In what could amount to a game-changing development for the North American RV market, Europe’s largest RV builder, HYMER AG, plans to show several European-built coaches at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) 2013 Florida RV SuperShow, Jan. 15-20 in Tampa, as part of a long-range plan that could see the German conglomerate establishing a U.S. manufacturing base.
HYMER’s first North American showing is slated to occur as the 2nd World RV Conference, hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), is held nearby.
Roel L.W. Nizet, CEO and chairman of HYMER Group’s executive board, reports that the motorized and towable RV builder’s first product showing on U.S. soil is intended to gauge consumer interest and allow HYMER designers to learn American idiosyncrasies and adapt European models to the American market.
“As we heard during the Outlook Breakfast, it was clearly stated that it (RVs) is not only a U.S. business, it should be a global business,” Nizet told RVBusiness and RVBUSINESS.com at the Louisville Show. “What we are doing now is exploring the market for the RV business — not because HYMER as a group wants to have a ‘me-too’ product, but we definitely want to be in to some niches.”
“Let me give you one example,” he added. “We have developed recently a special RV for handicapped people. Now, take the amount of handicapped people in the U.S. — 16 million. That’s the same number of inhabitants of the small country I’m from, The Netherlands. There’s definitely a market for that. It’s a niche — but it’s a niche where we want to fulfill the demand. This is just one of the example we would like to put into this market.
“We also have some other motorhomes and towables which, from a price point of view, are very interesting for the U.S. market. These are exactly the products we want to ‘tease’ with at the Tampa show in January.”
As Nizet pointed out, however, family owned HYMER, a $1.7 billion company with annual sales of 47,000 units that distributes its products throughout 28 countries, has no intention of importing RVs into the United States.
The long-range plan, if things come to fruition, is to build them in the States. “I would not be so dumb as to export the units (from Europe),” he said. “We will start here. And therefore we will define exactly the product lines we want to sell here. That’s why it’s very important to have and hear the final voices from the end-user.”
To that end, HYMER’s Tampa exhibit will include four or five “typically European vehicles, but more or less adapted to the U. S. market.”
“What’s very important for us is to get feedback on the interiors,” he added. “The European style is slightly different, and we don’t want to make a mistake and build a European RV and put it here in a manufacturing process in the U.S. We don’t want to make that mistake. So I want to have a clear picture — what are the demands, what are the needs, coming out of this market, and we will adapt to that. If I had the answers today, I would have made the adjustments already.”
HYMER, meanwhile, is also exploring third-party affiliations. Nizet mentioned Fiat as one possible ally.
“Our biggest partner in Europe is Fiat Group, and Fiat is planning to bring over the Ducato and bring that here (to the U.S.) under the umbrella of the (Chrysler) Ram organization,” he said. “If they do so, that would help us immediately because we are used to building on that type of truck.”
While Nizet noted that HYMER doesn’t yet have the final commitments necessary to establish a footprint in the U.S., “the intention is there and we have a shared view on this path.” And, while the company has limited expectations for the North American market, he also believes HYMER is capable of capturing 10% of the U.S. market “over time in a disciplined approach.”
“We are a family owned company,” he added. “We are not a start-up; we will not be sold. We have time.”
Along with the HYMER Car, the equivalent of a Class B, and various other motorized products including Class A’s, HYMER also offers six distinct caravan (travel trailer) lines within its Eriba brand, first established in 1958. The majority of the company’s output is motorized.
Between HYMER and its sister CMC-Group, the company markets under the Buerstner, Carado, Dethleffs, Hymer, Laika, LMC, Movera, Niesmann Bischoff, Sunlight and TEC brands with head offices in Bad Waldsee lower Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.