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teck13 03-01-2018 10:30 PM

Why are the major class-B manufactures so out of touch and behind in U.S. market?
Let me elaborate.
Where the heck is the 4X4 Class B van made to get to mountain bike trail heads and then allow two to be comfortable and recharge after a long ride. No rock crawling or serious off-roading but a van that can easily go down most fire roads and forest service roads. White Rim Trail capable in Utah or maybe exploring Alaska one day meaning it’s also four seasons.

The market demand for Class B’s is changing but with the exception of Winnebago (kudos to them) the current class B offerings would not look that out of place in the 1970’s. Sure, the interior colors have changed and most have options for solar and lithium batteries but the interiors look more like a grandmother’s small apartment than a 2018 Camper or Adventure Van. Explain why I want the inside of my van to be covered in laminated, fragile “fake” wood cabinet doors everywhere? For goodness sake there are even vans with areas covered with pile carpet. Really? At least most of the cabinets have locking mechanisms but none have modular storage solutions so stuff won’t move all around as you drive along. Hello, stuff wants to move, even fly, around once the interstate and RV park are in the rear view. Yeah, I know, I can buy a hundred baskets to put stuff in – flexible sure but ad hoc too.

As many have noted, some of the European vans have much better and more contemporary styling inside but they are missing much of the functionality we American’s do like – microwaves and TVs and beds big enough for two larger folks. Then there is the brilliant Hymercar Grand Canyon but we can’t get it here.

And how many major manufacturers make a short wheelbase (144”) 4X4 class B for the U.S. market? Two. Roadtrek, offers one yet they combine it with wall to wall cabinets, galley on the driver’s side, and mixed quality. How do two couples hang out in an Agile, jam three across the back Sofa? Come on, at least make the wardrobe a delete option. The Ascent is a much better design (still too grandma like) but much more open and usable, plus higher quality. Alas, no 4X4 option.

The Revel is cool. A little surprising coming from Winnebago but totally the right direction. I can see hard core adventure types gobbling theses up and I guess they are. Insane long wait to get one and not going to be much in the way of discounts until supply catches up with demand. The target for the Revel is hardcore adventure types and that make sense but I wonder how many Millennials or Gen X’ers have that kind of disposable income outside of the lucky ones coding for a living? Boomers would probably like an option to actually cook in the kitchen, store a few things, and maybe a way to keep Fido cool if he needs to hang out in the van. Plus, if I have to take the bikes out of the “garage” to put the bed down where do the bikes go – on a bike rack – OK but then what’s all that space for - the portable propane stove and microwave to be able to cook (only half kidding)? Just hoping Winnebago adds some more options in the 2020 version.

If I was king for a day I’d start out with Pleasure Way’s basic layout which seems to make the right compromises, galley side kitchen, usable sized bath, comfortable seating for four in back. Add 4X4 with capable tires and wheels. Add Roadtrek’s solar and lithium batteries and “VoltStart” system with under hood generator. Add Revel’s cool rack and ladder system on top expect with rollers so there is a way to actually easily load and unload a kayak or SUP. Critically, add Revel’s or Sportsmobile’s insulation and winter proofing designs/builds for all season use.

How about an interior that is more dirt, dog, and adventure resistant than grandma’s place? More metal, real wood, and cool made-made materials. Make the interior more form follows function, a mini version of the Unicat or Unimog. Comfortable but tough and more life, adventure and dog proof. Somewhere between an Advanced RV and the Revel. Finally, since it seems just about everyone takes their bikes with them, how about building in an air compressor – I know, now I am just asking for too much.

Most frustrating is that Roadtreks’s parent company, Hymer, makes the brilliant Grand Canyon for the European market but we don’t get that unit here, we get our grandparent’s Agile. The Grand Canyon can be ordered with 4X4, includes double pane windows, some suggest it’s reasonabley winter ready, a usable two burner cooktop, a really great sized fridge AND a bathroom of usable size. Plus, once the bed is folded up, a place for a Kayak/SUP or a bike or two. When folded down there’s still room underneath for a dog. The only thing missing is a microwave and with all that’s included who cares. Why the hell can’t we get that model here. No one knows. Or least no one is saying. We need to sell our high margin Roadtreks, thank you anyway.

What’s crazy is that the custom adventure van companies (Sportsmobile, Outside Van, Advanced RV, etc.) have one to two year waits for their vehicles but majors keep cranking out the same ol’ stuff. That will work a few more years until most of the Boomers drive off into the sunset. Then what? I don’t think the U.S. government is going to bail out the RV van companies for lack of foresight and shoddy long-term planning. Somebody, and right now it looks like Winnebago, is going to figure this out and own it and make zillions in the process.

Unfortunately, I am a Boomer so not sure I can wait that long for the majors to get it together. I must either settle for something available now or order something custom and spend just crazy money. Neither is appealing.
Anybody have any good suggestions of thoughts regarding the best way to proceed? Wife, our big white dog and I would appreciate it.

Bruceper 03-01-2018 10:55 PM

In my opinion, there are two issues

1) They are the way they are because people tolerate it and don't tell them what they really want.
2) Because of the cost, class B's are not marketed to the younger crowd. It is an older market who doesn't want the things you talk about.

I believe we need more companies to make van conversions like they did in the 80's but much more modern of course. Adventure type vehicles without the thousand pounds of cabinets and other things that aren't needed. Make them modular so a shower can be added or removed, or a galley or cupboards etc. Put it all in a 4x4 van and I'll bet they come calling.

avanti 03-01-2018 11:02 PM

What I would like to see is a "roughed in" van that came with windows, ceiling vent, a pre-installed bathroom and a few other hard-to-DIY things. I think a lot of people would buy such a unit and finish it out themselves.

JakeyLee 03-01-2018 11:15 PM

It's all about the Benjamins at this point. The vast majority of rigs are still being purchased by boomers. As the gen exers and millennials start increasing their purchasing power, the old "fake wood" look will start to take a back seat. The Aktiv, and Revel are just glimpses of whats to come. Curiously, they both have that half bench/love seat thing that looks better in pics than it does in real life. Or should I say, not comfortable /usable. But I digress.

I think youre on to something with that Revel. I think we will start to see similar rigs from the other companies. I'm just hoping there's more than the 21 gallon fresh water capacity that Winnebago has been pushing on us lately. But once again, I digress.

JakeyLee 03-01-2018 11:20 PM

...and speaking of the Revel. I gave it a good once over a few weeks back. The floors reminded me of a police car I drove for many years... I would open the back doors and literally hose out blood, crap, and urine. There was never damage to interior, floors, etc.. It was one of those, "how did it take so long for someone to think about this?" Genius... Absolute genius idea.

GeorgeRa 03-01-2018 11:25 PM

I think there is another glaringly unsupported market for young families. It was covered in the past with Westfalia, including 4-wheel drive, but got killed by Daimler’s Westfalia acquisition and manufacturers pushing SUV purging the market from VW Westfalias.

European campers are modern, manufactured in well-engineered manufacturing plants where they understand the meaning of the statistical process control.

We have smaller or bigger mom and pop shops, from Outside Vans, Van Specialties, Mr. Hyde side of Hymer (Dr. Jekyll side of Hymer stayed in EU) or Winnebago. Fit and finish is from sixties, no modern plastic molding trim.

Unfortunately, European manufactures only love our names - California or Grand Canyon but no show.

In 2013 we wanted to reduce RV size to a van, lack of openness, low quality, style which we didn’t like forced us to DIY. We like what we have but would prefer to get a modern EU style van. I spend a few month every year in EU, drooling.

jrobe 03-02-2018 12:33 AM

If I owned any American business, the last business model I would choose would be to sell a luxury item to 20 to 40 year olds that cost over $100,000.

cruising7388 03-02-2018 01:03 AM


Originally Posted by teck13 (Post 68475)
Unfortunately, I am a Boomer so not sure I can wait that long for the majors to get it together. I must either settle for something available now or order something custom and spend just crazy money. Neither is appealing.
Anybody have any good suggestions of thoughts regarding the best way to proceed? Wife, our big white dog and I would appreciate it.

Great post with valid criticisms, but I doubt the accuracy of your status as a Boomer because truly authentic Boomers have fully absorbed the wisdom contained in those prophetic Rolling Stone lyrics:

No, you can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need.

Davydd 03-02-2018 01:07 AM

The grass is always greener syndrome.

Different market in Europe and different taste whether you think it or not. And just different material suppliers.

Class Bs are a minor market for RVing in the US. The money is in bigger RVs as well as the overwhelming numbers sold because of our infrastructure and travel habits.

You don't think the companies investigate the available market? They do have to make money and making money decides.

As much as you think it, bikes are not a major consideration. Advanced RV's owner is a major biking enthusiast but I haven't seen many vans go out of there built for bikes.

I agree with JakeyLee's comment: "Curiously, they both have that half bench/love seat thing that looks better in pics than it does in real life. Or should I say, not comfortable /usable." Just about every European van is like this and is an extreme waste of space for two people 99% of the time. They are stodgy and unmovable in design as the Americans.

But I didn't agonize or wait. I had built exactly what I wanted now four years ago technologically more advanced than anything on the market in Europe to this day.

JakeyLee 03-02-2018 01:29 AM

Davydd, you might be onto something. I have a very close friend from college (25 years ago?).. He's lived and worked in Germany/ Switzerland his whole life. He and his wife are avid RVers (class B). When he visited last month, I took him to an RV show here in Northern California. All I heard from him was "why can't they build these kind of RVs in Europe??". Don't get me wrong... He looked at a bunch of Pleasure-ways, RTs, and other assorted tricked out class B's. most of the big names were there. At any rate, he and his wife felt the spaces were more usable and livable. Meh, I didn't argue, as I'm not as knowledgable I the class B world. But it struck a chord in me. Sometimes utilitarian is anything but ...and sometimes the grass IS always greener on the other side. But seriously, if I see another rig with fake cherry laminate, I'm gonna tell someone who cares. *sound of crickets*

On a side note, I've been reading up on Alvar. She's a beauty.. Er, I mean, he.

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