Drive the streets of Portland, Denver, or the highways of the Rocky Mountains and count the most popular campers on the road: You’ll find an overwhelming number of Mercedes Sprinters, Ford Transits, and other Class B camper vans. But while in some parts of the country the adventure van reigns king, the Class B market is still a tiny portion of the overall RV industry.
That’s beginning to change, however, both with more all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive camper vans on the road and a focus on compact trailers. Last month, Curbed went to the new RV industry trade show in Salt Lake City and despite the sea of giant Class As and toy haulers, there were signs that modestly sized Class Bs are posed for a takeover.
Thor Industries is the world’s largest RV manufacturer—the company acquired Germany’s Erwin Hymer Group earlier this year—producing roughly half of all new RV units every year. It owns 17 different RV brands, including Airstream, and its size means that while people may not recognize the Thor name, they usually recognize the company’s brands.
In an interview with Curbed at RVX, president and CEO Bob Martin said that Thor knows that the industry is changing. “We see the average age of consumers coming down drastically in all brands,” Martin says. “We’ve marketed to Baby Boomers in the past, and we recognize that the average age is diving.”
For the first time in 30 years, Thor Industries revamped their branding, releasing a new logo and content that’s meant to “contemporize” the company. The ultimate goal? Capture a younger market that’s, according to Martin, “focused on experience. Millennials are also driving the industry to be more innovative and tech savvy.”
In an effort to appeal to younger generations, Thor Motor Coach (one of the Thor industries brands) debuted a Class B camper van at RVX. Called the Sequence, this camper van is a first for Thor Motor Coach as the company in the past has only manufactured Class A and Class C motorhomes.
The Sequence is built on a Ram Promaster 3500 (one of the go-to vans for DIY conversions) its design looks to the small camper vans of Europe for inspiration. A wet bath is housed in the rear of the van, and dining benches on either side combine to form a wider sleeping space for two. Wooden cabinetry is sourced from Italy, there’s a slide-out dog bowl so you can bring along Fido, and the two driver cab seats swivel and feature a retractable table for eating. The compact kitchen boasts the essentials with a sink, dual-burner stove, microwave, and fridge.
Martin also told Curbed that technology is increasingly important in how the Thor Industries brands design campers, and the Sequence van proves the point. Tech-savvy adventurers will love the camper’s seven-inch infotainment center that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Sequence also includes an LTE Wi-Fi router and an app-controlled command system. Throw in the solar panels, bike racks, ladder, and Thule roof rack and it’s clear that the Sequence is meant to appeal to adventure-minded generations on-the-go.
The Sequence van is still in the concept stage, with Thor Motor Coach reporting that they are gauging reactions from RVX to see if it will enter production. By itself, there’s nothing revolutionary about the Sequence; it features most of the amenities and a similar layout to other Class B vans like the new Winnebago Boldt.
But here’s what is most interesting for potential buyers and for the RV industry as a whole: Thor Motor Coach could have debuted another Class A or Class C at the show, and it didn’t. The Sequence is another marker in a long line of indicators that shows where the RV industry is headed, and it isn’t towards more giant campers.
Those will always be a part of the U.S. market, to be sure, but the biggest names in the game—like Thor Industries and Winnebago—know that they have to start capturing the coveted Millennial market. Vans like the Sequence, Boldt, and Revel are the first step.