Leisure Travel Vans
Leisure Travel Vans Ltd. of Canada will build its widebody Freedom Class B motorhome in three models for 2002, and some of them may roll out on new chassis as soon as this summer.
Currently, Leisure Travel's Freedom, Discovery and Independence models all are built in 20-foot lengths on Dodge Ram chassis by Chrysler. The Freedom and Independence are 84 inches wide, versus 78 inches on the Discovery.
If Chrysler Corp. stops manufacturing the Ram chassis at the end of the 2003 model year — as it has said it will do — Leisure Travel Vans expects to move to a Ford or Chevrolet chassis, probably sometime next summer.
"The bulk of our development has been on the Ford," said Sheldon Friesen, director of marketing and sales. "We are heavily invested in Ford at this point, and there is a strong likelihood that we will build on two platforms until the Dodge goes away. But we also are taking a hard look at Chevrolet."
Leisure Travel Vans, located 75 miles southwest of Winnipeg, was founded by Reg Harder in 1978. It changed hands in 1999 when Harder sold to Frank DeFehr, co-owner of Palliser Furniture Ltd., Canada's largest furniture manufacturer, and a group of investors. John Pauls, a former senior manager with the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, was named general manager in August.
With the widebody Freedom is now available in a wider variety of floorplans: Two of the models sleep two people and one that sleeps four. The Freedom 2A, a two-sleeper with an aisle shower, accounts for 50% of Leisure's sales, said Sheldon Friezen, director of marketing and sales.
The entry-level Discovery, which was reintroduced in 2001, is available in two- and four-sleeper models.
"In all of our two-sleeper models, we've chosen not to hang a whole bunch of cabinetry over the sleeping area," Friesen said. "Many Class B vans can be claustrophobic. With the drop floor, we have a large amount of room inside."
Leisure Travel's Independence is a widebody Class B motorhome designed to be custom-fitted with equipment for the disabled.
"We started by simply taking one of the Freedom vans and putting a wheelchair lift in it," Friesen said. "It has evolved so that we now have a product that is a full-blown motorhome designed for handicapped users."
The Freedom and Independence feature a drop floor with a seamless fiberglass exterior and fiberglass roof. A new two-sleeper floor plan in the Freedom this year creates a private bath on the driver's side. All models feature basement storage the full width of the motorhome.
Leisure Travel Van owners typically are in their mid-50s and older, although Pauls said the company has seen the gradual emergence of younger owners.
"They are buying a Class B now, knowing that sometime in the future they will be moving up," Pauls said.
"For many of our older customers, the bigger-is-better philosophy is changing," Friezen added. "People are realizing that you can have it all in a vehicle this size." He added, "If you look at many of the new RV campgrounds, their campsites basically are a concrete driveway for the diesel pusher. That is not the RV experience. You can go into all the intimate places in the Class B van that you can't go in a big motorhome."
Although Leisure traditionally has sold more units in Canada than the United States, sales currently are split about 50-50, Pauls said, noting that the company has added four new American dealers in recent months.
"There seems to be a real appreciation developing lately about Canadian manufacturers — that we pay attention to quality and detail," he added.