WCM: This is my first visit to Caravan Salon and I’m overwhelmed at what you have put together here.
Stefan Koschke: It’s about the whole camping experience and the event continues to grow every year. We expect over 250,000 visitors this week and they will see over 2,100 caravans and motorhomes in thirteen buildings — covering everything related to camping in Europe and Germany.
WCM: This show is huge. We don’t have anything like it in the U.S. and our numbers are more than double Europe’s in terms of volume. What makes it such a great success?
Koschke: The changes in our market. As consumers demand change, they want smaller vans and camper vans, and you will see many of them at the show this year. We have camper vans built on almost every manufacturer’s vehicles – companies like Mercedes-Benz, Fiat, MAN, Peugout, Citreon, Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and even more have camper vans on display. It is the fastest growing segment of our market today.
WCM: The same is true for the U.S. as Class B units are very popular. Many RVers are being drawn to the smaller units so they can “experience” new destinations while they enjoy the comfort and convenience of an RV. But, the U.S. also offers a wider selection than Europe. Talk about the key differences between the markets.
Koschke: We went to your RVX event in Salt Lake City this year. There were many wonderful RVs on display but they would never work in Europe. You have many large RVs and many slideouts. We don’t have the roads or campgrounds to accommodate your RVs, so we have to do everything on a much smaller scale. We have many small villages where people take their RVs so the camper vans and smaller motorhomes work very well here.
WCM: Who is buying all these small RVs?
Koschke: We see every demographic purchasing them. It is not just the Millennials or Generation Z young people, although that is all you see in our marketing materials and in our ads. Many older people enjoy having an RV to travel in, so we see all generations buying our smaller RVs, and enjoying them greatly.
WCM: One thing I noticed was the lack of fifth-wheel caravans in the show. In fact, I think I only saw one out of over 2,000 RVs, and it was made in the U.K.
Koschke: There really is no market for fifth-wheels in Europe and Germany. We don’t have the heavy-duty trucks to tow them and, again, the roads and infrastructure cannot accommodate them.
WCM: I also noticed a lot of truck campers, more than you would see at any U.S. RV show.
Koschke: They are very popular, even in winter. They are lighter in weight and can fit onto the smaller trucks we have in Europe.
WCM: There are practically no “dark” interiors on any of the RVs on display. Why?
Koschke: Our market doesn’t like dark colors and dark interiors. Everything you see will be light and modern, very contemporary and very functional.
WCM: In the U.S., we have many regulations on manufacturing and environmental issues. Can I assume you are also facing these challenges in Europe?
Koschke: Oh yes. We have many environmental regulations and we must make lighter vehicles, and it can be a challenge. As manufacturers put more technology into the RVs, they must find lighter materials to offset the additional weight. It is always of prime importance when designing our caravans and motorhomes, and also the major reason why you have seen the tremendous increase in camper van sales. Many traditional automobile manufacturers are also making vehicles to meet this new demand. A prime example of that was the new concept van introduced by Hymer and BASF.
WCM: I attended that press briefing and the interest was very high with the media in attendance. It certainly reflects the changing audience and how they view RVing and what they want to do with their camper vans in the future. During consumer days, you just couldn’t get close to that display.
Koschke: We will see more collaborations like that now that the market is defined. We can design lighter, more modern and certainly more functional camper vans going forward. Hymer is our largest manufacturer in Europe and they will lead the way. Others will soon follow.