While stuck in traffic on the Beijing-Shanghai Expressway last year, Yin Ximin decided he’d been smart to buy a recreational vehicle.
“An RV makes long trips less painful. We can lounge around, have drinks, listen to music — and use the bathroom,” aid Yin, 48, who owns an advertising firm in Beijing.
As reported by Bloomberg News, back in Beijing Yin uses his 19-foot (6-meter) motorhome from manufacturer Shandong Dream Trip RV Co. to fetch clients from the airport and schmooze on the way back into the increasingly gridlocked city, where the number of registered cars has more than tripled since 2000.
As more Chinese embrace automobile culture, foreign RV makers are expanding in China. Researcher 21RV.com estimates the number of motorhomes in China will surge from about 9,000 to 800,000 in the 10 years to 2022. The U.S. has some 9.6 million RVs on its roads, according to 21RV.
Winnebago Industries Inc., based in Forest City, Iowa, began working in 2011 with dealers in Beijing and several other cities, selling several models. Thor Industries Inc., the Elkhart, Ind.-based owner of the Airstream brand, started selling its distinctive silver camping trailers from a Beijing dealership in March.
“Foreign RV brands are still little-known to Chinese consumers,” sales manager Zhang Minrui said by phone from a Winnebago dealership in Dalian. He declined to give sales figures, though he said “demand will no doubt continue to expand in coming years as more people take self-drive vacations.”
Germany’s Dethleffs GmbH & Co. started selling imported RVs and caravan trailers this year from showrooms in several Chinese cities. The RVs can sleep six, said Surana Chen, president of its Chinese operations.
“High-end RVs are new symbols of status and success, like yachts and private jets,” said Chen. “Demand for RVs for business use has been way beyond our expectations.”
Great Wall Motor Co., China’s biggest SUV maker, and pick-up truck maker Xinkai Automobile Group Co., also have started making motorhomes and touring coaches that can be substantially cheaper than the imports.
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Recreational vehicles have been available in the Chinese market for about two years, but sales remain low as they are still considered a luxury, according to a report on CRIEnglish.com.
Li Haitao, chief manager of the R&D department at Xinkai Automobile Group Co. Ltd in Beijing, is in charge of renovating the interior of RVs and believes that RVs provide a unique experience for users.
“When living in a recreational vehicle, you can change the views outside the window at a moment’s notice,” Li said. “When I stay at a campground, I can enjoy the sea or the mountains or even take a view of the desert. But at home, I’m faced with the same scene day after day.”
In recent years, a growing number of RV enthusiasts in China have formed their own travel clubs. And with roads, traffic and service conditions improving, campgrounds with water and electricity hookups are becoming more common in some cities. But Li says there are still some challenges facing RVs in most Chinese cities.
“One of the issues is the campground facilities, because there are several factors that need to be considered, including views, environment and the general convenience of the site,” he said. “And lots of related infrastructure and facilities like stores and gas stations should also be built around the campground. Another issue regards the need for decent roads in many parts of the country, because this kind of vehicle is often longer and larger than regular cars.”
In China, the RV market is quite small compared to that of North America. At present, there are about 10,000 RVs and 100 campgrounds across China and an estimated 1,000 RVs are sold annually.
Li says that China is a developing market with an expanding middle class. Even though many Chinese people would not purchase an RV outright, renting a recreational vehicle or going to a campground to stay in an RV could be just some of the methods which could boost the RV industry and tourism in the future.
With about 99 exhibitors, the second edition of All in Caravaning recently closed at the China National Convention Center in Beijing to successful results, according to a press release.
Held concurrently was All in Tuning 2013, the trade fairs were organized by Messe Düsseldorf (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. in partnership with YASN International Exhibition Co, Ltd. Approximately 19,120 visitors attended the events, gathering information about innovations related to RVs, motorhomes, basic vehicles and accessories as well as concept vehicles. The exhibits were complemented by two congresses with international expert lectures about the developments in the Chinese RV and tuning industry.
Chinese exhibitors and many international suppliers showcased the most popular RVs and motorhomes as well as accessories, extension options, tents and travel destinations on 48,135 square feet of net exhibition space.
“Communication with the staff here was very positive and professional in the run-up to the event,” said Stefano Bonometti of Germany-based Fendt. “The exhibition venue and atmosphere of the event have left a positive impression on us. Participation in All in Caravaning definitely pays off for our company.”
The RV Committee of the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers (CMRV) acted as a co-organizer of All in CARAVANING 2013. Cooperation partners were the CTS Asset Management Corporation (CTSAMC) and China’s largest tour operator China National Travel Service (CTS). The event was also supported by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) from the U.S., the RV & Accommodation Industry from Australia (CRVA) and the German Caravaning Industrie Verband e.V. (CIVD).
Jost Krüger from CIVD noted, “The second staging of All in Caravaning provided an outstanding platform to sound out the potential market for caravanning as a leisure-time pursuit in China. The accompanying conference as well as the workshops gave visitors good opportunities for gaining in-depth knowledge and exchange opinions.”
“It should be noted that caravaning is still in its early stages in China. Creating the necessary fundamental conditions such as the construction of additional campsites as well as the adoption of a legal framework for the engineering and approval of recreation vehicles must be pursued very intensely. If these be implemented in an appropriate way, the Chinese RV market will experience successful development.”
Shanghai, China’s first recreational vehicle tour route will be launched in May as authorities plan to promote RV tourism by building campgrounds and putting together RV-friendly programs.
The Shanghai Daily reported that the 10-day group tour includes use of a motorhome for each tourist.
The route will start on Chongming Island on May 18, and cover 11 scenic spots in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. Sixty RVs have been reserved, each accommodating up to four people. Participants are between 18 and 50 years old.
A group of companies using the 365lvju.com Living in China website began promoting the tour this week and 20 tourists had signed up by yesterday. The organizer hopes for 200.
“To our surprise, only one tourist among the 20 is Shanghainese, as we guessed locals tend to be more curious and would like to try fresh, new things,” said Chen Zhan, a staff worker.
Chinese consumers love big SUVs and many of these massive status symbols are never driven off-road. So it’s no surprise that bigger recreational vehicles face a long bumpy road to acceptance by luxury-loving drivers. Qu Zhi reports.
It may be that the Roma or gypsy horse-drawn wagons were the original recreational vehicles or RVs that today have become a motorized culture and phenomenon in many countries known as RV lifestyle.
The self-contained RVs typically include kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and sleeping areas. They can be small or large, simple or luxurious. Some are motorized, some are trailers hitched to pickup trucks. They tend to be popular in areas where people enjoy camping and there are dedicated RV sites, and there are also travel clubs.
But they are clunky and gas-guzzlers.
As of last year, the United States had seen 100 years of caravan travel, but in China, RVs are still unfamiliar, except through American TV series or films.
China is the world’s biggest auto market, and SUVs are extremely popular, especially as status symbols that are seldom taken off the road. But not RVs. Most Chinese wouldn’t consider buying one. They’d rather drive a nice car and stay in a nice hotel.
Recently, at Shanghai Top Marques 2012, an exclusive and luxury show, a travel trailer towed by a pickup truck, made a splash. Visitors queued up to take a look at the Flying Cloud vehicle, which is called Airstream in the United States; the trailer is 7 meters long and costs $160,600.
Despite the lines, only a handful of Chinese visitors said they would actually consider buying an average imported RV, priced at one-third the cost of the Flying Cloud.
“It would kill me to drive this,” says a businessman from Zhejiang Province. “This is too huge for me and I can’t think of any place to park it.”
Another middle-aged man said he had researched RVs but he feared he wouldn’t be able to maneuver such a large vehicle or find a place to park.
“Where should I go after getting this mega car?” asks Luo Dan, a department director of a private wealth management fund. Given China’s population and what she called “paralyzed traffic,” Luo says it would be impossible to enjoy the same open-road holidays enjoyed in North America and Europe.
“There are three problems for RV development in China: policies and regulations, supporting facilities and consumer recognition,” says Han Xiaolu, director of Asia Affairs for the RV Industry Association.
He tells Shanghai Daily that potential customers are confused about what kind of registration and driver’s license they need. Campgrounds are another problem because without parking, electricity and water hookups, there’s no way to enjoy RV travel.
“I don’t think people don’t buy RVs because they can’t afford them but because they have little knowledge about RV travel and holidays,” Han says.
Get out into nature
Good news is that recently at the Yangtze River Delta Tourism Cooperation Conference, Shanghai Tourism Administration issued an outline for RV travel in the delta region in which 14 campgrounds in Shanghai were revealed.
Since more people are interested in travel and getting out into nature, policies and facilities will eventually catch up, he says.
Han says that leasing is a good way to start for RV enthusiasts because the lease company will provide a designated campground. Most owners or potential buyers are looking at RVs that are less than 6 meters long, with 7 people at maximum, which the normal driving license and plate can fit.
Chen Quanlong, manager of an industrial and trade company, bought his first Great Wall RV last New Year’s Day. Chen, who was born in the 1970s, says he enjoys “quality time” in his motor home and is considering buying a better one.
Tourism authorities in the Yangtze River Delta have designed five tour routes for motorhome drivers as part of an effort to spur development of the nascent recreational vehicle industry.
According to a report by the Oriental Morning Post, the routes provide motorhome drivers with a guide to the major tourist sites in the region, as well as some of the trailer parks where they can park their vehicles for the night.
Most of the tourist spots on the routes are in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces, as well as Shanghai. One route runs along the East China Sea from Lianyungang in northeastern Jiangsu Province to Wenzhou in southeastern Zhejiang Province.
The provincial and municipal tourism bureaus in the region are planning to build up the infrastructure along the routes to support the use of the vehicles, which usually have their own bathrooms, kitchens and sleeping quarters.
By 2020, the governments in the four regions plan to build 400 to 500 such trailer parks, where drivers can fill up on gasoline and water, dump their waste and plug into the power grid to recharge their batteries.
Some high-class parks also offer recreational facilities. There are currently plans to build 14 such camps in Shanghai, including one at the Shanghai Sheshan National Tourist Resort in Songjiang district.
There are 8,500 motorhomes in China, said a manager surnamed Jing with the Shanghai Zhongtianxing Motor Home Club. Still, the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Bureau estimated that the number of tourists traveling via motorhome will reach 3 million to 5.5 million by 2020 in the Yangtze River Delta.
“The popularity of private cars has laid the groundwork for motorhomes,” said Gu Xiaoming, a professor in the Tourism Management Department of Fudan University.
The vehicles will most appeal to young people with a healthy sense of adventure, Gu said.
“The motorhome is not just a means of travel, it is a lifestyle,” Jing told the Global Times. “Residents have not yet warmed up to motorhomes. The best way to promote the industry is to encourage them to embrace this new lifestyle.”
Messe Düsseldorf is expanding its activities in China, hosting two trade shows Aug. 10-12 including ALL in CARAVANNING 2012 and an event focused on professional car tuning.
According to a press release, the shows will take place at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center in Beijing on over 215,000 square feet of display space. More than 150 exhibitors will present innovations in car tuning, concept cars, personalized vehicle construction, racing cars and accessories as well as motorhomes, RVs, caravans, off-road vehicles and base vehicles. A total of 10,000 visitors are expected to attend.
The two trade fairs will be held annually, jointly organized by Messe Düsseldorf, its subsidiary Messe Düsseldorf (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. and the Chinese company YASN, the organizer of China’s largest automotive accessory exhibition.
At All in CARAVANING 2012, well-known Chinese companies such as Great Wall and Zhengtai Xier will present their latest caravan models while ZOEMO und Zhongyu will introduce their innovations based on Mercedes Benz chassis. Internationally distinguished brands such as Knaus Tabbert (Südwind), Hobby with their series Premium and Excellent and the models of its subsidiary Fendt from Germany, Giotti from Italy, River Forrest and Jay Feather from the U.S. as well as Jurgens Ci from South-Africa will be represented by their Chinese business partners. The trade fair organizers are working closely with China’s biggest tour operator China Travel Service (CTS).
China’s market for caravans, motorhomes and camping has developed rapidly over the last three years. As an information and order platform, All in CARAVANING 2012 focuses on a market segment that is still relatively young. Exhibits will include vehicles, camping equipment and accessories. In addition, more than 20 campsites will offer their services to visitors and a range of seminars will discuss the different aspects of mobile leisure activities.
China’s first independently developed motorhome with self-owned intellectual property rights came off the production line in Qingdao on March 21, according to People’s Daily Online.
The motorhome produced by the Qingdao Chuntian Science and Technology Vehicle Co. Ltd has an internal area of 215 square feet. It is divided into four areas including sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and is equipped with modern conveniences such as kitchen range, refrigerator and air conditioning.
Since early 2009, the company has begun to develop new energy vehicles including the motorhomes that can be powered by the solar energy and wind energy. Currently, solar energy technology has been widely applied in the motorhome developed by the company, said Liu Jie, a company representative.
China’s Yutong Bus Co. has put “on hold” its plan to build the En Route, a Class A motorhomes for the U.S. market.
In an e-mail from Bill Horvath, project manager for the Motorhome Division, Horvath stated, “This Tuesday morning (China time) the management team of Yutong Bus Co. announced it has decided to place further development of Class A motorhomes for the North America markets ‘on hold.’
“After much research and cost analysis, and looking at the market size that exists today, plus some still uncertain economic conditions, the decision was made to take a ‘wait and see’ position. In late spring or early summer of 2011, we will again check market and economic conditions in North America and re-valuate our decision. With the top five or six U.S.A. Class A motorhome manufacturers controlling approximately 80% of the market, it makes it very difficult for a new company to penetrate it when the market sales numbers are so small.
“To continue our interest in the motorhome business, Yutong Bus will focus on the up-and-coming Chinese market. Here we can better utilize our in-house capabilities and not have to overcome so many federal regulations and importing and exporting requirements. We can more easily enter this market than the North American markets. The manufacturing and product construction learning experience we will have in China will better prepare us for the North American markets in the future. Trust me, you will see motorhomes built by Yutong Bus in the foreseeable future.”
Horvath added, “Our bus business continues to grow at an amazing rate (large bus sales up nearly 45% in September over last September) and we will easily surpass our overall targeted goal of 35,000 vehicles for 2010. Our new manufacturing complex is still being planned and construction will begin yet this year with hope of moving in at the end of 2011. This joint complex will house additional bus manufacturing as well as motorhome production.”
Horvath first pitched his idea to an audience audience in Elkhart, Ind., in July and was actively receiving quotes from a number of suppliers.
He had planned to begin construction of a prototype this fall.
As recently as the Labor Day weekend, Horvath sounded optimistic about the project. He told RVBUSINESS.com at that time, more than 50 vendors, including three chassis manufacturers, had submitted quotes.
“I am very pleased by the vendor turnout, interest in our project and their support,” Horvath said then. “Elkhart County has the best suppliers for our industry and their interest and willingness to work with Yutong Bus is terrific.”
Horvath’s business plan called for mostly U.S.-made components for the En Route, which was to be assembled in China and then shipped back to the U.S., entering this country at Portland, Ore. The U.S. distribution site was to be near Eugene, Ore.
Nailing down a chassis supplier was a major concern at that point. In his original presentation, Horvath said the fiberglass-and-aluminum En Route would be available in 28- to 30-foot lengths on a 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280 hp Cummins or Navistar rear diesel engines.
While he received three chassis bids, only two were “close to the platform definition” he was looking for.
“We continue to work with the chassis manufacturers and are very close to having final specifications completed,” he noted in September. “I need this information in order to move forward. The chassis specifications are not yet confirmed and our chassis wish list may be slightly different based upon available designs and engines.”
Horvath hoped to have the chassis contract signed, with delivery to Yutong’s factory in Zhengzhou by October and, best case scenario, production beginning in November.
Horvath even offered some price ranges for the En Route.
“Our targeted dealer cost for a fully loaded coach — including equipment and features not usually found on this size and price point — delivered to the West Coast is under $140,000,” Horvath stated. “My estimated bill of material will need to be confirmed after prototyping, and final pricing will be set at that time. It is critical that retail pricing be held to under $200,000 for a fully loaded version.”
In his latest e-mail, Horvath concluded, “I personally want to thank all suppliers who have supported our effort and let them know we will still be in need of certain materials and equipment and that I will be contacting them between now and the time I see them at the Louisville Show. My position will remain the same as I shift my focus from U.S.A. designs to motorhomes we believe will better fit the new Chinese market. I look forward to introducing the RV lifestyle to the Chinese.”
William (Bill) E. Horvath
Project Manager of Motorhome Division
Yutong Bus Company Ltd.
Specialty Purpose Vehicle Group
Fenghuang Road #7
The board of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has adopted a new budget for 2011, which includes a $5 reduction, down to $20, in the RVIA seal price effective Jan. 1, 2011.
This is the third reduction in the seal price since the board raised it to $35 in July 2009 to ease pressure on the association budget caused by the reduction in show and dues revenue triggered by the economic downturn. Similar $5 reductions occurred in April 2010 and July 2010, according to an RVIA news release.
The board also instructed staff to continue monitoring and reviewing shipment volume every 90 days to determine the need for future seal price adjustments.
The new $20 seal fee taking effect in January will apply to all member manufacturer vehicle types. The Go RVing per unit assessment of manufacturer members remains at the current levels of $46 for folding camping trailers and truck campers; $61 for travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers; and $74 for motorhomes.
The action came during the board’s meeting in Park City, Utah, on Tuesday (Sept. 21). As previously reported, Gregg Fore, president of Dicor Corp., was elected RVIA chairman at the meeting.
“The board has elected an experienced, insightful leader to be our next chairman,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Gregg is a very active and involved member in the association and that participation has been an invaluable asset to RVIA and the industry. I look forward to working with him in the coming year.”
Fore has served on the RVIA board since 1999 and has extensive experience on the Executive Committee, having held the posts of first vice chairman, second vice chairman and treasurer. He has also chaired the Audit Committee, Awards Committee, Standards Steering Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee and served as a member of the Nominating Committee and Public & Legislative Affairs Committee. He was honored with RVIA’s Distinguished Service to the RV Industry Award in 2009.
In addition, the RVIA Board of Directors elected other officers to join Chairman Fore on the Executive Committee, including Doug Gaeddert, general manager, Forest River Inc., as first vice chairman; Bob Olson, chairman of the board, CEO and president, Winnebago Industries Inc., as second vice chairman; Derald Bontrager, president and COO, Jayco Inc., as treasurer; and John Regan, chairman, Fabric Services, as secretary.
All officers will begin their one-year terms on Oct. 1 and are joined by Chairman Ex Officio Jim Sheldon, special assistant to the president, Monaco RV LLC, and Coon on the Executive Committee.
FY2011 Budget Approved
Also during their meeting at the Park City Hotel, the RVIA board approved a $12.1 million dollar budget for the upcoming fiscal year that holds the line on membership costs for dues and show space rates while reducing the cost of seals to manufacturer members.
The RVIA board also approved recommendations from the ad hoc China Committee to continue efforts to capitalize on the potential of the RV industry developing in China by pursuing strategic activities to make the Chinese RV market more U.S. product friendly. Such efforts may include:
- Hosting a reception for Chinese visitors at the National RV Trade Show.
- Working to hold RV standards and regulatory workshops in China.
- Promoting the RV lifestyle and organizing trade missions with China.
- Pursuing a reduction in tariffs and duties imposed by China on U.S. RV products.
- Developing more information for members on how to conduct business in China.
During the meeting, the board also received an update on Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) activities from RVDA Chairwoman Debbie Brunoforte; a presentation on the national economic and RV market outlook from Richard Curtin; and a report on activities centered on the developing Chinese market from China Committee Chairman Wilbur Bontrager.