31 March 2023
31 March 2023, Comments Comments Off on Erna Povh – Adria Mobil
Erna Povh - Adria Mobil

Caravan first

Does the caravan still have a chance on the European market? We find out in this interview with Erna Povh, who takes care of the caravan segment for Adria Mobil

Words Antonio Mazzucchelli and Paolo Galvani

Erna Povh has worked for Adria Mobil for more than twenty years and she is now the product manager of the caravan sector. Erna started in the sales department as a market researcher, then became a market executive for the most of Europe and also sales operation manager for some years. After that, in 2016, she became the product manager of the previous Alpina project, her first one. Now she manages the full caravan portfolio, following the lifecycles, leading new product development projects, managing design, etc… During this time, Adria has launched seven ranges and more than doubled its market share in Europe, from 4.9% to 9.4%.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Adria has always maintained a high interest in the caravan segment, while increasing its production of motorized RVs over time. Is this a winning decision?
Erna Povh: Historically, Adria started with caravans and became an international business. It became known for good quality products and value for money, so this is still the heart of our portfolio. However, after the crisis in 2008, the market expanded in the motorized sector much faster than in caravans: it was the ‘baby boomer’ generation, which had money and could afford a motorhome. Adria started its first motorhome production in the 1980s and for the van segment in late 1990s. Today, we believe even more in a balanced portfolio between the caravan, motorhome and van segments. The motorhome segment has higher added value which, for the financial stability of the company, is very important, but caravans are a segment that is not dying. We see traditional caravan markets; but we also see many newcomers in this segment and we see a future need for holiday freedom at an acceptable price.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Maybe because of the rise in prices, a caravan could now be more attractive…?
Erna Povh: Rising prices have affected all segments. The buying decision ‘funnel’ will take longer. In the past, the consumer used to read everything on the internet and they were really skilled on exactly what they wanted, which layout, what features, etc., but in the last two years during the corona pandemic, we’ve seen new buyers who did not know the product exactly, instead, they were buying holidays. This was valid for all segments. I believe that the caravan will always be an alternative; however, what we see now is not a completely realistic situation because we sell mostly luxury products – motorhomes and caravans – so to me, this doesn’t seem to be the next normal, which I think will happen. I believe that the company with a stable portfolio needs to include a caravan segment because, historically, there are more people with great memories in a caravan from their own childhood that they want to offer to their children, and also to have the complete price spectrum to offer customers.

Below: Adria Alpina

Aboutcamp BtoB: Caravans and motorized RVs: are they two distinct segments in terms of users, design and production?

Erna Povh: Users are different between segments and these differences also vary across the markets. However, from a design and production point of view these segments are not so different. Therefore, we have established an Adria design language across our complete portfolio. When you see our offer in the caravan and motorhome programmes you see many similar elements from the Adria design language. In the past, there were more differences, and the teams were more specialized for motorhomes or caravans, but now we’ve merged a lot of knowledge across the programmes. Over 10 years ago, we started to bring innovation in to caravans very systematically; the caravan with its space and more defined user, offers more opportunities to innovate. In that time, we established a great cooperation with an external design studio from Slovenia. They helped us establish the design management process and we started to monitor consumer needs. We saw there are different types of freedom; there are traditional users who were caravanners and very often want to stay caravanners. The big challenge are the newcomers as they are very often dependent on the budget they have available and are also sensitive to the very first experience they have with their new product. We conduct at least one design research each year to understand consumer needs. We also established an internal team of designers and we keep working with two external agencies: one is from Slovenia and they’re working mostly on caravans, and then we have a German design agency that we are cooperating with on our motorhome programme. I have to say that, for us, our long-term relationships with these two agencies are very important. Only with years of cooperation can a design agency learn and understand our needs and the needs of our customers. We say that they understand our DNA.

Aboutcamp BtoB: The caravan yesterday, today and tomorrow: what is Adria’s vision?
Erna Povh: As previously mentioned, caravans are historically a very important segment for Adria. I believe that in the last five years we made a tremendous step in brand recognition with Adria caravans, and, of course, we have many initiatives for caravans in our roadmap for the future. Even if everyone talks about lightweight and e-mobility, we still sell a lot of heavy and expensive caravans. I believe it’s very important for tomorrow that we keep the entry-price level in our portfolio or even a bit lower, so we are working on lightweight materials to make some new concepts which will be easier to be towed by e-cars; we are also cooperating with some end users that own one of our heavier segment caravans and tow with a Tesla, so we are making studies about the aerodynamics. If you ask me: Erna, do you think caravans will die? I say no, they will not die. I think there is a great future for caravans; I don’t believe they will grow back to the levels they reached around year 2000, but we still have a good business with today’s numbers.

Aboutcamp BtoB: You mentioned e-cars, and Tesla: which kind of new challenges is this kind of technology bringing to the caravan segment?
Erna Povh: Of course, weight is the first issue, and then the body size; this is a thing that defines the speed of driving or, in combination with the speed, defines the energy consumption of the batteries. Our industry definitely is not carbon neutral, especially because 85% of the carbon footprint is done while using the products, but on the other hand, nobody really calculates that people can own a caravan for 30-40 years; so bringing this aspect into the calculation, the carbon footprint is much smaller. Nevertheless, we will have to change our habits: how we travel, at what speed, etc., as we could reduce the carbon footprint by more than 15% if we drive within some basic rules. So, lighter, narrower and more aerodynamic caravans is the easier way, that’s why we also are working very strongly in that field: our entry-price Aviva and recently launched Altea range were very focused on the weight. But still a caravan has a certain volume… that’s why we have caravans: because we don’t want to sleep in a tent, we want to have a solid roof, a good bed and a good kitchen inside…

Aboutcamp BtoB: With the Astella range you have established a new point of reference in the caravan sector: can you tell us how this project was born and developed?
Erna Povh: It was a very good project, and I still think the Astella really is an outstanding product. We were at the turning point of portfolio lifecycles. We had five ranges in the segment at that time and we realized that in our top range, which was at that time the Alpina, some customers would like to upgrade their product but there was nothing on the market that could offer more comfort and still give the freedom of mobility. That was a part of this segment of consumers; then there was another part who we met and they wanted to have a homestyle comfort but they didn’t want to buy a mobile home, because then they would be stuck only in one location. So, we made studies on what would have brought better comfort, and a better experience of space. What came out of the first design concept was quite radical. We were working on this project also in cooperation with a Slovenian company, who are experts on the light plane technology, and they helped us with aerodynamic studies and gave us some design proposals, and how to improve it. So, we came up with some very similar solutions that you can see on big trucks. After the innovation project was released and we started evaluating the designs of the layouts, which would enable a real homie, luxury experience, including high quality materials like real wood and corian worktops. We went into cooperation with a good partner from Italy, and together we designed and developed a unique panoramic door. This big, 150cm wide panorama door is one of the most recognizable elements on the Astella. Later, we developed with the same partner also a narrower one, a 90 cm wide door, which we now have on one Astella and even on one Alpina.

Aboutcamp BtoB: You have already four Astella models: do you know how the clients use this caravan – pitched on a campsite or do they travel with it?
Erna Povh: It is so different than I had imagined: when we interviewed consumers before starting the project, we thought it would be more like typical users who would have their Astella half the year at a summer campsite and then move it to a winter camp for the rest of the year, but it’s so different… for instance, Germany surprised me the most because with the new Astella we were more focused on Scandinavian market, but German caravanners were hungry for a product like this. They have good cars… so, with this in mind, I would say that 60% of users stay in one or a maximum of two locations per year, but 40% of them are driving on the road.

Below: Adria Astella climate chamber tests; vehicle cutout; clean interior design

Aboutcamp BtoB: Do cheap caravans have a future? What are Adria’s plans in this sector?

Erna Povh: We believe that there will be a need for entry-price caravans, as new buyers, consumers at their first purchase, don’t dare to immediately buy an expensive one because they need to try out and experience this style of holidays. For example: the previous generation of Aviva was designed seven years ago and it was a very innovative caravan; it was a €10,000 caravan: a little bit more, or the same price, as a second-hand caravan. So, people buy an Aviva and in two years they realize they like the experience, and they buy a better caravan. I believe tomorrow we will also go back to basics. I have a big family and every year we go on holidays with a caravan. What we really need is to spend time together, we like to be outside, we like to sleep and we like to play in a caravan, we like to be stable at a location for a while and have fun. Caravans are perfect for such needs.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Many argue that the exterior design of caravans, with a few exceptions, has had little substantial change over the past twenty years or so. Is this true?
Erna Povh: I believe that with our new generation of caravans, starting with Astella, we have set new standards; and also, Alpina and Adora, that followed Astella, have many exterior design elements from Astella and address a better driving experience as well as an attractive appearance. We have, of course, much more freedom to design interiors and we believe that each caravan has its own story. We have a well-structured portfolio covering all prices segments with appropriate interior styling and proper level of equipment. The ambience is very important, and also, the contrast of the colours and the styling: it makes you peaceful or it makes you nervous, it brings emotion. It’s like a home. We paid a lot of attention to the interiors bringing a proper mood board to a proper product category.

Aboutcamp BtoB: We have been in all your caravans before, and here at the CMT in Stuttgart, and were surprised to see how you can feel the differentiation between the categories, it’s really interesting and not very common.
Erna Povh: It is true. With different user groups you expect, of course, a different level of experience, different equipment and also different styling, with more attention to modern or classical details, materials and decors.
Here we started to innovate the most. First starting to bring a better experience to the kitchen with the Adria special cooking unit, then a special ergo bathroom concept that brings the best combination of space and functionality performance. It was also interesting when we were studying the behavior of consumers using our products: for instance, in the last ten years, every family has been using an average of ten devices, and is bringing them on their holidays. This means many cables and places to store those gadgets, so we really prepared many multi-functional solutions for the interior storage, which are nicely integrated in the overall design, because otherwise people do it themselves and it might not look as beautiful as you would have designed it. That’s why we also really pay attention also to the soft parts of the interior, how people are using them, how they will leave a book when they go to bed, or where the lady will look for her glasses when she wakes up, and things like that… so I think our ambience also differs from the rest of the caravan offers because of these details.

Below: Adria Adora 613 PK

Aboutcamp BtoB: This kind of experience is one that we discovered over time. How can the dealer push these aspects during the sales process?

Erna Povh: In the last three years, the situation has been different than in the past because there was more demand than availability, so dealers, for us also distributors as market representatives, did not have many new requirements. The effort needed for selling was lower than in the past. So, in this respect I am a little bit cautious about the next years to come. But, in the past, Adria’s regular development process included our distributor partners and meetings with dealers for market requests, and our ambition is always to listen, because different markets very often have different needs. With the research that we conduct, plus the long experience and competences that we have, we can create the best products. Dealers are the first contact with our consumers and they also know all the pain points customers have using many products, that’s why direct communication is, to me, very important. We all really trust each other a lot. To me, as a product manager, it’s the most important thing that I have contact with the end consumer, and I also listen to the dealers and the distributor partners. This is how you can bring the right design into new projects. This is most valuable. I think this is also the success formula: I start with the end consumer, and I lead the project through the whole end-to-end development process and validate concepts with partners, and I am present again at the launch of the product with end consumers. This is how we bring correct insights back into the new development projects.

Aboutcamp BtoB: You talked about the ambience, the details: what about lighting?
Erna Povh: Lighting is a very specific point where I have a little bit different opinion than most of the industry. I am not really enthusiast to have too much light in the ambience. Of course, you need to know what do you need light for, so maybe a good sample is Alpina: the project developed in recent years is very rich in all the light solutions, but it’s not too crowded with too many lights. On the other hand, there are some basic elements of the interior comfort that we tried to address. With the Alpina we developed a chargeable lamp which you have inside for a really nice ambient feeling, but actually if you want to read outside the caravan you have to bring your own light, because the standard awning lights are not good enough for reading. Well, with this chargeable lamp that we developed for Alpina you can pick it up and take it out, so that you can also read outside. At the same time, we upgraded the standard awning light with better light performance and with emphasize to the overall caravan aesthetics. To sum up, we try to understand the user’s behavior, we try to also understand the colour of the light and its temperature that arouses the right feelings. We try not to be too noisy.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In the years to come, what could we expect in terms of design for the interiors and exteriors of a caravan?
Erna Povh: To me, design is not about how beautiful something will be. Of course, aesthetics is a very important element of design, but only in combination with functionality and emotions can it win. And, we have to see how the customers will behave in the future. I think we will have to be more careful with the younger generations: on the one hand, we want to offer this younger generation the best experience in our caravans; on the other hand, with the higher volume of electric cars, we will have to adjust the products so that people will not be scared to buy a caravan that needs to be towed. We must not promise to this generation what we cannot deliver. I think that with some efforts on these key points, the weight, the managing of the power to the caravan, we will address some of the future needs and I am convinced that the consumers respect when you’re honest with your future efforts. I believe we cannot make a fully electrical caravan with current technology with the right user experience of freedom holidays. Many producers also explore new sustainable product design solutions. We are very much active on this and believe that sustainability is not just about weight and some new materials, which might not be durable in the long run. That’s why I think the long life of our products is still very important. The recent years pushed our industry over production capabilities. In many ways, I believe we all shall strive for stable and good quality products to deliver to our consumers, and OEMs should together focus on the main challenges the future will bring. The RV industry should play as one in honest efforts to bring the right products and experience for happy people and the planet in the future.

Below: Erna Povh with our editor in chief Antonio Mazzucchelli