15 April 2024
15 April 2024, Comments Comments Off on Armin Mäder – Tabbert
Armin Mäder - Tabbert

70 years of tradition, innovation, and prestige

The traditional manufacturer Tabbert is celebrating its 70th anniversary and is repositioning itself in line with the times with an attractive caravan portfolio ranging from family and touring caravans to the exclusive luxury class. Aboutcamp BtoB spoke to Armin Mäder, the product manager of Tabbert and T@B, about tradition, developments and the future positioning of the long-established brand.

Words Antonio Mazzucchelli and Claus-Detlev Bues
photo Enrico Bona

Armin Mäder, 53, has been a dedicated member of the Tabbert team in Mottgers. The Hesse native’s journey with Tabbert began 37 years ago when he joined as an apprentice in the carpentry workshop. With his master carpentry qualification, he progressed through various roles in the development and design departments. For the past seven years, he has served as the Product Manager for Tabbert, and for the last two years, he has taken on the responsibility for the T@B brand at Knaus Tabbert AG. Mäder is happily married for 30 years; his hobbies are walks and hikes with his dog and family vacations in a caravan throughout Europe.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Tabbert is celebrating its 70th anniversary. What is the legacy of the past and what are the main plans for the future? How will the experience accumulated over these decades influence innovation, sustainability and the company’s growth strategy in the coming years?
Armin Mäder: Tabbert already celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2023. Of course, that means a lot of history, a lot of tradition and a lot of emotion. However, we only celebrated the anniversary with restraint. Our customers and the whole caravaning industry know what tradition and experience we have. Our focus has always been on the satisfaction of our discerning customers and the proverbial longevity of our vehicles. And what has also always characterised Tabbert is that we have traditionally been very strong in the so-called professional sector. These customers live all year round with an average of four people in the vehicle and prefer the larger models – the tandem-axle models. As a manufacturer, we are aware that there is a considerable difference between a vehicle being used for 5 or 52 weeks a year. Our growth strategy is to further expand our market shares organically and, in the future, devote more attention to the tourism market. The best example of this: With the new model Senara, we have just launched a brand-new entry-level model for less than 23.000 euros, which is a real offer for entry into the premium world of Tabbert.

Aboutcamp BtoB: For decades, Tabbert was almost notorious for its “baroque” image with cream-coloured bestsellers such as the Comtesse, Senator and Diadem models and a strong showman clientele. Does this clientele still exist?
Armin Mäder: The vehicles you mentioned were top of the line of the caravan market and state of the art in previous days. But Tabbert has long since undergone massive changes. You won’t find any baroque style here for a very long time. Instead, you will find fresh, modern cosiness at the highest level. Take the Pantiga: a clever and practical caravan with plenty of modern charm. But back to the question: yes, we really value our professional clientele, who account for around 50% of all Tabbert vehicles sold. So this is a large and important sector, which is also so interesting for us because almost 90% of these customers choose a tandem-axle model. Our strongest market is France, followed immediately by Germany, but we also successfully sell vehicles to the UK.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the current Tabbert range made up of? What are the main features of the various model ranges and what are the target customer groups?
Armin Mäder: Our models are clearly positioned in the market. As I just mentioned, this year (model year 2024) we launched the Senara as a new entry-level model. This is where the Tabbert world begins in Germany. The modern DaVinci is in the sophisticated class, while the Pantiga and Puccini models are ideal for those who want something special. At the very top of the Tabbert range is the Cellini – even with an electric slide-out at the top end. And all Tabbert models have one thing in common: they are built to the highest quality in our factory in Mottgers with attention to detail. The topic of customising, with special options, also plays a very important role here. We have a separate department that caters to this clientele. This means that the product family is well organised: There is something for beginners, for the middle class, the upper middle class and finally also in the luxury class up to the ultimate premium, the Cellini slide-out. There is no other manufacturer in Germany that can do something like this. Only Tabbert has had such a high-quality slide-out caravan in its programme for ten years.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How does Tabbert define luxury in caravanning, and how is this reflected in the design and features of its latest models?
Armin Mäder: Luxury here is defined rather discreetly and unobtrusively, not overtly opulent. In this market segment, in addition to the company image, a high-quality feel to the materials and, of course, the overall harmonious ambience are decisive. We also attach great importance to a heavy, solid construction. This is why Tabbert vehicles are always somewhat heavier than other vehicles. We have a thicker floor, we have a thicker roof. We have two-dimensionally curved rear and front walls. This all contributes to the greater stability of our caravans. What’s more, we work with double and therefore thicker partition walls in the vehicle. So a Tabbert is always built to last a brief eternity.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How has Tabbert responded to changes in the caravan market over the last few decades in terms of design, technology and marketing strategies?
Armin Mäder: As you have already mentioned, the traditional eggshell colour on the outside was perhaps symptomatic in the past. But that’s long gone, we’ve left that behind us for over twenty years. We have become much more modern. In 2013, we made radical changes with the “Next Generation”. One of my first tasks as Product Manager in 2016 was to make the Tabbert brand more modern, more contemporary and younger, but of course without giving up the familiar values. We started with the Vivaldi, which had a very bold design for Tabbert and made an excellent impression on the market right from the start. And just last model year, we took another big step towards rejuvenating the Tabbert brand with the daring designed Pantiga. And the mission is far from over: With the brand new Senara, we were recently able to add an extra highlight.

Aboutcamp BtoB: But without such specific, Tabbert typical details as the rear-ventilated roof?
Armin Mäder: That’s right, it’s good that you mention that. It’s true – we have made massive changes to the Tabbert roof and at the same time significantly improved it. The roof has become lighter overall, but has the same sound and thermal insulation properties as before. What’s more, it is now walkable, so it’s much more stable. This was not possible before. This example also clearly shows that Tabbert is not about worshipping the ashes, but always about passing on the flame. That’s what we live for in Mottgers – every day.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Within the Knaus-Tabbert Group, Tabbert appears to be a brand that enjoys a great deal of autonomy. What are the common synergies with other brands in the group and what characterises them?
Armin Mäder: Synergies are important as they improve competitiveness. For example, we get the side walls from the main plant in Jandelsbrunn in accordance with our increased specifications and requirements. And of course we also have access to the same team in concept, research and development within the company. However, The Tabbert brand certainly has a higher degree of freedom within the Knaus Tabbert AG group and has been able to retain a certain exclusive independence. We can also offer more discerning customers other customising or individualisation options that are not possible in mass production. All in all, this means that Tabbert is a unique jewel in the company’s crown, which is continuously maintained, which is why we are ideally equipped for the future. Because the world doesn’t stand still, we all have to adapt flexibly. Take e-mobility in caravanning. There is a lack of infrastructure here – the campsites in particular still have some homework to do. But the complete electrification of the industry is a long way that we want to travel continuously. But despite all the euphoria: in the end, The worm has to taste good to the fish, not the fisherman. This means that customers also have to follow this path.

Aboutcamp BtoB: By the way, have you taken a look at the development of the caravan market in Turkey? It’s a great market that is growing very quickly. Many new caravan brands are active there and are striving for Europe.
Armin Mäder: Yes, you could already see at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf that Turkey is actively seeking to enter the market. The country is certainly interesting for the industry. We are constantly looking at the markets. One example: Knaus Tabbert is the market leader for caravans in South Korea. Still at a manageable level, but still it is. If you look at the registration figures in Europe, the industry has lost 60.000 units in the past two years. The entire European market has shrunk from 260.000 to 200.000 units. We’re not just talking about caravans here, but about the entire recreational vehicle market. But if you look at the new registrations of our vehicles, we are number one in Germany. We have over 500 partner companies and trading points worldwide. These are Knaus Tabbert exclusive dealers, these are dealers who carry one or more of our brands, these are dealers who also have other brands.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How successful is the Tabbert Cellini 750 HTD 2.5 Slide-Out model on the current market? Does it meet expectations in terms of sales and public acceptance? Who is the customer for this caravan?
Armin Mäder: The Slide-Out – as we call it internally for short – has been around for ten years now and is unique in the luxury caravan market. It fully fulfils our expectations, but also those of our customers – who are not used to having to make any compromises. The customer group is individual. Some come from motorhomes because they no longer want to drive such a motorised vehicle. But also professionals, such as showmen or travellers. So the clientele of the Cellini Slide-Out is as versatile as its variety of features.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Only Tabbert vehicles are produced in Mottgers? Where and how are Tabbert caravans produced? What are your reference markets?
Armin Mäder: All Tabbert vehicles are produced exclusively in Mottgers and our main markets are Germany and France. In future, however, we also want to become more involved throughout Europe. We have a strong presence in the Netherlands and are also present in Scandinavia. We are also continuously expanding our market share in new markets and will of course continue to develop and serve them vigorously. By the way, we also produce Knaus caravans with selected layouts in Mottgers. We do this for capacity reasons, because we still have possibilities here at the site. This speaks in favour of the flexible production site in Mottgers.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How many employees work at the Mottgers production site?
Armin Mäder: We are in the range of 450 to 500, currently almost 500 and they have been working overtime for years. We don’t work 35 hours, but between 40 and 44 hours a week. So we have good capacity utilisation.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In contrast to the North American market, motorhome sales in Europe have grown strongly and caravan sales have declined. What can we expect for the future and what is Tabbert’s market strategy?
Armin Mäder: A clear message: we are getting younger, we are becoming more modern. That is the goal. Tabbert has a strong history and a long history, and sometimes Tabbert was also caught up in this history to a certain extent. That’s why our aim is to keep making the brand a little younger and more attractive – so we’re targeting individualists as well as young families.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Will there also be adjustments in the direction of frame technology, so that this comes across in Tabbert’s production technology in some form?
Armin Mäder: Basically, we always think across brands and model ranges within the company. With a view to possible synergies, there is a clear roadmap for how technologies will be further developed – where and how they will be used – without diluting the respective brand essence.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Changes in the automotive world, with the progressive decline of combustion engines, especially diesel, will increasingly influence the caravan market. Perhaps caravans will have to be built much lighter, or perhaps large caravans will remain stationary on campsites… How do you see this?
Armin Mäder: Electromobility is a major concern for us in the company. However, as a leading manufacturer of recreational vehicles, we would like to see a certain degree of openness to technology in this area. But back to Tabbert. As I mentioned, our vehicles tend to be a bit heavier. The goal for the future must therefore be: We must continue to become lighter. Our research and development departments are constantly working on this.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Sustainable, environmentally friendly production and products are becoming increasingly important in the market. How is Tabbert adapting in terms of technological innovations and sustainable practices in caravan production?
Armin Mäder: Caravanning is sustainable per se. It starts with the fact that our CO2 footprint is better than being on a cruise or travel by air. After all, we are directly in nature with our vehicles. Of course, that means we also want to protect nature. Take a look at how long campers use their caravans on average. People buy a Tabbert because they say it’s the proverbial quality. It’s a vehicle that I can use for 10, 15, 20 years. And then someone else will be happy to buy this used Tabbert and perhaps enjoy it for many more years. A vehicle that I can use for decades – that’s what I call true sustainability..

Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the main challenges facing Tabbert in the global caravan market and how does the company plan to meet them?
Armin Mäder: It’s all about the customers. What do they want, what wishes do they formulate? You have to listen and look carefully. After all, we don’t produce for ourselves, but for our customers – and they are constantly evolving. The Demands are increasing, as is the desire for more comfort. In principle, everyone wants to be able to use what they have at home in a caravan. Today, we no longer talk about whether a voice control system such as Alexa or an air conditioning system is installed in the caravan. The latter is standard in more than half of Tabbert caravans. So customers don’t want to miss out on anything. This has to be fulfilled and at the same time, we always have to make an offer that customers may not even know today that they will want tomorrow. In short, you have to be able to anticipate customer wishes in order to shape markets globally.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Is the Dyonic chassis with bionic design also conceivable for innovative Tabbert constructions? As a kind of response to Knaus’ experiments with new construction methods such as frame technology?
Armin Mäder: Be careful, please don’t confuse it: The Dyonic chassis that we use at Weinsberg, Knaus and also in the Tabbert Pantiga was developed by us in a bionic design. It is high-strength and extremely light. A real innovation from our company. The other topic you are talking about is the state-of-the-art frame technology, which is currently exclusive for the Knaus brand. This revolutionary and highly stable frame construction gives caravans unprecedented stability. Frame technology is currently reserved for the top-of-the-range model Azur and Deseo transport caravans within our caravan portfolio. But of course we always think across brands here too. Let us surprise you.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Tabbert focuses strongly on passive and active safety while travelling, with standard systems such as AL-KO AAA, ETS and AL-KO AKS. Are these features really perceived by customers as an important element when choosing a caravan? What other elements are necessary for a caravan to reflect Tabbert’s philosophy?
Armin Mäder: Of course, the essence of a Tabbert caravan always includes the widest possible range of safety features. This is what our customers expect – without compromise. Tabbert always strives to consistently implement all feasible technical safety standards available on the market. If something is not available, we sometimes develop it together with our trusted suppliers.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How are the chassis shares of the individual suppliers distributed?
Armin Mäder: At Tabbert, with the exception of the Pantiga, we build all other model ranges on the tried and tested AL-KO chassis. For the Pantiga, we use our own development – the Dyonic chassis. We will certainly find this in other model ranges in the future. The Dyonic chassis has several advantages: first and foremost the low weight. But it also brings an advantage for the customer because, in the end, an increase of permitted weight is only an entry in the vehicle registration and not the change of the whole axle for a lot of money. Despite the higher-quality chassis, we also create a price advantage for the customer.