A face-to-face interview with Guy Job, technical director of the Trigano VDL motorhome division, the factory of the Trigano group the Challenger and Chausson vehicles come from.
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli
Trigano VDL is the most important plant of the Trigano group. Their assembly lines of Tournon-sur-Rhone, in the Ardeche Area (southern France), produce the Challenger and Chausson campers, but also the Caravelair and Sterckeman caravans. Trigano VDL was born in the Seventies, after the empire Trigano passed from the original owners’ hands (Raymond Trigano founded the company in 1945) to those of the Crédit Lyonnais, which, in turn, handed the organization over to François Feuillet, current CEO and majority shareholder since 1992. Today the production of the twin brands Challenger and Chausson routes several fronts, by grouping cab covered, low profiles and motorhome, which sump up to the vans produced in the Trigano group’s Atessa factory (central Italy). For the 2016 season an innovative construction technique was introduced, which involves the use of sandwich panels featuring XPS core and structural profiles consisting of coupled wood and composite. The system, called IRP (Insulation, Resistance & Protection) has allowed to extend the body insulation-related warranty duration to seven years. It is interesting to note that for the low profiles, which constitute the largest part of production, a number of configurations are available by choosing between two basic vehicles (Fiat or Ford) and two production levels (basic or multi -equipped). Challenger and Chausson’s price range goes from 45,000 to 65,000 euros. Among the new models, we mention the Challenger 280 and Chausson 620 low profiles, featuring pull-down beds and a longitudinal rear sofa placed at the center of the passenger compartment: by taking up some distinctive characteristics of the previous Prium and Sweet models, they are definitely two of the most anti conformist European campers produced in the last twenty years.
“I feel young as the first day that I joined the company,” says the Trigano VDL Technical Director, today 61. Guy Job has represented Trigano for fourty years now: he arrived in the factory on 20 October 1975, when he was just over twenty years old. The initial task he was assigned to was to check the assembly line of Caravelair caravan. Here’s our interview with him.
Aboutcamp BtoB: A whole life in Trigano: what have been the most striking changes at the production level and not only?
Guy Job: As it happens also in other areas of our life, in my opinion the most significant changes relate to the disruptive technologies arrival, with all the consequences involved in the communication between the people and with the machines: phones, smartphones and tablet, CAO and numerical control commands of any type have dramatically changed the way people work. As to our products, I think it is important to mention also the drives’ evolution, the basic chassis, toward a more pronounced car setting with suitable powers. However, we should not forget the evolution of the assembly techniques, especially the bonding systems.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Seven year warranty for a basic product, entry level: a great achievement indeed! You have eliminated the problems arisen in the past and now you can offer higher reliability compared to your most direct competitors: what efforts have you made to obtain this result?
Guy Job: This fact best illustrates our philosophy: whatever the vehicle class involved, the basic conception quality is the same, only the design and equipment vary according to price. We have manufactured campers for more than thirty years now, and this experience has allowed us to develop a reliable manufacturing process, called IRP. Unlike most of our competitors, we do not forget to consider the quality of the wood, its rigidity, but we associate it with the resistance that the modern composite materials have in relation to water. In addition, a good insulator is nothing without an adequate thickness, that is why we combine the best insulating XPS with floors and roofs thicknesses quite above the industry standard. We truly believe in the effectiveness of our technical choices and our manufacturing processes. Therefore, if you look beyond the words, you will see that we followed our beliefs by offering a seal warranty (body waterproofness) that may be extended up to seven years, whatever the vehicle class involved. This is also an effective way to attract visitors and make them to take a closer look at our products, so that they can realize that they are not so “basic”.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the budget costs and benefits of the experimental models Challenger Sweet and Chausson Prium, today out of production, characterized by innovative solutions such as the central kitchen, the openable side and the vertical bike-rack garage?
Guy Job: These models first allowed us to demonstrate our innovative capacities and our desire to animate the market. They were an extraordinary pole of attraction at trade fairs as well as at dealerships, as they caught the eye of thousands of visitors. The specific technical developments, necessary for these vehicles, are still used today on other models: for example, the safety-belt anchorages on the center seatback of the new Challenger 280 and Chausson 620. Another example is the kitchen-outer panel (EASY CHEF), now being proposed as an option on most of our models.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Low profiles with pull down beds: a passing fad or a consolidated change of perspective?
Guy Job: It is a trend that we have followed for several years. Today manufacturers propose low profiles with performance closer to cab covered, although with smaller products (especially in height) and reduced fuel consumption. However, as probably there will never be an ideal motorhome, it is a compromise situation that will certainly leave room to the cab covered.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What about the low cost motorhome, entry level, like your Sirius/Exaltis: is it worth it?
Guy Job: Our low profiles are “low cost” only in relation to the price: in terms of design and equipment, they take up all the features of our top of the range Welcome products, sometimes are even better, like, for example, a 6000W heating powerful standard system that can be optionally replaced by an Alde heating system. These low profiles have allowed us to win new customers, who until then knew us only for our low profiles and cab covered.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the idea that you failed to realize due to industrialization difficulties or because it was too advanced for a market overall conservative?
Guy Job: I will answer your question with a bit of humor: the greatest consumption of space in a camper furnishing is associated with beds and my biggest professional regret is surely not being able to integrate vertical beds. In fact, if we could make people sleep while standing on their feet, this would dramatically change the interior design proposals …
Aboutcamp BtoB: How the camper of the future will be?
Guy Job: In my opinion, the tomorrow camper will feature the same functions it has today, which are essential to human life: sleeping, eating, washing, travelling in a seated position. The technical developments will essentially lead to water and energy autonomy for the vehicles propulsion or static use, but also to a better volumes modularity between the movement and static phase. As far as energy is concerned, there will be a drive evolution and the possibility of electric propulsion (for example, fuel cells) that, by providing notable electrical powers on board, would meet the users’ needs such as heating, hot water production, cooking, refrigeration … In intermediate stages, the use of the diesel fuel available on diesel vehicles already allows to limit the gas amount to be transported. Also the low-consumption led lighting, would make it possible to limit the electrical energy storage. Weight reductions of any kind will be certainly parallel reduction major factors of the vehicles overall weight, thus allowing even a reduction of the engine powers and energy consumption. The water deserves special consideration, because it really affects the vehicles’s autonomy. The autonomous systems of waste waters treatment and recycling probably will find their way (filtration, reverse osmosis …). As to sewage water from the bathroom, drying and incineration solutions may be envisaged. As regards the materials, we play much on the right compromise between weight, mechanical performance and price. Hence, not only the materials need to continue to be robust, lightweight and cheap, but they will also respond to new constraints such as the ecological ones that include their recyclability. The tomorrow camper will be therefore lighter, more autonomous and eco friendly. It is crucial to make sure that it will not become more expensive, in order to avoid to transform it into a luxury product inaccessible to most people.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Do you make use of the recreational vehicles in your free time?
Guy Job: I wouldn’t have had such a great career in Trigano without a passion for the product that I love to use as often as possible, sharing the pleasure with my wife.