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).
A startup frame builder in Kendallville, Ind., has received $755,000 in seed funding from Elevate Ventures and private investors.
According to a press release, officials with Wolfpack Chassis LLC have leased space to manufacture chassis and chassis components for the RV and manufactured housing markets, aiming to start production this winter. CEO Robert Frost hopes the operation can start producing prototypes within the next week.
The company is looking to hire about 20 skilled welders and frame builders to work on two assembly lines. Eventually Wolfpack plans to expand its manufacturing into trailers and Class A chassis, as well as other chassis-related components, including slideout mechanisms.
Elevate’s $9.5 million Indiana Angel Network Fund (IANF), the source of Elevate’s investment in Wolfpack Chassis, provides seed capital to companies that “show the promise of solid market potential and are capable of accelerated growth to high-value exits.”
The investment has provided Elevate with one seat on the Wolfpack Chassis board. Prior to the investment, Elevate’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) worked with company executives for some time to provide introductions to potential investors and offered information and resources to help them prepare for the seed investment round. The EIRs will continue to provide counsel to Wolfpack.
“It is very gratifying to receive financial support from Elevate Ventures,” said Frost. “In addition to the cash investment, it is extremely helpful to have professional guidance from their Entrepreneurs-In-Residence who can give us mentorship, introductions and a range of expertise.”
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C., will be introducing a new RV chassis and powertrain during the Nov. 29-Dec.2 National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
According to a press release, the exclusive chassis will “broaden FCCC’s industry-leading RV product lineup, ensuring that FCCC chassis can meet the needs of every customer.”
The company will hold and unveiling for media on Tuesday in the FCCC booth No. 2024 at 9:30 a.m. Bob Harbin, FCCC president and CEO, Tony Sippel, FCCC RV product manager and a guest speaker will speak during the event.
In the release, Freightliner stated: “Through the constant advancement of new chassis technologies, the RV industry presents an ever-developing landscape. And Freightliner, committed to innovation, driver comfort, maneuverability and reliability, has a reputation for continuing to deliver technology that sets the bar in the RV industry.”
Spartan Motors Inc. today (Oct. 28) reported improved sales and solid profitability for its 2010 third quarter.
The results also included the sale of the assets of its Road Rescue ambulance business for approximately $8 million. Spartan’s third quarter performance was highlighted by increased sales of specialty vehicles and motorhome products, and substantially reduced operating expense as a percentage of sales compared to the same quarter of 2009.
Third quarter highlights:
- Net sales of $120.6 million (up 39.7% from Q3 2009, which did not include Utilimaster).
- Gross margin of 16.4% of sales (down from 18.8% in Q3 2009).
- Operating expenses of 11.9% of sales (down from 15.8% in Q3 2009).
- Net earnings from continuing operations of $3.5 million (up 112.1% from Q3 2009).
- Cash balance of $16.7 million (up $6.5 million from Q2 2010).
- Debt of $15.3 million (down $5 million from Q2 2010).
- Consolidated backlog of $172.6 million (down from $205.7 million in Q2 2010).
- Motorhome sales show continued stability with sales in the quarter up 94% from the same quarter of 2009, and sequentially up 3% from the second quarter of 2010.
“We are pleased with our accomplishments in the quarter. Our focus on creating compelling products and driving growth in profitable markets continues to serve us well. Our profitable results were complemented by the sale of Road Rescue, which was completed well ahead of expectations. The improvements made to our cost structure earlier in the year – while very difficult – contributed greatly to our performance in the quarter,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors.
“Innovation is a core element of our culture, which continues to prove vital to our success at creating products for transforming markets and driving profitable market share. Our progress is evident as we recently showcased our 2010 emergency-response cab and chassis at the Fire-Rescue International Conference (FRI) with a 2010 EPA-certified Cummins diesel engine. In addition, the next-generation commercial vehicle and the N-Series gasoline chassis, generated through our new partnership with Isuzu, strategically position Spartan for significant long-term growth as we look to the delivery and service market.”
Spartan Motors Inc. today (July 23) reported strong second quarter operating results despite difficult macro-economic and market conditions, underscoring the long-term strength and success of the company’s agile and diverse business model, according to a press release.
Spartan’s second quarter performance was highlighted by increased sales of emergency rescue products, increased sales of service, parts and assemblies and improved gross margins compared to the same quarter of 2008.
For the quarter ended June 30, Spartan reported:
- Net sales of $124.3 million.
- Gross margin of 20.3% of sales.
- Return on invested capital of 12.1%.
- Consolidated backlog of $160.7 million.
“This was a good quarter, particularly in light of the short-term challenges facing our markets,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Motors. “Likewise, we’re equally pleased with the consistent performance through the first six months of the year and believe our proven ability to flex the business and align costs with current business trends bode well for the future.”
Meanwhile, Spartan Chassis’ sales to the Class A diesel motorhome market declined 92.3% year-over-year in the quarter, while backlog for RV chassis decreased 46.2% year-over-year to $6.7 million as of June 30.
“The current outlook for motorhomes remains tough, though we have seen a slight increase in demand for motorhome chassis in recent months and have increased our production accordingly,” said Sztykiel. “Spartan continues to position itself for the eventual recovery in the RV industry through product development and innovations to gain market share. More than a half million people continue to enjoy their RVs each day, an indication of how ingrained the RV lifestyle has become in our culture.”