A new class of RV — a specialty chassis integrated with a custom cap or cockpit — was unveiled Tuesday (Dec. 1) at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Spartan Chassis Inc., a subsidiary of Spartan Motors Inc., calls the company’s latest innovation, the Next Generation Platform (NGP), a new class in RV platforms and is displaying the invention in Booth No. 2024 – East Hall. Spartan has filed a patent for the first-of-its-kind highline RV cap and chassis design which provides the quality and performance of a premium automotive platform with increased flexibility for fully customizable interiors and exteriors, according to a news release. Spartan said optional Coach-Ready Platforms are also available featuring a variety of OEM options for chassis integration.

The development of the NGP was based on research conducted by Spartan which provided insights into the RV buying process. The research confirmed that the exterior of a vehicle excites the potential buyer and draws them inside the unit, but it is the features of the interior floorplan that typically close the sale. In addition, the primary decision maker for the purchase is the female — like with many premium consumer products — and, not surprisingly, her main focus is on interior styling and features.

The NGP integrates more components into the chassis configuration with an emphasis on functions that are critical to operating the vehicle but that are unimportant to the buyer. This reduces chassis-prep and engineering for RV OEMs and allows them to concentrate on customer-facing priorities such as the exterior design and interior floor plan. By offering OEMs the ability to choose from an extensive menu of available options for the front, middle and rear sections, motorhome makers have the freedom to design a vehicle to their exact specifications, yet still achieve faster model changeovers and increased speed to market for new designs and product features.

“Like every other consumer category, the RV marketplace is constantly evolving as customers look for the latest body styles and new approaches to interior layouts, making it more important than ever to adapt quickly as styles, trends and desires change,” said Tom Gorman,  Spartan Motors COO. “The front driver’s section, everything below the floor and rear-engine sections all require a significant amount of engineering time, but the research has shown these things don’t drive the purchasing decision. The NGP moves the non-floor plan area to the chassis builder, enabling the OEM to focus on the areas important to the customer.”

The final step of the buying process is the test drive, where ride performance and drivability are keys to confirming the buyer’s decision. Inspired by Spartan’s popular Furion fire truck chassis design, the Spartan NGP features a powerful rear diesel engine chassis and independent front suspension. Options including a smart wheel, tilt/telescopic steering column, adjustable pedals and six-way adjustable electric seats ensure a premium cockpit experience. Spartan said it expects to introduce a front engine configuration of the NGP in the fourth quarter of 2010, adding an even greater level of customization.

“In a marketplace where there are more than 100 OEMs, a low cost to enter and the business is hyper-competitive, products must and will change fast,” said Gorman. “With Spartan absorbing a significant amount of responsibility, the NGP enables an OEM to enter and compete within the motorized segment with a minimal time and financial commitment. This new approach even makes it possible for a dealer to partner with an OEM to create their own private-label product, something that previously would have been extremely difficult due to the costs involved.”