Fleetwood’s folding camper subsidiary has quietly broken with years of tradition by extending its licensed Coleman brand name for the first time beyond the folding camper business to the expandable, hard-sided, travel trailer segment.

The hard-sided unit is called the Coleman Caravan and it quietly made its debut during October in Denver in two 25-foot floorplans – one containing a conventional slideout. Both floorplans have what Fleetwood calls a “solid-state master bed” contained in a slideout that extends over the hitch using the same three-point roller-bearing mechanism utilized in Coleman folding trailers.

“A lot of older Baby Boomers who are now empty nesters may not want to stay in a folding trailer, although they have had three or four or five of them over the years,” said Larry Marsh, director of sales and marketing for the Fleetwood Folding Trailer Inc. division. “Now, they want additional deluxe comforts and a solid-wall bath and a flush toilet – amenities that a travel trailer can offer that most folding trailers don’t. We eyed that market and decided we didn’t want to let our customers go elsewhere.”

The 25-foot Caravan is built with fiberglass sandwich sidewalls on a steel e-coated frame with a gvwr of 5,500 pounds. The Fleetwood Folding Trailer division intends to add three or four 23-foot or 25-foot floorplans to the Caravan for 2002, Marsh said.

“Right now, 25-foot is about where we want to be. It is a very popular and expanding end of the market that represents spaciousness and towability to the consumer,” Marsh said. “And there are a lot of larger SUVs, trucks and vans that can handle the size and the weight of the Caravan. We are targeting the Caravan at this larger percentage of tow vehicle owners.”

The Caravan, Marsh said, had been in the planning for two years. “Now that the market has softened, the Caravan is even more important as a brand extension to the Coleman line,” he added.

Through April, Fleetwood had placed the Caravan in more than 60 of the 300 dealerships that sell the Coleman brand. Fleetwood ships approximately 20,000 folding trailers each year.

Suggested retail for the Coleman Caravan is $15,250 without a slideout and $16,250 with a slideout room.