Europe’s largest RV builder, HYMER AG, is proceeding with plans to enter the U.S. recreational vehicle marketplace, based on the company’s own research and on the “awesome” reception its European-built products received last week in a test-marketing display at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) 2013 Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa.
Roel L.W. Nizet, CEO and chairman of HYMER Group’s executive board, confirmed the decision in an interview with RVBUSINESS.com on behalf of the German conglomerate, a $1.7 billion company with annual sales of 47,000 units that distributes its products throughout 28 countries.
Nizet was dividing his time last week between the Tampa Show exhibit and the 2nd World RV Conference, hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in downtown Tampa.
HYMER would become the first foreign — in this case European – manufacturer to bridge the gap to the States in a substantial way.
“It’s a very exciting deal for us,” says Nizet, whose company showed a handful of trailers in Tampa as well as Class A and B motorhomes, both of which were based on Fiat Ducato chassis, which Chrysler Group LLC reportedly plans on importing to the U.S. in the near future. “But it’s a necessity because, we (industry in general) are always talking about a global market. The RV industry should be a global market, and someone has to bridge it. So, we’re willing to be the first.”
HYMER currently builds 22,000 units a year in Europe on the Ducato.
While HYMER plans a gradual rollout of towable and motorized U.S. products – maybe two this year and two the next – the German firm is looking to finalize a joint venture manufacturing agreement with an American concern because the southern German company’s game plan does not include, with the exception of a few startup models, building inventory in Europe and shipping to the States.
So, joint venturing with a U.S. manufacturer is the only logical plan at this point for HYMER, which is headquartered in Bald Walsee with manufacturing currently located in nine German locations.
“Absolutely,” Nizet told RVBUSINESS.com. “We are not willing, let me say, to ship from Europe to America. Our intention is to make a sustainable business out of it. We simply want to be a local (U.S.) OEM with the quality level of Europe, of Germany. And we will stay in a niche, definitely. As I’ve mentioned previously, we want to be the iPhone with wheels – very innovative. And that’s our goal on a high level – not the cheapest, definitely. That’s our main goal.”
Nizet, who attended last year’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, said HYMER would conceivably target 10% of the American market’s annual production.
“So, after the show we will keep the vehicles for three quarters of a year in the states,” said Nizet. “We’ll make a tour and show them during various occasions, dealer meetings and other RVIA occasions and then finally after this period we will collect all the feedback. We will take a look at what we have to do and then we will decide which products we will start with to sell in the U.S. market.
“Based on the feedback from the people here (in Tampa), we’ve already decided to start with two, probably three models which we will adapt to the American market, meeting 110 voltage, and we will adjust the gas to the American standard and we will ship over a couple of them so that we keep things moving so that we don’t have a (time) gap, let’s say, between this show and the expectations we have heard from the people coming here.”
After its split from Daimler, Chrysler stopped selling the successful and popular Sprinter commercial van. Fiat, however, is coming to the rescue with the Ducato, its own commercial van currently on sale in Europe.
According to Automotive News, the Chrysler Group will soon sell a commercial van in North America based on the Fiat Ducato under the Ram brand. The Ducato shares its front-drive platform with the Peugeot Boxer, both of which are currently sold in Europe.
“It’s designed perfectly to try and deal with the market segment here in the United States, so we think it will grow,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Chrysler Group.
Marchionne was on hand at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show where he said his company would expand its plant in Saltillo, Mexico to build the Ram-branded Ducato in time for a 2013 sale date. No other details have been provided, but the Ducato should be offered in a number of configurations. The automaker will likely make minor cosmetic changes to give the Ram a more distinctive look for the North American market.
Once it arrives, it will do battle with a number of established commercial van offerings such as the upcoming Ford Transit and the Sprinter, which is now sold under the Mercedes-Benz banner. Chrysler currently sells a commercial version of the Dodge Grand Caravan called the Ram C/V, though it is smaller than the Ducato.
The Chrysler Group has already announced plans to bring over the Fiat Doblo, which is similar in size to the Ford Transit. Like the Ducato, the Doblo will be sold here as a Ram. No official word on when the Doblo will reach our shores.
The Italian Fiat Ducato has just taken the coveted Which Motorcaravan Base Vehicle winner’s accolade for the third year running. Along with the awards from the United Kingdom-based magazine, the success of the design is reflected in the marketplace – two out of every three motorhomes in Europe are built on the Fiat Ducato base and there are more than 400,000 Fiat Ducato motorhomes on the road in Europe alone. The Trakka Trakkaway 830, shown at left, is one of the latest motorhomes to be based on the Fiat Ducato base vehicle. The Fiat Ducato, according to the magazine, has also transferred its success to Australia, providing vehicles for the eight Australian motorhome companies. The Fiat Ducato base vehicle was designed specifically for the motorhome market and this year’s award presented by the United Kingdom’s Which Motorcaravan magazine recognizes the added benefits offered by Fiat’s six-speed automated manual MTA gearbox which it says provides the economy and performance of a manual and the ease of use of an automatic. The chassis versions come in a range of lengths and heights with different axles and construction materials to suit a range of designs. The entire drivetrain is contained to the front of the vehicle with the fuel tank ahead of the load area. This means equipment that has to be inside other conversions can be placed under the floor, freeing up living space, and that floor is lower, improving ease of access.