While Winnebago Industries, Inc. yesterday (April 30) unveiled an array of 2014 product lines at the Iowa-based company’s annual Dealer Days Event at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the most significant debut for some industry watchers was the unveiling of the first U.S. motorized RV built on Chrysler’s new 2014 Ram ProMaster van.
Winnebago’s new Class B is called the Travato.
The Ram ProMaster van, introduced early this year as an adaptation of the diminutive Italian Fiat Ducato platform, is the chassis of choice for European motorhome builders, and some industry observers have predicted that its entry into the U.S. market could signal a “sea change” in the RV chassis business.
Whether it amounts to that kind of impact or not, there’s really no question that the Class B and compact Class C motorhome markets are due for some changes with the entry of the Ram, the Ford Transit Van, an upgraded Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and other players like the Nissan NV. And it’s a sure bet that Winnebago’s 22-foot, front-wheel-drive Travato, part of a newly named Winnebago Touring Coach unit that also includes the Sprinter-based Era B-van, won’t be the last Ducato-based coach to surface in the U.S. RV market over the next year or two.
The Touring Coach line now joins the Winnebago and Itasca nameplates to make up the Iowa motorhome builder’s three motorized brands. “The Travato is a new fuel-efficient entry into the Class B market with fuel economy of 15-18 miles per gallon and represents another aggressive ‘industry first’ for Winnebago Industries,” the company stated in a press release.
The Ram ProMaster, on which production is to begin this fall in Mexico, is generally available with a 3.0-liter I-4 174-hp EcoDiesel or 280-hp 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and is built in 90- or 101-inch roof heights as well as three (118-, 136- and 150-inch) wheelbases and four body lengths, including chassis cab and cutaway versions. Gross combined weight ratings (GCWR) range from 11,500 to 12,500 pounds.
“We are jumping on that (Ducato-type motorhome) and expanding our products beyond the Era with new brand names still coming,” Winnebago Product Manager Russ Garfin told RVBUSINESS.com. “That market is poised for growth because of the new chassis that are going to be available. There will be a lot more choices for customers. That market has been underserved for quite some time because there have not been the exciting chassis to go along with it, with the Ford and the Chevy pretty much being old-school cargo vans.”
Another Winnebago “game changer” unveiled at Vegas is the new Winnebago Forza and Itasca Solei Class A’s, adding a “full-featured luxury diesel pusher at an extremely attractive price.” Initially available in two floorplans, these companion lines are powered by 340 hp Cummins engines and feature large pass-through storage and upgraded appliances.
“It’s ‘Game On’ for Winnebago Industries,” said Scott Degnan, vice president of sales and product management for Winnebago, which handed out an array of dealer awards at Las Vegas. “We have changed up the roster with new and exciting products and our dealer partners were extremely enthusiastic in their response to the new lineup. We were No. 1 in motorhome retail sales in the U.S. for 2012, and with the new products we have unveiled this week, we see that momentum continuing.”
Also unveiled in Vegas:
• To expand on the successful launch of the affordable Winnebago Vista and Itasca Sunstar 26HE gas Class A’s, which generated notable sales last year, Winnebago has added a 31KE model designed for couples or families with a U-shaped dinette, mid-coach TV and walk-around queen bed.
• Winnebago has also extended the Winnebago Minnie Winnie and Itasca Spirit Class C lineup introduced last year with the new Minnie Winnie Premier and Spirit Silver models, providing upscale features and deluxe graphics.
• In addition to a new Premium Roadside Assistance program, 2014 SunnyBrook, Sunset Creek, and Remington towable buyers get new exterior styling while the new Remington XLT has painted wrap-around fiberglass front caps with blue LED accent lights, black-trimmed grey sidewalls and optional frameless windows.
With the recent debut of the new Ram ProMaster, much of the focus in the van market has been on the full-size models and their studio apartment-sized cargo areas. But, according to a report by Truck Trend, not all businesses have the need for that much cargo capacity. Many have needs that are greater than the typical small or midsize SUV, but not as big as a full-size van. Fortunately, there are several on the market that meet those hauling needs.
The standard-bearer for the small hauler class in the U.S. is the Ford Transit Connect, and with a full top-to-bottom redesign coming for the 2014 model year, Ford shows no intentions of relinquishing that position. The Blue Oval is not alone in the segment, however — Nissan just unveiled the U.S.-spec NV200 compact van in Chicago, which closely matches the Ford’s dimensions and capacities in a more affordable, more basic package.
More intriguing in this market is Ram. Currently, Chrysler’s truck brand sells the Ram C/V, essentially a gutted Dodge Grand Caravan. With its brawny 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the C/V will likely be the choice of leadfooted delivery boys, but because it’s an adaptation of an existing passenger model rather than a clean-sheet design optimized for commercial duty, it’s a bit of a compromise. But those looking for a more economical and optimized vehicle from Ram may not have to wait much longer.
Much like the ProMaster is an Americanized Fiat Ducato, Chrysler has already confirmed that the smaller Fiat Doblo will be making its way across the Atlantic soon as well. Although not confirmed, some reports say the name has already been picked: ProMaster City. As with the ProMaster, there will probably be some detail changes in the Doblo’s configurations, options, and powertrains in its transition to Ram-hood, but put a cross-hatch grille on it you’ll get a good idea of what you’ll see probably less than a year from now.
To read the entire article, including a breakdown on specifications, click here.
The launch of Chrysler’s new 2014 Ram ProMaster van — on the Fiat Ducato platform — at the Chicago Auto Show today signaled a sea change in the RV chassis market in North America, according to a report by Examiner.com.
Going forward, North America’s Class B and compact Class C motorhome market is likely to be dominated by three European designed platforms; the Fiat Ducato, the Ford Transit Van and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – not forgetting other overseas players like the Nissan NV.
Based on the front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, the 2014 Ram ProMaster — the company’s first truck collaboration with Fiat Professional — will be offered with either the 3.0-liter I-4 174-hp EcoDiesel (that generates peak torque of 295 lb.-ft. at just 1,400 rpm) or the 280-hp 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (with peak torque of 260 lb.-ft.). The engines are paired, respectively, with an electronically controlled six-speed automated manual and a six-speed automatic transmission.
The ProMaster will be available in two roof heights (90 or 101 inches), three wheelbases (118, 136 and 150-inch), and four body lengths, including both a chassis cab and cutaway from the factory. The platform’s unibody frame architecture makes it significantly lighter than the competition with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) for the 3.6-liter V-6 of 11,500 pounds and 12,500 pounds for the 3.0-liter I-4 EcoDiesel.
According to Examiner.com, some standard features that RV conversion companies and their customers will find handy are the electronic stability control (ESC) system, the trailer/tow program — which comes standard with 62TE and the M40 automated manual — the ParkView backup camera and the five-inch touch screen global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation system.
Production of the 2014 Ram ProMaster is scheduled to begin at the Saltillo Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico, in the third quarter of 2013. The all new Ford Transit Van — manufactured at Ford’s Kansas City manufacturing facility and available in Q4 2013 — will also offer a diesel option – a 197-horsepower 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel (developing 347 lb.-ft. of torque).