Hymer is perhaps the best known brand in the RV sector at a European level. This is because it has written important chapters in the history of the motorhome in Europe, but also because of the quality and prestige image of its products. Today, the head of the company is Christian Bauer, who answered our questions about the market situation, attendance at trade fairs and the raw material and component supply crisis; but we also talked about the relationship between new product categories and new user groups.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How did 2022 end for Hymer? What was your experience of the final period of the pandemic and the great market euphoria?
Christian Bauer: All in all, 2022 was a great year for us with many highlights, such as the highly anticipated market launch of the Hymer Venture S, the presentation of a new generation of touring caravans and camper vans, the opening of a newly-built Super Light Chassis (SLC) production hall in Bad Waldsee, and many more.
After two challenging years marked by the pandemic, business is finally getting back to normal. We have experienced a great camping boom with unbroken interest in this type of travel and are therefore very optimistic about the future.
Aboutcamp BtoB: In Germany, registrations of RVs, and above all of motorized RVs, have reached numbers never seen before: was this also the case for Hymer?
Christian Bauer: Indeed, demand on our RVs is at an all-time high. We can look back on a very successful year.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Now the demand is declining: what figure will it settle on? Will there be numbers on which to build a solid future?
Christian Bauer: That’s a bit like looking into a crystal ball during times of volatility, but given the positive developments in our business and the camping industry, we believe we are very well positioned for the future.
Below: Hymer Venture S; Eriba Touring 430
Aboutcamp BtoB: What is Hymer’s role within the world of the Erwin Hymer Group? Have relations with the other companies in the Group changed in recent years? Are any changes foreseeable in the future?
Christian Bauer: Hymer remains the core brand of the Erwin Hymer Group with the highest brand awareness. We continue to live up to our claim as the industry’s innovation leader and, where it makes sense, we naturally also use exchanges and synergies with other brands in the Group, with whom we have a good relationship. This will not change.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Was your Group’s decision not to participate in some trade fairs a painful choice on Hymer’s part? What were the results of doing this? What alternative actions were implemented?
Christian Bauer: Due to the pandemic, we had to increase our emphasis on new digital formats and sales channels instead of appearances at traditional trade fairs. This went hand in hand with a strengthening of advisory skills at the point of sale. We have had very good experiences with this approach.
However, of course, we will continue to maintain contact with customers and business partners for whom a visit to a trade show or live event is indispensable. That’s why we aim for representation at key shows (such as the Caravan Salon) while participation in other trade fairs will be considered on individual merits.
Aboutcamp BtoB: In general, do you think there has been, or will be, a decisive change in the way of selling and communicating?
Christian Bauer: Good interaction between manufacturers and retailers is crucial – whether online or offline. Nevertheless, digital sales and marketing opportunities continue to grow. That’s why it’s important to professionalize our entire internet presence across all channels. Emotionality and approachability must not be lost in the process. First-class consultation and good customer service will always be central for a premium brand like Hymer.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How was Hymer affected by the raw material and component supply crisis?
Christian Bauer: This is indeed the greatest challenge our industry faces and requires great flexibility from all parts of our workforce. However, we are proud that we have been able to manage any problems occurring very well so far.
Below: Hymer B-Klasse ModernComfort; Hymer B-Klasse MasterLine
Aboutcamp BtoB: Have you implemented precise plans for the lack of chassis? Have you opted for a greater differentiation of the mechanical bases?
Christian Bauer: No, we are very well positioned with our current business partners (first and foremost Mercedes-Benz) and will continue to maintain a very transparent and trusting exchange.
Aboutcamp BtoB: The increase in production costs has pushed up the final price of the products: are they too high for your customers?
Christian Bauer: As in most industries and areas of life, there have been price increases in the last years, some of which we had to pass on to customers. This has not affected the demand for our products, however.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Do you think that, from now on, motorized RVs will have to be a luxury product, for a more limited clientele?
Christian Bauer: RVs are not fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and therefore purchasing decisions will always be well-considered. We see ourselves as a manufacturer of emotional goods for passionate enthusiasts who do not subordinate everything to price. Then again, purchasing a RV has also proven to be a stable value investment in recent years.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is it to emphasize that Hymer will increasingly address customers with high spending power that very high-level motorhomes and campervans have been created, such as the Venture S and four-wheel drive campervans?
Christian Bauer: Hymer’s claim derives from seeing ourselves as an innovative premium brand. That’s what our customers appreciate and know us for. As we follow the wishes and expectations of our customers, not just a highlight product like the Venture S, vehicles from all categories are steadily becoming more comprehensive and comfortable.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Has there been significant growth in the campervan market segment for Hymer as well? How much do these products represent of your total sales today? Have you implemented specific programs for this type of vehicle?
Christian Bauer: Hymer’s campervan segment has been growing continuously for many years. Today, we can point to a broad portfolio with many special models that also serve the increasing demand for all-wheel drive.
Below: Hymer Free Blue Evolution; Eriba Touring 820
Aboutcamp BtoB: Many say that the campervan brings new customers to the RV world: is this the same for Hymer?
Christian Bauer: Yes, of course. Campervans usually appeal to a younger, more active target group who want to pursue their hobbies independently and are not primarily enthusiastic campers. Nevertheless, campervans naturally also offer the most cost efficient entry into the camping and caravanning world.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Hymer still maintains various ranges of caravans: how important is this type of product to you? Are production and commercial efforts proportionate to market sales?
Christian Bauer: With our Eriba brand, which is becoming increasingly independent, we are clearly committed to the caravanning segment. A look at the many vehicles with cult status, such as the Eriba Touring, shows the importance the brand has had in the industry’s history as well as today.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the sales ratio between the domestic market and exports for Hymer? Which markets are you most involved in? What changes have there been in the last period?
Christian Bauer: As a traditional German manufacturer, the German-speaking market is naturally very important to us. But we are well represented in all European core markets, such as England, France and the Netherlands, and are also steadily expanding our presence in East Europe, especially in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What evolution has Hymer encountered in the Eastern European markets and what changes will there be due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict?
Christian Bauer: Ukraine and Russia have never been primary markets for our business. But, of course, the consequences of the conflict have also affected us in terms of current supply chain challenges.
Christian Bauer (right) in conversation with our editor-in-chief