Fendt-Caravan, the German brand with a reputation for high quality, continues to be a brand that many campers aspire to. On the 50th anniversary of the company’s foundation, we interviewed Fendt-Caravan’s commercial director, Hans Frindte, to discuss the main challenges for the company and how he sees the future market for caravans.
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli
photo Enrico Bona
We spoke to Hans Frindte at the CMT 2020 in Stuttgart in January. This is how he believes Fendt-Caravan will approach the period of great potential changes ahead.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Let’s start by talking about you: what is your official role at Fendt-Caravan and when did you start working for the company?
Hans Frindte: As commercial director of Fendt-Caravan GmbH, my main tasks are mainly in the areas of sales, marketing, product development, purchasing and finance. In fact, since June 2015, I have been looking forward to coming to the company every day and being part of the amazing Fendt-Caravan family.
Aboutcamp BtoB: 2020 is the fiftieth anniversary for Fendt-Caravan. What are the main challenges you have faced since you joined the company?
Hans Frindte: Current topics of our time, such as digitalization or electric mobility, are a permanent challenge, just like the increasingly difficult delivery performance of some of our suppliers. In addition, we have several major internal projects upcoming, such as the introduction of a new ERP system, as well as the realignment of various structures within our company, so we can continue to strengthen and expand our current high level.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Statistics show that the European motorhome market is growing, while the caravan one is contracting. How do you see the two markets performing in the next 10 years?
Hans Frindte: For many customers, the motorhome is the dream image of freedom and independence, but caravans are still an established feature of the caravanning market. In fact, the motorhome, in all its different body types, has delivered outstanding performance over the past decade. But if you take a closer look at the figures, this increase is almost exclusively attributable to the van segment. If you subtract the production volume of vans in 2018 (more recent figures are unfortunately not yet available, but the trend is confirmed in 2019) from the total production volume of German recreational vehicle manufacturers, then we have effectively produced more caravans than classic motor homes throughout Germany. For this reason, I believe in a continued outstanding future not only for the caravan, but also for all other areas of caravanning.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Fendt-Caravan has tried to produce both caravans and motorhomes, but today it is the only recreational vehicle manufacturer focused only on caravans. Why did Fendt-Caravan stop building motorhomes?
Hans Frindte: This was a strategic decision made years ago by our owner Harald Striewski. As we did not have the resources for in-house production at that time, we had these motorhomes produced by an external service provider. Unfortunately, this was only moderately successful on the one hand, and on the other hand it was not “Made by Fendt-Caravan”. Therefore, the company decided at that time to dedicate itself completely to the production of high-quality caravans.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What makes the Fendt-Caravan brand different from its competitors?
Hans Frindte: We deal exclusively with the development, construction and production of caravans, which is certainly the biggest difference to our competitors. All resources, as well as the entire experience of all employees play a key role for us. Many colleagues have been working in our company for decades: they do not only work here; they live our brand. The first Fendt caravans rolled off the production line in 1970 in modest quantities, in November 2019 we produced the 250,000th caravan. Since the start of production, our company has been able to write an extraordinary success story, for today we are one of the world’s largest caravan manufacturers. This impressive number was achieved, and that’s what makes it special – primarily with the production of very high quality and exclusive caravans in the premium segment. The experience and the technical know-how, as well as the passion of the entire staff at Fendt-Caravan guarantee that the number 250,000 will only be a milestone on the continuing successful path of our company. And I can tell you: all of us at Fendt-Caravan are incredibly proud of this and are curious what the future will bring.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Which are the characteristics of a typical Fendt-Caravan customer? Is he/she loyal to the brand over the years?
Hans Frindte: The average Fendt-Caravan customers are particularly conscious about quality. They attach great importance to superior material, to classic but modern design and, of course, to comfort in all areas. All these features, combined with innovative room concepts and especially our user-oriented solutions, make a caravan something very special – a Fendt caravan. As mentioned before, we are proud of what we produce. The biggest challenge is indeed to be able to offer our loyal Fendt-Caravan customers (according to various surveys, there is an extremely high level of customer loyalty to our brand) caravans that are of high quality and durability (we offer a 12 years leakproof guarantee) consistently over the decades, and are also attractive both visually and in terms of price.
Aboutcamp BtoB: It looks like the caravan market has two extremes: on one side, there are big caravans for those who want to have a sedentary holiday and, on the other, compact, light caravans for dynamic holiday lovers that are willing to tow their vehicle. Is it true? How will Fendt-Caravan fit in this scenario?
Hans Frindte: In recent years, we have taken many actions to ensure the future-oriented alignment of our company, including a significant change in the range of programmes we offer. If you look at our current caravan range, you will find a wide range of products from the small Fendt Bianco 390 to our large caravans with tandem axles like the Saphir, Opal, Tendenza and Diamant series. Today’s caravans offer many compact layouts with all forms of self-sufficiency in fresh water/wastewater and power supply with built-in battery, as has been standard in motorhomes for years. The holiday habits of taking several shorter holiday trips instead of one very long holiday are now becoming more feasible due to the significantly increased range of active-caravans. What still makes caravans of all sizes highly attractive is the great freedom at the holiday destination. For example, when the caravan has been parked precisely on the site of the desired destination with the help of a manoeuvring system, the car is then either always available for the entire stay or is hitched up again in the next few days to continue the journey.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Let’s talk about the crisis around diesel engines and caravans. Some manufacturers are thinking about alternative solutions, like ultra-light caravans or caravans with auxiliary engine. What about Fendt-Caravan?
Hans Frindte: The entire industry has been dealing with these issues for some time now, a few of our competitors even with great media coverage. Of course, we are not inactive in these future topics either, but we will only bring them to the market when the time has come. With all these innovations, there are still a lot of insecurities we must overcome. The topic of lightweight construction is technically demanding and currently still very cost-intensive, especially for a finished product. In the case of a caravan/trailer with an auxiliary engine, the legal basis must first be created, with a time frame that is not yet defined at the moment. Nevertheless, at this stage, we must deal with the development of a suitable system and that is exactly what we are doing.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What’s the relationship between Fendt-Caravan and Hobby Wohnwagenwerk? What are the synergies and differences between them?
Hans Frindte: The company Hobby Wohnwagenwerk is our parent company, located in the far north of Germany, while we have our headquarters in Bavaria (in southern Germany). Not only this geographical separation, but also the orientation for the respective target groups of our products has a different approach. While we are intensively engaged in the production of high quality and exclusive caravans for the lower and upper middle class as well as the luxury segment, the company Hobby Wohnwagenwerk rather serves customers in the middle and beginner’s segment with its range of products. A healthy competition between the two brands does not harm us, but is rather an incentive and is not only tolerated but also desired by our owner. However, when it comes to essential topics such as developments and major projects, we are a real family. In recent years, the markets have changed, mergers and acquisitions have taken place, and these new constellations will probably change our core markets in the future.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is it possible to consider dealing with non-European markets?
Hans Frindte: Increased internationalisation will play a moderate role in the future, in which we, as a European premium caravan manufacturer, already have significance in the market and are expanding it continuously, but with caution, as is the case with many things we do. Products “Made in Germany” are still a trademark in the global market and we at Fendt-Caravan fulfil this in a particularly impressive way.