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Designing a motorhome

WHAT does a manufacturer do with a new idea? What is involved in moving a new motorhome from concept to production?

MMM visited Auto-Sleepers in a search for some answers. Here, we look at the design process.

The light bulb moment happened just after the NEC show in February this year. Auto-Sleepers used the show as an opportunity to talk to customers and dealers about its current range of motorhomes and any gaps in the range.

Feedback indicated that customers were on the hunt for smaller, more manoeuvrable motorhomes, which got the company thinking. The subject was discussed at one of the weekly design review meetings for developing any ideas and new models.

These project development meetings involve discussion of all models currently under review and any new models, ranging from a simple decision to change the curtains or tweak a layout to the development of a whole new model. There are about 20 motorhomes under review at any one time.

For each model there is a job list with staff names against the individual tasks.

One of the key minds belongs to sales manager Dave Clarkson. At only 43, Dave has been with the company for 25 years, starting on the factory floor and moving into parts, then through the company to his current position. So what he doesn’t know about Auto-Sleepers you could probably fit on a stamp.

Dave has quarterly dealer meetings, from which ideas can also come. With a small network and close relationships, there is regular contact with dealers, who are essentially part of the Auto-Sleepers family.

motorhome design imageWorking closely with the loyal Auto-Sleepers Owners Club (ASOC), Auto-Sleepers can also call upon the experience of long-time owners to help develop and test their products.

Brian Cross is the product development manager, working with the research and development and design teams to produce CAD drawings. But that is just the beginning of the development process. Designs are sent to the prototype shop where a small team of experienced motorhome builders creates the shell according to the CAD diagrams.

Once the provisional furniture has been installed, the design is then re-examined to see if it is practical. With the project I was allowed to observe, the key was to find out if the kitchen protruded too much into the sliding doorway and if the washroom was practical.

After the mocked-up furniture has gone in and the decisions have been made, the mouldings and furniture are fabricated properly, with the motorhome still in the prototype shop. The equipment and all the fittings are installed properly and all the furniture is made on site. There was actually a washroom moulding being shaped while I was at the factory.

Once the prototype has been finished, the vehicle is tested and this is where ASOC comes in. Auto-Sleepers often supplies owners club members with a prototype to take away - to see what works, what creaks and what doesn’t work.

motorhome design washroom moulding imageIf the problems are insurmountable, Auto-Sleepers would prefer to restart the whole project. However, this doesn’t happen often and normally small tweaks will do the trick.

Once a prototype has been finished to the required standard it goes to market. By this time pricing, specification, and options have been finalised.

All that is then required is the photography for brochures and adverts, and some real customer feedback.

The new model whose birth I’ve been attending is a medium wheelbase panel van conversion based on the Peugeot Boxer. It will have a rear lounge that makes into a double and an amidships kitchen opposite the washroom.

This model is due to be available as a standard Auto-Sleeper and initially as a Marquis County special edition, both based on the Peugeot.

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  • This feature was originally published in the July 2009 issue of MMM. Find out more about the magazine by clicking here.

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