RVs have long had a doddering, unhip and mostly unglamorous image in American pop culture — think Randy Quaid’s home on wheels in the classic Christmas Vacation, a creaking, rusty bucket of bolts that was an eyesore and punch line throughout the film.
Harrison Ding is poised to forever change that image.
As reported by The Street, Ding’s firm, Global Caravan Technologies, has developed the world’s first carbon fiber RV (carbon fiber — as in the material typically used to make race cars and yachts.)
GCT’s new RV prototype is quite possibly the most luxurious, technology-packed and sporty RV to be introduced to the public (at least since Bill Murray’s heavily armed military recreational vehicle in Stripes). It’s a cross between James Bond sleek and Diddy luxurious, and prices will top out at well more than $1 million.
Those willing to drop six figures get an RV with walk-through bathrooms outfitted like a luxury Manhattan apartment, including oversize shower, separate toilet and full-size washer and dryer.
The vehicles have plush, spacious lounges that comfortably sit seven to eight people on custom leather sofas. The lounges get one the vehicle’s three folding smart TVs — the others are outside so you can indulge in open-air entertaining and in the master bedroom (which also has a queen-size bed).
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Carbon fiber is becoming more and more prevalent on production vehicles – look no further than the BMW i3 – but a new company headquartered in Speedway, Ind., is taking the ultra-light material to the next level.
As reported by Autoblog, soon consumers will be able to order a 35-foot-long, tow-behind RV made from a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and body. The company behind it is called Global Caravan Technologies, and it recently revealed the production-ready prototype of its CR-1 trailer.
GCT was founded in the summer of 2013, and design of the CR-1 began in September. The company worked with IndyCar Series racecar builder Dallara to develop the technology capable of building such massive pieces of carbon fiber for the monocoque. It’s still keeping the exact production process a secret. Company CEO Charles Hoefer tells Autoblog, “There are lots of patents involved and underway.” The production model will be shown in the fall, and sales will begin in the first quarter of 2015.
“We are forging a niche that hasn’t existed before,” said Hoefer about GCT. He predicts the production CR-1 will have a base weight of about 6,000 pounds, which the company claims is about half as much as a traditional RV of this size. For drivers, it means estimated fuel economy that’s 100 percent to 150 percent better than competitors. The body and monocoque are completely bonded with no screws or fasteners, which also makes the CR-1 one of the stiffest trailers available.
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Global Caravan Technologies (GCT) unveiled a prototype of its high-end carbon-fiber composite RV Thursday evening (March 6) in Speedway, Ind., the headquarters of the new company.
Chairman and President Harrison Ding said the 35-foot CR-1 Carbon travel trailer, when it enters production, will bring a new option to the top end of the RV market. “We’re proud to be part of this industry. Hopefully we will bring in new customers and expand the industry,” Ding told RVBUSINESS.com after the unveiling ceremony in the Dallara IndyCar showroom across the street from GCT’s factory. Dallara, along with Purdue University, has partnered with GCT to help get the new RV venture going.
Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, on hand for the introduction, told the GCT team, “I am excited to see a transformation to an industry that in Indiana we’re already very proud of, the RV industry.”
CEO Charles Hoefer said that after starting with a blank sheet of paper in September, it was a monumental effort to get the light-weight prototype ready for this week’s public unveiling on the southwest side of Indianapolis. The development team, drawing from the racing and aerospace industries, was able to get the prototype ready faster than some observers outside the industry expected — though the interior wasn’t quite ready to show yet.
“The RV industry does one thing very, very well: We build things faster and cheaper than just about any industry, and provide a good level of quality,” Hoefer said.
Hoefer noted that while a price in the high $100,000 range up to over $500,000 for a travel trailer or fifth-wheel – depending on size, trim level and amount of customization – is unprecedented, a retail price that low for a carbon-composite unit is also unprecedented. A 30-foot carbon-fiber boat would cost $3 million to $4 million, with the same amount of carbon as the CR-1 Carbon, which has a higher interior than standard RVs while it’s barely over 10 feet tall. “This is definitely a product targeted toward a niche in the luxury market,” he said. “We like to think if we can create something that whets the appetite of the consumer. It will benefit the RV market.”
GCT doesn’t have an exact date for production models — which should weigh about 6,500 pounds fully equipped — but plans to produce it “in the coming months” and then introduce a prototype fifth-wheel trailer in the fall of this year. “We’re targeting low-volume production, but in higher numbers,” Hoefer said.
After GCT completes its travel trailer and fifth-wheel, both towable by V-6-powered pickups, the company plans to add a motorhome in 2015, Hoefer told RVBUSINESS.com.
While the inside wasn’t ready for display, Hoefer said the rear of the unit will provide ample room to comfortably entertain eight people while the front bedroom — including a glass ceiling — has extra privacy in a floorplan, Hoefer maintains, the “industry hasn’t seen before.” The interior is taller than most RVs and will feature lots of leather. All windows can change from transparent to opaque with the push of a button, and the entire unit is Wi-Fi enabled and can be controlled from a tablet from anywhere in the world.
Ding likened the new RV to the 1984 introduction of the Macintosh computer by Apple’s Steve Jobs. “The start is customer experience, and we worked backward to innovation,” said Ding, educated in China and the U.S. and a former operations officer for Cisco and IBM. He compared the design to a race car without an engine or a jet airplane without wings.
So, is the industry ready for a $160,000 carbon fiber travel trailer? Dealer R.R. Anderson, owner of Anderson RV Center, who took a train from Topeka, Kan., to attend the Indy unveiling, thinks that might well be the case. “This isn’t an RV for the average buyer, but the average buyer will want to see it,” Anderson said. “They’ll have to see it in my showroom, because I’m not keeping it outside. It’s too valuable.”
Anderson, a friend of the Hoefer family, said Hoefer got “good genes” from his parents, and that his dad’s innovation in the RV industry — Dave Hoefer Sr. was a founder of Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. — has rubbed off on the younger Charles, who last worked with his father at Earthbound RV in Marion, Ind.
A futuristic luxury RV utilizing green technology will soon be on display to the public, as Global Caravan Technologies (GCT) today (Sept. 20) announced that collaborations are under way to introduce the world’s first carbon fiber RV, called ‘CR-1 Carbon.’ According to a press release, GCT’s collaborations include the advice and expertise of IndyCar manufacturer Dallara.
Designed with an aerospace and supercar-inspired monocoque structure and connected vehicle technology, GCT’s CR-1 Carbon is part of a series of upcoming product launches that will feature travel trailers and fifth-wheels, followed by motorhomes and specialty vehicles.
The CR-1 Carbon will be unveiled mid-December from Dallara’s IndyCar Factory showroom in Speedway, Ind., during the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show, held in Indianapolis.
GCT product ranges include CR travel trailers and CR5 fifth-wheels in Luxury, Limited, Carbon and Custom models featuring industry-first floorplans and options. CR/CR5 pricing is expected to start from around $160,000 MSRP to over $500,000 MSRP for custom models.
Fuel economy in tow will “improve by as much as 100%,” according to GCT, and much of the product is recyclable. Interiors of the CR/CR5 ranges are new for their price points and will feature large spaces with luxury appointments. Designed with long-term and luxury camping in mind, amenities such as full-height closets, tall ceilings, large walk-through master baths, oversized showers, washer and dryer, spacious kitchens, luxury flooring and private jet-inspired paneling are available.
Patent-pending exterior designs will reveal distinct body lines and new features for an RV.
Unique CR/CR5 amenities include DryCamp, which is a completely off-grid power system, as well as MyControl, an iPad power management system which wirelessly controls an entire RV.
GCT has strategically engaged firms from the automotive, aerospace and motorsports fields, including Dallara, the world’s largest producers of racing cars. Headquartered in Italy and the USA, Dallara is a consultant to advanced automotive and aerospace industries. GCT is integrating Dallara’s history of racing and composite expertise into RV manufacturing.
“For Dallara, helping GCT to design RVs applies our strengths in composites, learned from decades of experience in racing car competition,” said Dallara USA CEO Stefano DePonti. “It is fitting that Dallara is lending our advice and expertise to such a transformative project.”
The CR-1 Carbon’s design includes collaborations with international designers, as well as Cinimod Innovation, a firm managed by Keith Nagara, director of Lawrence Technological University’s Transportation Design Program. Danny White, director of Purdue Motorsports, is consulting to help GCT transform RV manufacturing, improving safety and standards.
GCT’s board and management team includes seven veteran executives from IT, automotive, RV and finance industries with extensive business experience throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, and are led by CEO Charles Hoefer, Jr. and President Husheng (Harrison) Ding.
Hoefer’s family legacy in RV and manufactured housing industries includes multiple No.1 selling brands and an “appetite for innovation.” Hoefer’s father, Dave, co-founded Dutchmen RV and Four Winds RV.
Ding’s Fortune 500 management experience includes Cisco and high level positions with IBM. At IBM, Ding led a team of 400 global supply chain professionals, managing an annual $10 billion spend worldwide. Ding was awarded China’s “Green IT Leader of the Year” in 2011.
GCT’s manufacturing system allows for efficient production of stock and custom models, as well as for a diverse product mix. “GCT specializes in consumer-driven solutions,” Hoefer said. “Our products meet specific needs, such as remote camping, tailgating, full-timing, high security and connectivity. We know consumer interests vary, and we can build one-of-a-kind and specific use products with automotive-level testing and validation.”
Ding’s focus on global partnerships eliminates seasonal downturns that are common to the RV industry. “GCT’s biggest competitive advantage is a global strategy leveraging partnerships across industries. Our product strategy is tailored for market acceptance in North America, Europe, and Australia, and also capitalizes on the high growth opportunity in China, where RV sales may approach the US in the coming decade,” Ding said.
GCT plans to make several more announcements in the upcoming weeks and months. To follow the CR-1 Carbon unveiling, visit www.gctrv.com/unveil.