Winnebago is no stranger to making accessibility enhanced RVs. The Specialty Vehicle Division has been building Type A accessible RVs for years.
Yet designers continued to get feedback from consumers who were pleased with the vehicles but wanted the option to drive something smaller.
“We have gotten more conversations with customers and potential customers asking us, can you produce something smaller?” Specialty Vehicle Division Director Robert Kim said.
The answer, Winnebago revealed, is yes.
This fall the Type B Roam will roll off manufacturing lines. Built on a Dodge ProMaster chassis, the van measures 19 feet, 9 inches long and has an 8,900-pound GVWR. The Roam will be available through three Winnebago dealers at launch: La Mesa, Campers Inn and Pleasureland.
The Roam includes an under-vehicle wheelchair lift, standard wheelchair tie-downs, a wet bath accessible from a wheelchair, accessible controls for all lights and systems and a powered sofa bed. The Roam seats up to five people and sleeps two. An optional pop-top expands sleeping capacity to four.
“One of the challenges with a Class B was, how do you create enough space to move about in such a small package?” Kim said. “It took a while to figure out what a floorplan would look like.”
Kim said the design team took cues from the Type A Inspire and Adventurer, determining a minimum aisle width necessary. Unlike most Type B vans, where Kim said designers often try to pack as many amenities as possible in a smaller space, designers were tasked with determining what not to include in the Roam.
“We said what is the minimum you need to give people an experience with this vehicle and not clutter,” Kim said. “So, the vehicle has really all the core amenities that you needed.”
Core amenities include a wet bath, expanded from Winnebago’s Type B Solis, enabling someone to easily transfer in and out. The sofa/bed is powered and, in the rear, designers provided access to switches and displays to control lights and temperature controls without having to leave the bed.
With the Type B class experiencing a boom the past two years, Kim said the timing seemed right to expand accessibility features into a Type B van model.
“There is no doubt the B van market is one of the fastest-growing spaces,” he said. “The size of this van, at just under 20 feet long, enables it to help people not only to RV but to take a weekend drive and do errands. There are a lot of uses for this vehicle because of its size.”
The design concept took many months, Kim said. Winnebago brought the prototype to mobility-challenged consumers for testing and designers sat in wheelchairs themselves to determine ease of access throughout the Roam.
The accessibility market is a niche within the overall RV consumer base but Kim said there would be plenty of demand to meet production. Winnebago is developing a new manufacturing line dedicated to Roam. The move will enable more efficient production, Kim said.
“On our current production lines, we want to keep them streamlined and moving as fast as possible, given the high demand,” he said. “The thought was this is a different type of product. It’s got some unique features to it. Starting a line for that will be the most efficient for overall Winnebago production.”
Roam’s open floorplan provides options beyond consumers needing a wheelchair lift, Kim said. Other mobility-challenged consumers can find the extra space accommodating and able-bodied consumers may enjoy a uniquely designed Type B van, with Kim calling the design universal.
“While this specific feature of our wheelchair lift is kind of specific, I think the rest of the vehicle has more of that universal design that will appeal to a lot of people,” he said.
The Type B van is merely the beginning of Winnebago’s work expanding accessibility beyond Type A motorhomes, Kim said.
“I think what I would say to you is that our efforts in the accessibility enhanced area are really just getting started,” he said. “The classes are expanding to this first model of class Bs. I could see additional models coming in the future as well, maybe something even a little larger. We are very committed to this market space and these customers. We want to just continue to provide more and more products that will help these type of customers in the mobility challenges.”