Pimp My Wohnwagen
Caravan Owners Choose Upgrades Over New Models
The financial crisis has claimed another victim -- the motor home and camper industry. Caravan manufacturers can only dream of last year's sales figures as Germans opt to revamp their old vehicles rather than buy new ones.
The German love affair with RVs and camper trailers, known in Europe as "caravans," shows no signs of stopping. But enthusiasts' approach to their homes on wheels is starting to change. At a time when everyone is feeling the financial pinch, the trend is for owners to renovate their old vehicles rather than invest in new -- and expensive -- high-tech models.
Gone are the days of caravans with a built-in storage compartment for your car or a sporty convertible roof. Now, after-market accessories such as eco-friendly solar panels, satellite navigation systems and widescreen televisions are all the rage for the mobile home owner on a budget.
The future of the mobile home and caravaning business could be put in jeopardy by German consumers who are choosing to revamp their existing vehicles rather than buy new ones. Official figures released by the Caravaning Industry Association show that only 35,533 new camper trailers, called "Caravans" in German, and RVs were registered in Europe between January and March, representing a 28.6 percent drop in comparison with the same period in the previous year. The decline was particularly steep for camper trailers, sales of which fell by almost a third.
Fixing 'Em Up Rather than Trading Them In
Experts are explaining the figures by pointing towards an increasing consumer desire to do-up rather than dump old vehicles. And even if buyers like the idea of driving around in the latest model, many can no longer afford the five- to six-figure sticker price.
Caravan Salon, the annual mobile home exhibiton in Düsseldorf, is responding to this shift in the market. Organizers of the show, which opens on August 29, have announced the project "Turn something old into something new," which will include the display of a fully modernized 1991 caravan. There will also be experts on hand to give caravaners advice on how to revamp their vehicles.
Customizing caravans is by no means a new idea, though. Ever since the days of the iconic Volkswagen camper van -- nicknamed the "hippie bus" -- the exteriors of RVs and trailers have been personalized just as much as the interiors. And whereas an annual meeting of renovating enthusiasts has drawn a crowd of about 800 people to the town of Wietzendorf in the past, organizer Claus-Georg Petri says 1,200 have expressed interest -- so many organizers may have to turn people away because of the lack of space.