Automotive

Ford goes camping with its own line of recreational vehicles

Ford goes camping with its own...
The first Ford RVs on the market are scheduled to be truck campers
The first Ford RVs on the market are scheduled to be truck campers
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The first Ford RVs on the market are scheduled to be truck campers
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The first Ford RVs on the market are scheduled to be truck campers
Ford launches camping trailers, toy haulers and truck campers
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Ford launches camping trailers, toy haulers and truck campers
Ford offers its own branded RVs
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Ford offers its own branded RVs
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Thanks to platforms like the F-Series and E-Series, the name "Ford" graces the grilles of many a motorhome and camper-hauling truck, including new off-roaders like the Sportsmobile Classic and EarthRoamer XV-HD. Now Ford is moving its badge rearward, to the camper shells themselves. The company will offer a full line of licensed camping trailers, toy haulers and truck campers.

Henry Ford didn't invent the car, but he played a pretty important role in its future. Similarly, he didn't invent the RV, but he did play a major role in popularizing the idea of vehicle camping.

Together with an impressive group of "Vagabonds" that included Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs, Ford made a series of trips around the United States starting in the mid 1910s and continuing through the early 20s. Tents, not vehicle-mounted or towed camper shells, provided the roofing over the Vagabonds' heads during the journeys, but the grand caravan of vehicles did include at least two light recreational vehicles: one with integrated gas stove and icebox and another with purpose-built storage for camping gear like tents, cots and lights.

Newspapers around the country poured out stories about these high-profile boys trips (wives later got in on the fun, too), and reporters and photographers often tagged along. This proved valuable advertising for the likes of Ford vehicles and Firestone tires, but the growing size of the caravan and public attention was eventually cited as a reason for the discontinuation of further trips in 1924. By then, though, the Vagabonds had already established a connection between automobile touring and outdoor recreation in the minds of millions of Americans.

Fast forward about a century, and the efforts of early pioneers like Henry Ford and the designers that built campers around the likes of the Model T have flourished into a very healthy RV industry. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, sales of RVs have been rising steadily each year for the past half-decade, reaching more than 356,000 in 2014, an 11 percent increase from 2013. The association says RV ownership has reached a record level of more than 9 million households, a 16 percent increase from 2001 levels.

Ford launches camping trailers, toy haulers and truck campers
Ford launches camping trailers, toy haulers and truck campers

Ford already has a pretty nice piece of RV business in supplying chassis to motorhome manufacturers, and its F-Series and E-Series chassis have served as leaders in Class A and Class C motorhome markets, respectively. In August 2014, Ford cited data from market analysis firm Statistical Surveys Inc. showing that it had a 63-percent share of the Class A and 72-percent share of the Class C chassis markets between January and May 2014.

Now Ford's set to have its very own line of branded RVs. It announced last week that it is working with Indiana-based Livin Lite to offer Ford-licensed RVs in a variety of styles and sizes. The first wave of products will include camping trailers, toy hauling trailers and truck-bed campers. Livin Lite specializes in trailers and slide-ins, and Ford makes no mention of Ford-branded camper shells being built onto Ford chassis to create all-Ford motorhomes.

"Exploring America is in our customers' DNA and recreational vehicles are part of Ford's history, so these new camping options are great for our adventurous customers," says Mark Bentley, Ford Licensing manager. "Licensing our name and design language to Livin Lite was an easy decision. Their use of advanced materials and innovation mindset makes them an excellent fit with the Ford brand."

Ford offers its own branded RVs
Ford offers its own branded RVs

Ford Truck Design worked with Livin Lite over the past 15 months to develop the first product designs. In addition to flashing Dearborn pride with large Ford badges on the sides, Ford has injected its DNA into the line with an F-Series-inspired front window, F-Series-style wheels and Lariat trim-inspired interior appointments. Each initial model that Ford has revealed also includes a curved front.

Ford says the line will launch in early 2016 with slide-in truck campers built for 6- and 8-foot (1.8- and 2.4-m) beds. Travel trailers and toy haulers in 22- and 24-foot (6.7- and 7.3-m) lengths will join the lineup in the second quarter, and Ford has plans to add future models including more compact pop-up campers and longer fifth wheels. The models will be available through certified Livin Lite dealerships.

Source: Ford

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6 comments
Daishi
Dear Ford, please add independent brakes to the trailers so that you can easily steer them in reverse.
I believe a patent to do this is US1855238A filed in 1929. Making reverse steering automatic would be super hard but giving the driver the ability to manually apply brakes to one side in reverse to correct the direction would be useful.
This is also a great market for solar power because nobody wants their nature experience ruined by listening to a generator constantly running. Running a generator is also highly inconsiderate to people camping nearby. Between roof mount panels and roll out thin film mats that can be stored you can make a lot of power through solar.
Most the solar installs are retrofits because not many manufacturers make a model designed from the factory with this use in mind.
The sun is ~1000 watts/square meter. A 17% efficiency panel is 170 watts/meter^2.
The roof of a 30'x8' trailer is 22.3 square meters for about a 3800 watts. A 15k BTU AC is about 2,000 watts so it would be enough to air condition the RV and run some extra stuff without running a generator.
Panels themselves are about 90 cents/watt but most the costs are in things like the install equipment/labor which could be streamlined buying an RV/Camper built for that use without needing to retrofit the install.
Keith Reeder
Someone needs to tell Billy-Bob that he's got his reel on upside down...
grtbluyonder
If ford can add the efficiencies of automated production with professional quality assurance these could be market hits. The traditional travel trailer builders whack together junk trailers with staple guns that look good in the showroom but that fall apart quickly on the road where there is vibration - go figure.
Great News, time to take on the slipshod Indiana junk builders and deliver quality.
JD Clinchfield
@grtbluyonder - The article states that Ford has partnered with LivinLite Inc. to create the Ford line of RV's. I have researched LivinLite and feel that they are one of the RV companies that is trying very hard to build a very reliable RV unit. I believe this is a great move by Ford.
The downside to the LivinLite RV's is cost, but as with many products, you get what you pay for... You are correct in that there are many RV's that are not that durable, but for many families cost is a primary consideration. That means there will always be low cost/low value RV's built for just that reason.
Wolf0579
I've had a chance recently to see how these RV's are built and I have to say for the prices that are being charged for these things, it's a gold mine for manufacturers. These things are built so incredibly cheaply, I would have reservations about being in one while it was standing still. There must be a total of a 1/16 of an inch pressed sawdust board between you and the highway.
guzmanchinky
And here I was hoping they would build real, quality RV's (like Sportsmobile) but from Ford, through dealers, and at lower prices. Oh well.