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General Motors expects RV OEMs to begin debuting coaches in April on the new Chevrolet/Workhorse 14,050-pound GVWR Class C cutaway chassis. Ten prototypes were shipped to manufacturers in January.
“Production on the chassis will start in February, and we expect they will start showing up in coaches in April on dealers lots,” said Ross Hendrix, marketing director for GM commercial vans. “I think you will see some of the bigger guys (motorhome builders) turn on this quickly. There is now an option other than Ford in the market.”
Detroit-based GM and Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC., Highland Park, Ill., announced the unique partnership during the 2004 RV Trade Show in Louisville.
General Motors will build the cutaway chassis at its Wentzville (Mo.) Assembly Center, and sell it to OEMs. Workhorse, the leading manufacturer of Class A gas-powered chassis, will market the Class C chassis to dealers and consumers, train dealers’ sales staffs and promote the chassis at consumer RV shows.
“We are responsible for ‘pulling’ the chassis through the channels,” said Eric R. Schwartz, head of Workhorse business development. “We don’t want to leave it up to the OEMs to ‘push’ our chassis out the door. We want people to ask for our chassis and understand why they are going to pay more for it.
“We spend a lot of time working with dealers, and calling on the biggest guys directly. We will work with their sales forces to educate them about the differences and benefits of the Chevy/Workhorse chassis. Our marketing activity is what will pull this through the channel.”
GM and Workhorse contend the chassis will provide better gas mileage and performance than Ford, which has virtually owned the Class C cutaway chassis business in recent years because of the heavier GVWR’s.
In fact, until the Chevy/Workhorse partnership, Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., manufactured the only 14,050-pound GVWR Class C cutaway chassis for the RV market, and through September owned an 85.8% share of the retail Class C market, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich. “And they had 100% of the 14K market,” Hendrix noted. “It would be great if we got half of it. We have no reason to believe that we can’t do that.”
Chevrolet will continue to manufacture and market cutaway chassis with smaller 9,300- and 12,300-pound GVWRs, which accounted for Chevrolet’s 10.2% market share in September.
Hendrix said GM had not previously stepped up with a 14,050-pound GVWR chassis because of the size of the RV market compared to other segments of the auto giant’s markets.
“It was simply a matter of devoting the resources,” Hendrix said. “It is not a big segment of our market to be able to commit a large amount of our resources.”
And that’s where Workhorse came in.
Workhorse, which purchased Chevrolet’s Class A P-30 gas chassis business from General Motors in 1999, initiated the cutaway concept and did some of the front end engineering and analysis based on its experience with Class A platforms. GM completed the design and engineering.
Compared to Chevy’s 12,300-pound GVWR chassis, the new rail will have heavier duty front and rear suspension systems, upgraded and heavier duty electronic transmissions, beefed-up powertrain cooling packages, a higher capacity heavy-duty rear-axle, ride-enhancing rear-end stabilizer systems and heavier duty tires.
An extra large center aisle and recessed engine housing over the 6.1-liter, 330-hp Chevy Vortec V-8 engine will allow easier passage between the cab and the rear of the coach.
Service can be provided by any Chevrolet dealer and many of Workhorse’s more than 550 service centers.