By Marshall V. King
If you were to combine a commercial truck and a Class A motorhome, what you’d get is a Class C motorhome.
If you trick out that motorhome with the latest toys and gadgets, you get a Super C, and Renegade RV has made Super C manufacturing its specialty. The company in Bristol, Indiana, which in December became part of REV Group Inc., makes high performance trailers, commonly used as toy haulers for car enthusiasts or racing teams. It creates specialty vehicles to be used as mobile offices, classrooms or command centers. But the segment of Renegade’s business that is really booming is motorhomes.
“We’ve been enjoying an excellent market the last few years,” said Kevin Erdman, director of sales and marketing. Its 145 employees are producing up to 500 units a year, with retail registrations up 40 percent from 2015 to 2016 and up another 46 percent in 2016, he said.
Renegade is gaining momentum as people discover the benefits of motorhomes built on a commercial truck chassis. Their smaller Villagio and Vienna motorhomes, which are a newer extension of the product line, are 25 feet long and built on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis, while the larger Super Cs are built on commercial duty truck chassis and can go as long as 45 feet.
The larger units range from the Verona at the lower end of the Renegade scale, to the fully-loaded Ikon. No matter what unit it is, Renegade turns chassis from Freightliner, Volvo, International, and even occasionally Peterbilt, Kenworth and Western Star, into motorhomes. Some customers are buying them simply for living space. Others include garages, workshops or mud rooms.
What’s driving buyers to Class C units is the drivability, serviceability, safety and towing capacity, said Erdman.
Because a Class C has the cab, chassis, and engine of a commercial truck, it has a lower center of gravity, tracks straight and true, and is designed to be on the road 11 hours a day, he said. The wheels are in front of the driver and passenger. It’s extremely easy to drive and not much different from a large SUV, just longer, Erdman said.
When the engine needs servicing, it’s under a truck hood in front of the motorhome instead of inside the living space.
“It’s very, very easy to service,” he said, noting that it’s therefore easy to find service centers willing to work on them.
A steel bumper on the front and 11-inch steel rails running from front to back give the occupants strength and protection. Wooden floors built on top of a steel frame, with plenty of noise-deadening insulation in between, help create a quiet ride as enough power to pull a semi-trailer comes from under the hood. In the back, two drive axles help push the unit rather than just one on Class A’s.
While many Class A’s can tow only 10,000 to 15,000 pounds, the Class C motorhomes Renegade builds can be fully loaded and still tow from 20,000 to 30,000 pounds. “They can load all their favorite ‘stuff’ in a trailer and take it with them,” he said. One model will even tow up to 40,000 pounds.
When buying a Renegade Class C, customers get choices, including whether to include a washer/dryer combo or between a king and queen size bed. “They want beautiful tile on the floor, granite on the counter tops, no problem,” Erdman said.
Customers are choosing Renegade’s motorhomes that come with hand- laid tile floors, Aqua-Hot systems and radiant floor heat. Solid wood cabinets come in a variety of styles and finishes. Bose sound systems, 4K Samsung televisions, LED lights and power theater seating are all options. The Ikon, which can cost up to $750,000, even has a touchscreen system to control the lights, sound and power, but the family traveling in style can also use an iPad or iPhone, said Erdman.
Renegade’s full range of Super Cs attracts a wide range of customers. Some motorhome owners may be looking for more power or bigger water and fuel tanks and choose the Verona model. Others want more upscale features and choose the LE or XL. Someone into motorsports and customized spaces might opt for a Classic. The Ikon owner? “He’s the guy who wants all the luxury features. He wants something that’s truly different. And he wants it to drive great,” Erdman said.
In early March, Renegade is debuting a new model called Valencia that offers a bed over the cab and, in all, sleeping space for up to nine people. With a couple of competitors already in that segment, Renegade employees are excited to bring their own model to the market.
That’s likely to grow business even more and the company is already working to ramp up production to meet growing demand.
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