Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. has been on a roll in recent years, introducing one technological innovation after another.
So perhaps it was only fitting that the chassis manufacturer used March’s RVX: The RV Experience trade show to bring those many advancements together in one product – DriveTech – which the company says represents the most advanced display and controls system for motorhomes in the RV industry today.
“DriveTech provides an innovative and forward-thinking update to the RV driver’s experience to provide the luxury experience modern drivers expect,” says Tony Sippel, vice president of sales, marketing and product strategy for FCCC. In launching DriveTech, Sippel says FCCC delivered on its goal of “streamlining and simplifying controls to help RVers focus their full attention on maneuvering and piloting the coach.”
To accomplish this, FCCC completely redesigned its driver console to put everything in one centralized, easy-to-reach location, according to Bryan Henke, FCCC manager of product marketing. The result of that change was to create a more automotive-like feel, he says, adding that the improvements were made by leveraging FCCC’s relationship with parent company Daimler/Mercedes-Benz.
“This is a Daimler proprietary system; it’s not something we bought off the shelf and installed,” Henke stresses. DriveTech was about two years in the making, from initial concept to the finished product, he adds.
Sippel activates the electronic push-button start on the demo console, which provides users with a quality simulation of how the various controls work on an actual motorhome equipped with DriveTech.
The DriveTech console’s automotive ergonomic steering wheel and column-mounted controls are paired with FCCC’s upgraded OptiView all-digital gauge display, which features a bright, anti-glare display and an easy-to-read interface. The OptiView instrument cluster offers users access to extensive and customizable coach data, including fuel economy, performance settings, vehicle and internal diagnostics, transmission prognostics and system information, according to Sippel.
Other notable OptiView features include Bluetooth mobile connectivity offering hands-free operation through easy-to-reach controls and an optional tire pressure monitoring system that shows the pressure of each tire and triggers alerts for low pressure, high pressure or leaks – even for tires on a trailer or tow vehicle.
What’s more, DriveTech offers FCCC’s RoadWatch assisted driving and safety system as an option. Sippel says RoadWatch offers features including collision mitigation with forward warning and active braking, roll stability control, electronic stability control, automatic traction control plus adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set speed or automatically adjusts when a vehicle is detected ahead.
Another DriveTech feature is right-handle level controls for the transmission and engine brake, which Henke says is easier to use and less distracting than traditional shifter pads. Meanwhile, the left-hand column controls command all standard operations for driving safely, including windshield wipers, headlights and turn signals, which Henke notes is consistent with an automotive experience.
Henke says one bit of technology that FCCC carried over to DriveTech from its 2018 driver console was a push-to-start button designed to make startup easy, and an advanced key fob that includes two buttons for OEM-programmable actions beyond the standard lock and unlock functions.
Initial feedback from dealers on DriveTech has been overwhelming positive, Sippel says, adding that OEMs are sure to appreciate DriveTech for the fact that all of the system’s features are on the column, which should make for even easier installs.
To promote the new DriveTech technology, FCCC created a high-end demo driver’s console that it brought to RVX. Henke says FCCC anticipates bringing the demo unit to consumer shows in the months ahead to promote the new technology to consumers.
DriveTech is currently available in the Thor Tuscany diesel pusher and Henke says DriveTech will be standard in 2020 model year FCCC-chassis coaches moving forward.
FCCC’s Bryan Henke (left) and Tony Sippel stand next to a demo driver console created to showcase the features and benefits of DriveTech, which the company says represents the most advanced display and controls system for motorhomes in the RV industry today.
FCCC: Gas Chassis Still in the Works
Meanwhile, FCCC remains fully committed to establishing a presence in the gas-powered chassis motorhome market, according to Henke and Sippel.
FCCC debuted a prototype non-diesel engine for its MC chassis at the 2017 RVIA show. That MC chassis featured a 6-liter gas engine offering 308 horsepower and 367 pounds per feet of torque to power an MC chassis option in the 16,000- to 19,500-pound GVW product range.
Other features found on that MC chassis include an Allison 1000 six-speed, commercial-grade transmission, premium WEMC Walther quad-piston hydraulic disc brakes, custom-tuned SACHS shocks and a one-piece continuous straight-frame rail.
“We’re still very much committed to doing it,” Sippel says of entering the Class A gas market. “We’ve been getting feedback from OEMs and the next generation of this technology is in the works.”
Sippel says one area of consideration is changing out the current 6-liter gas engine for something offering better performance.
Henke says that FCCC already has a majority market share in the Class A diesel and Super Class C diesel in the North American market, but given that the Class A gas market is roughly three times as large as that of Class A diesels it only makes sense for FCCC to leverage its expertise in building chassis to make inroads into the Class A gas market.