Ford Motor Co. will introduce a higher gross vehicle weight rated (GVWR) Class C motorhome chassis next spring, according to Ken Farr, recreational and commercial vehicle sales manager.

The new E-550 cut-away chassis will come in 17,500-pound and 19,000-pound GVWRs. That compares with the 14,050-pound GVWR for Ford’s E-450 chassis for Class C’s.

As of late October, there were Class C motorhome builders working on prototypes using the E-550 chassis. Consequently, Farr did not know how large of a Class C that motorhome builders could produce on the E-550.

However, he believes motorhome companies could use the E-550 to produce Class C’s that will “get into the bottom end of the Class A’s” in terms of size and features.

Farr is uncertain about whether Ford will have an E-550 chassis on display during the RV industry’s National Trade Show in Louisville in late November.

Otherwise, Ford was not planning to introduce any new Class A motorhome chassis in the coming months, and Farr admitted his outlook for the RV market is “not good. We (Ford) are guarded, but I’m not hearing a lot of positives.”

Ford continues to be the leading supplier of gas-engine Class A motorhome chassis, but the diesel engine segment of the Class A market has expanded from 34% during 1999 to 42.5% during the first seven months of this year.

Farr said he would not be surprised if diesel pushers continue to account for more than 40% of Class A sales, because diesel pusher buyers are more affluent, and thus are more immune to economic uncertainty, such as existed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

However, Farr added that the introduction of the E-550 Class C chassis should help Ford’s RV-industry related volume, despite the uncertain political and economic conditions.

One possibility he sees is bigger and more luxuriously equipped Class C’s built on the E-550 chassis appealing to potential rental market customers who would not feel intimidated about driving a larger RV.

Otherwise, dealer attitudes during the Louisville show will be a key indicator of industry’s near-term outlook, Farr added.