shareholder, noted, “I am very happy with the accomplishments that were made in 2012 in product introductions, product improvements and quality. We focused on the customer and the changing marketplace and are very bullish on our brand’s position in the market as we look forward to 2013.”
Roadtrek recently introduced the new E-trek Class B on a Sprinter chassis, an environmentally responsible motorhome with solar, engine co-generation, fuel cell, and lithium battery options.
“The E-trek leads the way in the RV and van marketplace, focusing on addressing the environmental issues people have with motorhomes,” said Hammill. “Class B motorhomes are the most environmentally responsible motorhomes already and the E-trek takes it to the next level. With IOP’s confidence and support we will continue to lead the marketplace in engineering and manufacturing the best products in our market.”
New Great West Vans owner David DeBraga recently relocated from St. Andrews, Manitoba, to nearby Winnipeg after he bought the company in April from Martin H. Guertz, who was retiring.
It was a natural move because DeBraga owned another company that built running boards, doors and other fiberglass components for the transportation industry.
”Great West was one of our customers,” DeBraga said, sitting inside an elegant redesigned Legend SE Class B motorhome at the Louisville Show. ”The previous owner wanted to retire so we decided to buy the company and move it to Winnipeg.”
Great West now is housed in the same factory as DeBraga’s other company — Sterling Group — while continuing to build Class B motorhomes on the 11,500-pound GVWR Mercedes Benz Sprinter 3500 chassis powered by a high-mileage 188-hp diesel engine.
The New Great West camper van lineup — Legend, Legend SE and Legend EX — all have new exterior ground effects and redesigned interiors. ”We had an interior designer come in and go through all our color schemes,” Debraga said. ”We plan to keep technology and quality really high.”
Features in the 22-foot 9-inch Legend and upgraded Legend SE include solid wood cabinets, side screen doors, recessed LED lighting, Avonite countertops, laminate ”hardwood” floors and rear under-bed storage.
The Legend EX is built on a 24-foot 6-inch extended Sprinter chassis and offers additional seating options along with a hydronic heating and hot water system and an 85-watt solar panel. Base MSRPs run from $1165,000 for a Legend to $133,00 for a Legend EX.
A runner-up for RVBusiness magazine’s ”Best of Show” during the recent Louisville Show, the new 22-foot Pursuit B-plus style Class C motorhome from Pleasure-way Industries Ltd., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is the company’s first offering outside the camper van market. ”This is a new venture,” said Vice President Dean Rumple. ”It’s a big thing for us.” Initially offered with two floorplans — one with a cabover entertainment center, the other with a trundle bed arrangement — the Pursuit is built on a 12,500-pound Ford E-350 cutaway chassis powered by a 305-hp 6.8L V10 engine. Amenities include a stylish modern interior featuring Corian countertops and standup showers, LED lighting, ultraleather furniture, rear U-shaped lounge and maple cabinet doors. The Pursuit is built with molded one-piece fiberglass front and rear caps, fiberglass sidewalls bonded to a steel superstructure with a multiplex control system. The coach is also equipped with the RV|ID ”Smart RV” system featuring a web portal for each motorhome that can monitor inventory, service needs and even the location of the coach as it travels the country. ”Kids can log into their own portal and watch mom and dad tool around the country,” Rumple said.
Jackson Center Ohio-based Airstream Inc. announced that its Interstate Class B motorhome model will be available in Canada beginning in the spring 2013. The Airstream Interstate, built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, claimed the spot of No. 1 selling B-van model in the U.S. for 2011 and through September 2012 according to Statistical Surveys Inc.
The Interstate boasts over 50 best-in-class features that distinguish it in the marketplace, according to a press release. As a result, the Interstate has experienced tremendous growth in the US market, commanding 17% market share through the first nine months of 2012. Interstate sales are up 72% year-over-year in the United States, leading Airstream to discuss opportunities for expansion in Canada.
“The Interstate offers a unique blend of luxury, design and performance that we are confident will do well in the Canadian marketplace,” said Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler. “We see tremendous possibility in this region and look forward to a very active spring, when our Canadian customers can hit the open road in the Interstate for the first time.”
Airstream plans to meet with potential Canadian dealers at the 50th annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 27-29. At the show, the company will also debut a new nine-seat option for the Interstate, at the request of many dealers.
“As a result of our success in the United States, we have had several inquiries from both dealer and retail customers from Canada,” said Airstream General Manager Tim Garner. “We believe the combination of best in class product with progressive dealer programs will drive similar success in Canada and we look forward to discussing these opportunities with Canadian dealers in Louisville.”
For more information and dealership locations in Canada visit www.airstream.com .
Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd. will receive the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Quality Circle Award for 2012 during a ceremony on Nov. 26, just prior to the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
According to a press release, Pleasure-Way received marks well above the 80% qualifying percentage and was rated the top motorized manufacturer in North America for a third consecutive year in the 19th Annual Dealer Satisfaction Index Survey, administered by RVDA.
“We sincerely appreciate all the effort our dealer partners put forth,” said Dean Rumpel, CEO of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Pleasure-Way. “We take care to find and maintain an excellent dealer network. We believe this prestigious award speaks volumes for us as a company. It is especially gratifying to be recognized as top manufacturer in the industry. We are proud to be regarded so highly in our field. This award reinforces our core company values of hard work, superior quality, excellence in manufacturing and top-notch customer service.”
He added, “Without the commitment of our valuable and skilled employees, who really are the cornerstone of our company, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals of producing only the highest quality motorhomes.”
Rumpel noted that the Pleasure-Way would be displaying a 22-foot model in its new Class C B-plus style Pursuit line at the Louisville Show.
Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc. has introduced the new RS E-Trek Class B motorhome, built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis and incorporating the latest technology into Roadtrek’s best-selling RS platform.
“Roadtrek’s design incorporates technology that will give the owner greater ability to be independent, have full capability to dry camp for extended periods, all while being environmentally conscious,” said Jim Hammill, president of Kitchener, Ontario-based Roadtrek. “There has never been an RV like this, and we are extremely pleased to offer this new product. The introduction of this model is industry leading, environmentally responsible, all electric, all with no loss of functionality.”
The E-Trek was built using the most environmentally conscious materials that are e-certified, and are manufactured using high levels of recycled materials. Features include:
• Mercedes Sprinter Van (170-inch wheelbase), with Bluetec technology, and bio-diesel fuel capability.
• Propane-free operation.
• New Interior styling, including touring captains seats in second row.
• New exterior styling, full-body paint and tone-on-tone colors.
• 250-watt solar charging.
• EFOY fuel cell generator option.
• Engine generation using additional engine generator/alternator.
• 2500-watt Inverter.
• Surge protection and power monitoring.
• Optional lithium Ion batteries.
Andy Weller, Roadtrek’s co-chairman and CEO stated, “This unit utilizes the latest electrical capabilities available to achieve the environmental improvements and camping independence that our customers have been demanding. Our Engineering team has worked extremely hard to create something not just new, but actually a much different and easier product to use for the consumer.”
Roadtrek has begun manufacturing of the E-Trek and is taking orders through its dealer network.
Canadian builder Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd. announced the launch of it first B-Plus style Class C motorhome, the Pleasure-Way Pursuit.
According to a press release, the coach is built on Ford E350 dual rear-wheel cutaway chassis and offers several “special features,” including its 22-foot length.
“Building a B-plus was the next natural progression for us,” said Dean Rumpel, CEO of Saskatoon-based Pleasure-Way. “We received a lot of feedback from customers who love what we do but wished the Class B motorhome was just a little larger. The Pursuit is going to meet the needs of the consumer who doesn’t want to go up to a 24-foot motorhome but wants a little more than a traditional Class B.”
He added, “Aside from spaciousness and efficiency, one of our focuses in building the Pursuit was to produce a stunning interior with extraordinary features that you don’t normally see in a B-Plus motorhome.”
The Pursuit is constructed with a full steel cage that is welded together along with a one-piece seamless fiberglass roof. All fiberglass is bonded directly to the steel which eliminates the need for additional screws and moldings. Full-body paint completes the exterior of the Pursuit.
The interior of the coach is set off by use of rich hardwood maple throughout, including the fluted molding, custom solid wood cabinet doors and hand-fitted crown moldings. “You feel as if you have entered into a high end Class A motorhome,” said Rumpel.
Rich ultraleather encompasses the rear lounge and is lined with three inches of memory foam. The spacious bathroom showcases a beautiful Corian and glass curved corner shower and also features a skylight, maple cabinetry with crown moldings, a Corian vanity with matching Corian backsplash, porcelain toilet and a stainless steel sink complete with a waterfall single lever faucet.
Other standards on the Pursuit include multiplex wiring, which simplifies the electrical switches to three convenient panels, an Onan 4kw generator, a 13,500 Btu roof air conditioner, 32-inch LED TV, Blu-Ray player with built in Wi-Fi, Clarion in-dash navigation with Bluetooth, iPod and USB connections and a backup camera. Also standard are a 6-cubic-foot double door refrigerator with stainless steel front, LED lighting, unique computer work station, multiposition opening skylights with screen and shade, power day and night roller shades and a 12-foot power awning.
With an estimated 13-15 miles per gallon highway, the Pursuit is fuel efficient and easy to drive. Fully loaded, it retails for $103,870.
For more information contact John Mattern at (800) 364-0189 or visit www.pleasureway.com.