Global Caravan Technologies (GCT) unveiled a prototype of its high-end carbon-fiber composite RV Thursday evening (March 6) in Speedway, Ind., the headquarters of the new company.
Chairman and President Harrison Ding said the 35-foot CR-1 Carbon travel trailer, when it enters production, will bring a new option to the top end of the RV market. “We’re proud to be part of this industry. Hopefully we will bring in new customers and expand the industry,” Ding told RVBUSINESS.com after the unveiling ceremony in the Dallara IndyCar showroom across the street from GCT’s factory. Dallara, along with Purdue University, has partnered with GCT to help get the new RV venture going.
Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, on hand for the introduction, told the GCT team, “I am excited to see a transformation to an industry that in Indiana we’re already very proud of, the RV industry.”
CEO Charles Hoefer said that after starting with a blank sheet of paper in September, it was a monumental effort to get the light-weight prototype ready for this week’s public unveiling on the southwest side of Indianapolis. The development team, drawing from the racing and aerospace industries, was able to get the prototype ready faster than some observers outside the industry expected — though the interior wasn’t quite ready to show yet.
“The RV industry does one thing very, very well: We build things faster and cheaper than just about any industry, and provide a good level of quality,” Hoefer said.
Hoefer noted that while a price in the high $100,000 range up to over $500,000 for a travel trailer or fifth-wheel – depending on size, trim level and amount of customization – is unprecedented, a retail price that low for a carbon-composite unit is also unprecedented. A 30-foot carbon-fiber boat would cost $3 million to $4 million, with the same amount of carbon as the CR-1 Carbon, which has a higher interior than standard RVs while it’s barely over 10 feet tall. “This is definitely a product targeted toward a niche in the luxury market,” he said. “We like to think if we can create something that whets the appetite of the consumer. It will benefit the RV market.”
GCT doesn’t have an exact date for production models — which should weigh about 6,500 pounds fully equipped — but plans to produce it “in the coming months” and then introduce a prototype fifth-wheel trailer in the fall of this year. “We’re targeting low-volume production, but in higher numbers,” Hoefer said.
After GCT completes its travel trailer and fifth-wheel, both towable by V-6-powered pickups, the company plans to add a motorhome in 2015, Hoefer told RVBUSINESS.com.
While the inside wasn’t ready for display, Hoefer said the rear of the unit will provide ample room to comfortably entertain eight people while the front bedroom — including a glass ceiling — has extra privacy in a floorplan, Hoefer maintains, the “industry hasn’t seen before.” The interior is taller than most RVs and will feature lots of leather. All windows can change from transparent to opaque with the push of a button, and the entire unit is Wi-Fi enabled and can be controlled from a tablet from anywhere in the world.
Ding likened the new RV to the 1984 introduction of the Macintosh computer by Apple’s Steve Jobs. “The start is customer experience, and we worked backward to innovation,” said Ding, educated in China and the U.S. and a former operations officer for Cisco and IBM. He compared the design to a race car without an engine or a jet airplane without wings.
So, is the industry ready for a $160,000 carbon fiber travel trailer? Dealer R.R. Anderson, owner of Anderson RV Center, who took a train from Topeka, Kan., to attend the Indy unveiling, thinks that might well be the case. “This isn’t an RV for the average buyer, but the average buyer will want to see it,” Anderson said. “They’ll have to see it in my showroom, because I’m not keeping it outside. It’s too valuable.”
Anderson, a friend of the Hoefer family, said Hoefer got “good genes” from his parents, and that his dad’s innovation in the RV industry — Dave Hoefer Sr. was a founder of Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. — has rubbed off on the younger Charles, who last worked with his father at Earthbound RV in Marion, Ind.