March '17

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16 • RV PRO • March 2017 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S Midwest Automotive Designs: The Luxury, Custom Class B Builder Elkhart-based Midwest Automotive Designs Corp. first made its mark over a decade ago with its business class of lim- ousines, now a staple in the industry. Founder Tim Gray and partner Jason Sullivan, vice president of operations, took the same design mentality into the Class B market in 2013 with the Weekender. The Weekender, built on the 24½-foot Sprinter 3500 chassis and equipped with a 6-cylinder diesel engine, had a full shower with marine toilet and a kitchenette. Key features included hand- rubbed wood finishes, custom-built furniture, king-size beds, multiplex electronic control systems and quality fit and finish. Base MSRP was $135,000. Their goal was to build one a week. Gray and Sullivan then stepped back and re-examained the Class B market. "We realized that many people buy RVs, but are not using them as RVs but more as destination vehicles to get from Point A to B in comfort and luxury," Sullivan says. "We realized that a lot of people just wanted (in their Class B) a bathroom and a place to sleep. They weren't using their shower or their generator. "We went back to the shop and came out early in 2014 with the Daycruiser, on a Sprinter 2500 chassis with a fold-down bed and some of the Weekender amenities with the toilet in the rear and minus a shower." Base MSRPs were $125,000. "We made our customers scratch their heads and ask them- selves, 'Do I really need a generator and shower?'" Sullivan says. "It took six to nine months for anybody to pay attention to it. No one could get their head around it," Sullivan says, somewhat chagrinned. "It was something new. No one had seen a modern van conversion with just a toilet. Just a few dealers took the initial product. Granted, the Daycruiser is not for everyone, but it is for folks who never intended to use a shower or generator. That's one reason for the B vans' recent success: Customers using the product not only as an RV." "Our buyers tend to be people who had a large Class A, but are looking for the same amenities in a Class B," says Sullivan, who joined Midwest five years ago. Midwest has some interesting options on its Weekender, including power window shades, deluxe seat massage, wood leather steering wheel, cradle point wireless Internet router for Verizon or ATT, Apple TV, satellite radio and a 12-volt Pro Air 60,000 BTU Heat and AC. "A lot of our dealers like the Pro Air option," he says, so much so that 85 percent of all units go out the door so equipped. Sullivan tested the effectiveness of the furnace in combina- tion with the Mercedes-Benz high-idle feature at a recent retail show. All Weekenders feature a X07 high-idle parametric special module, which is adjustable by the driver. He ran the engine through the night at 1,400 RPMs to power the furnace on the house battery. From a noise standpoint, this process was quieter than a standard generator. Figure 2 Class B Sales: 2012-2016 YEAR RETAIL SALES 2012 .......... 1,770 2013 ..........1,932 2014 ........ 2,486 2015 .........3,036 2016 ......... 3,224* * Through Nov. 30. Source: Statistical Surveys Inc. Midwest Automotive owns its own seating company, wood processing facility and in-house electronics integration department – allowing the RV maker to focus on its reputation as a high- end manufacturer.

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