RV PRO

September '20

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78 • RV PRO • September 2020 RV PRO ➤ NEW MODEL YEAR PREVIEW MIDWEST AUTOMOTIVE DESIGNS A company that began its business in 2013 building luxury Class B's on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis is adding a new marque to the mix for 2021: Ford. Based on an all-wheel-drive Transit chassis, the new Ford Passage 148 from Midwest Automotive Designs also is unique because it will be the first – and so far, only – model offered with just lithium battery power, according to Jake Stephenson, director of sales. A generator – optional on the rest of the Midwest Sprinter- and Ram ProMaster-based lines, will not be available. "We went all-electric on this vehicle and the industry is trending in that direction. Since this is a brand-new model for us, on the all-wheel-drive Ford, we decided to build them all-electric," Stephenson says. "For production purposes here, we wanted to build them just one way to try to get some efficiencies." Powered by 600 amp-hour batteries from Dragonfly Energy, the Ford Passage should be a welcome addition for Midwest buyers. "We have a lot of people who like our fit, finish and quality. They've not been able to find that level of fit and finish on a Ford product anywhere. We've had a lot of people ask for it," Stephenson says. "They want a Ford just because of how many Ford dealers there are around the country. For service, there are a lot of advantages there." When Midwest first asked dealers about offering a Transit model, the RV maker began getting orders before a product was even ready, according to Stephenson. Another advantage to offering a Ford means that chassis supply constraints are less troublesome for Midwest. Last year, Mercedes was swamped by getting a new plant online and a large Amazon order, so out- fitters such as Midwest found themselves negatively impacted. The Ford Passage will be equipped with its 3.5-liter, six-cyl- inder engine and 10-speed auto transmission, a new power- train combination for the Transit that delivers improved overall performance, with enhanced acceleration at the low and mid ranges of the power band. Combined with the AWD system, the Ford Passage will be highly capable, according to Stephenson. "We tested it a little bit," he says. "We bought some of the two-wheel-drive Transits and sent them out just to make sure what we believed everybody wanted was what they wanted and had real good reception." Stephenson says Midwest was especially pleased that the AWD version drove and rode as well as the two-wheel-drive models. In some vehicles, AWD and four-wheel-drive versions get stiffer suspensions, but it wasn't the case on the Transit. Midwest will provide a 320-watt solar system on the Ford Passage, an option on its other coaches, and the unit will have an MSRP of $157,495. Changes are in store for a couple of other Midwest models next year, too. "We always upgrade, update and refresh every model year so they're not identical to our 2020 builds; they're very similar as far as floorplans," he says. The idea, of course, is to offer value-added features so owners of older Midwest units will want to trade in and, hopefully, up. The Passage 170 EXT and Passage 144, both based on Sprinter chassis, comprise the company's other core products for 2021, and while not new, they are getting tweaked floorplans for more functionality. PREVIEW Midwest Automotive Design's Passage motorhome will be built on the new Ford Transit chassis featuring all-wheel-drive.

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