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.”
Germany-based RV builder Hymer AG has appointed Paul Kershaw as its new commercial agent for the U.K,. responsible for several Hymer Group brands.
Out&About Live reported that Kershaw aims to appoint up to six Hymer motorhome dealers over the coming weeks. This will be the first time in Hymer’s history that there will be an independent dealer network in the U.K. and comes after Hymer’s sales and marketing chief, Jorg Reithmeier, confirmed the brand would stay in the U.K., despite ending its sole importer agreement with Brownhills.
Kershaw is looking to appoint dealers across England, Scotland and Wales as a priority. He said he will be working hard to establish the best dealer network as quickly as possible and that he is aware that there are many concerned Hymer owners, particularly with the closure of Hymer U.K. in Preston.
“I am very keen to ensure that only the best dealers will be part of the future network,” he said. “With the sterling/euro exchange rate now moving in the right direction, I believe Hymer now represents even better value to U.K. buyers. I also intend to create pricing parity with the continental markets therefor eliminating the need for some customers to travel for LHD purchases.”
All the current and future Hymer models will be available with a more convenient geographical spread for sales, service and parts.
Kershaw was previously brand director for the Brownhills Group. Prior to leaving Brownhills, three years ago he grew the Hymer U.K. business to become Europe’s largest Hymer dealer.
Hymer AG, which has been making recreational vehicles since the 1930s and is one of Europe’s leading motorhome builders, predicted demand for motorhomes and trailers won’t improve for 18 months, forcing the German company to cut costs and reduce its work force, according to Bloomberg News.
”The situation is strained,” Hermann Pfaff, the management board member responsible for finance and distribution, said in a telephone interview from Bad Waldsee, where the company is based. “We have to cut personnel costs.”
Hymer posted a net loss of $25.9 million for the first half of its fiscal year ending Feb. 28 after sales fell 28%. The European caravan (RV) market shrank 20% in the past months, he said.
The economy of Europe, where Hymer makes 94% of its sales, will shrink 4% this year, according to the European Commission. The company predicts motorhome makers to sell 120,000 vehicles in Europe this year, compared with 191,000 last year as dealers run down inventories.
Hymer has reduced its work force, including temporary staff, by 10% to about 3,150, Pfaff said. The company forecasts a second-half operating profit excluding one-time costs for job cuts after posting a loss in the first six months. A third of factory employees are working shorter hours.
“We don’t expect unit sales to increase,” said Pfaff, one of Hymer’s two management board members. “They’ll stay at this level for the next 1 1/2 years. People have done cruises, flown and traveled everywhere. Now they want motorhomes.”