06/04/2018

6 April 2018
6 April 2018, Comments Comments Off on Alexander Wottrich – Truma
Alexander Wottrich - Truma

Interview with the founder’s grandson

 

Founded in 1949 by Philipp Kreis to make gas lights in electricity deprived Munich, Truma has gone on to become one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of leisure products for caravans and motorhomes. Today the company is run by two CEOs, of whom one is the founder’s grandson Alexander Wottrich. We caught up with him after a busy day in the office at Putzbrunn, near Munich.

Words Terry Owen

Aboutcamp BtoB: At just 32 years old you were quite young when you took over at Truma Group in 2015. Now in January this year you entered the operational level by becoming one of the two CEOs. I know you worked for Hilti prior to this but what experience did you bring with you?
Alexander Wottrich: I had a degree in mechanical engineering and a degree in family business entrepreneurship, had been working abroad, had founded my own company, plus I had worked in various roles in Truma since I was 16. Some of this time was spent in the UK, where one project was the streamlining of a warehouse function. I got on really well with the engineers involved and that’s when I realised that mechanical engineering was my way to go.

Aboutcamp BtoB: So, you regard yourself as an engineer then?
Alexander Wottrich: Absolutely. An engineer-minded generalist.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What did you see as your greatest challenge when you took over?
Alexander Wottrich: I’d say it was learning the complexity of the Truma organisation with its various companies and 600+ staff. Although Hilti was a very big company I had not had to engage with so many people across such a wide range of responsibilities. It was quite daunting at first but now I enjoy it. The other big issue was learning to trust my instincts.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Over the last 10 years or so Truma has won many awards for design and innovation. What can we expect to see from Truma in the next 10 years?
Alexander Wottrich: We have a business development team constantly working on customer needs and producing a roadmap to meet them. Technology is moving forward at an exponential rate and they look for major trends to ensure we don’t get caught out. You can expect to see smart, interconnected and environmentally friendly solutions. It’s a fact that caravanning and green solutions for comfort go hand in hand.

Aboutcamp BtoB: The AquaGo instant water heater is proving a hit in the US market do you see other market specific products in the pipeline?
Alexander Wottrich: Wherever possible we try to think on a global basis with just small variations to meet the needs of local markets. Although there are differences in the way camping and campsites are run in some parts of the world, vacationing in a small space is essentially the same wherever you are. It is up to us to produce the very best solutions for comfort and convenience within that space.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What is Truma doing to minimise its impact on the environment and how much importance do you place on social responsibility?
Alexander Wottrich: Truma has a high environmental consciousness. Our quality standards and certifications go much further than just delivering efficient, reliable products and providing good service to our customers. For us, quality also means acting ecologically and socially. Caring for the environment and natural resources as well as taking care of our employees are inherent in Truma’s corporate culture, therefore we are certified e.g. acc. to DIN EN ISO 50001 and DIN ISO 140001. At Putzbrunn the roofs of many of our buildings are covered with photovoltaic cells. These produce some 600,000 kWh of electricity each year, feeding into the public grid. This meets about 25% of our needs whereas the other 75% come from our own natural gas driven cogeneration unit or is green electricity. We also treat and recycle waste water as well as collecting 55,000 litres of rainwater for use in our sanitary facilities. We constantly keep improving these metrics. After running Truma for 30 years, in 2011 my mother has set up a non-profit foundation that particularly targets to support children and adolescents from disadvantaged families. This gives us the opportunity to give back to society.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How do you see the development of the European market over the next few years? Is the growth trend going to last? And, if so, for how long?
Alexander Wottrich: According to the CIVD new RV registrations for 2018 are already up some 6% compared to 2017 with Germany leading the way at 10%. This will give us in excess of 200,00 new vehicles. I believe the trend will continue throughout the year before stabilising in 2019. After that it’s very difficult to say.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How do you see the future of the touring caravan in Europe?
Alexander Wottrich: I think the future is bright, particularly for the smaller models that can be towed behind a family car on a standard driving licence. According to the CIVD sales of touring caravans in Europe in 2017 hit an unexpected above 8% increase, with 10% being seen in Germany and of 2% in the whole of Europe for 2018. I think this is driven by the continuing trend of people wanting to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Of course, camper vans are also a perfect fit for this sector of the market. They are ideal for younger people who don’t mind the lack of space and don’t need a second vehicle. This could be where we see the most sustained growth going forward.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the challenges for the future for both Truma and the industry?
Alexander Wottrich: One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the expectations of our end users and making everything easy to use. Going camping should be as easy as booking a cruise. We need to ensure that everything is taken care of. We will need increasingly smart solutions based around digital connectivity to pave the way for a trouble-free camping experience. From hiring RV’s to booking campsites to enjoying the comfort on the move, we need to engineer a seamless experience for the end user. The easier we make it the more takers we are likely to get. Our iNet system is a big step in the right direction but there is so much more that can be done.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Aboutcamp covered your US operation in issue 17 so tell us about your subsidiary in China – how many are employed and what is their future?
Alexander Wottrich: We have 10 employees, an office and a warehouse, all based in Shanghai. We work closely with the Chinese OEM’s supplying them with pressure regulators, space and water heating solutions, and other equipment. We are very proud to have won the ‘Best supplier in the caravanning sector’ award at the Beijing show in 2017 which I believe is well-deserved from our team. It’s difficult to say exactly when the Chinese market will take off in a big way but we are there and we are prepared. I visit about twice a year and think it’s a really interesting market. I find the Chinese happy to embrace new ideas whilst possessing an attitude of high motivation and engagement.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How do you think leisure vehicles of the future will look and what contribution will Truma be able to make to them?
Alexander Wottrich: I think we will see more in the way of autonomous driving and vehicle sharing. Both of these will make ownership easier and cheaper and that has to be good for our market. I also think we’ll see much more in the way of interconnectivity between the vehicles and objects in our daily lives such as smartphones. I have other ideas too, but really need an OEM to partner with to take them forward. So, if anyone out there is interested, please get in touch. Whatever we do must be in step with the times, which means finding out what people need and meeting those needs quickly and efficiently. Solutions need have to have broad appeal and not just to one group where others cannot follow. The success of any new developments will depend on being able to take all key partners on the journey. By that I’m referring to the campers, the OEM’s, the dealerships and the service partners. Each development will need all four of these on board if it is to succeed.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Do you make use of leisure vehicles in your free time?
Alexander Wottrich: Yes, I have a van conversion I use quite a bit. I also sometimes take one of the 12 strong fleet of Truma vehicles we provide for our employees.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What are your hobbies – what do you do in your non-work time?
Alexander Wottrich: Alexander Wottrich: Mountains, music and sports pretty much sums it up, especially mountain sports. Sit me in a nice RV in the mountains with a subwoofer, a climbing gear or pair of skis and I’m away!