Actually, it should be: drive sensibly and live luxuriously. These are the words of Jens Kromer, Managing Director of Bürstner GmbH, on his understanding of how motorhomes should be designed today
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli and Peter Hirtschulz
Born in Stuttgart, Kromer is half German and half French. He lived in France for more than 30 years and worked in several sales and marketing positions in the bathroom furniture industry for 23 years.
He started at Bürstner in July 2015 as Managing Director. After his first impressions and experiences in the industry, he came to the conclusion that he needed to focus more on his understanding of brand management at Bürstner as he believes that a strong, independent and unmistakable brand, and a corresponding strategy, are the basis for the success of a company. Kromer has just celebrated his sixth anniversary at the company, and a lot has changed at Bürstner. This is reason enough for Aboutcamp BtoB to invite Jens Kromer for an interview. Antonio Mazzucchelli, editor-in-chief and Peter Hirtschulz, German editor met him virtually.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Mr. Kromer, Bürstner has recently started the creation of a new production plant. Can you give us some details on this project?
Jens Kromer: Due to the current high demand for leisure vehicles, we will expand our production capacities and convert and modernize our two locations in Kehl and Wissembourg. As part of the industrial reorganization, the Compact Campers have been built in Wissembourg since January 2021. The construction works to increase capacity in Kehl will continue until autumn 2022.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the relationship between the various Bürstner plants, how is production divided?
Jens Kromer: The two production sites in Kehl (Germany) and Wissembourg (France) have always worked very closely together. Wissembourg has always acted as the most important supplier of furniture parts for the production site in Kehl. As part of the necessary capacity increase, it was decided to use the existing skills and to start with building Compact Campers in Wissembourg (since January 2021). Wissembourg will continue to expand its competencies in the segment of Compact Campers in the future. The Kehl plant focuses on Panel vans and Motorhomes.
Aboutcamp BtoB: In the past Bürstner was one of the most important pillars in the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG)-group. Will Bürstner remain one of the pillars of the EHG-group in the future and how about the position among the major European manufacturing companies in the sector?
Jens Kromer: Bürstner is a traditional brand with strong (product) values that has been successfully represented internationally for a long time. As part of the Erwin Hymer Group, we operate in the upper mid-price segment and represent an important pillar within the group, not least because of our broad product portfolio.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How is the relationship between Bürstner and the rest of the Erwin Hymer Group structured today? What has changed with the entry into the Thor group?
Jens Kromer: With the takeover by Thor Industries, we became part of a global group of companies, the global number 1 for leisure vehicles. The group can rely on a strong network of production and sales locations.
Nevertheless, the brands work in their entrepreneurial freedom in order to best meet individual customer requirements within the framework of their respective positioning.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Looking at the production of recent years, it seems that the innovative strength of the past (see products such as Brevio and GrandPanorama) has been slowed. Is that right? Why? Too expensive for a group strategy?
Jens Kromer: If you have followed the latest reports, we can proudly say that, as the inventor of the famous fold-down bed, we have achieved a new dimension in our competencies, especially in the area of #wohnfühlen. With the Lyseo Gallery, we will soon be bringing a vehicle into series production which, thanks to its patented gallery roof, will enable completely new possibilities of spatial awareness.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is the new Lyseo Gallery a product intended solely to be talked about or will it have a productive and commercial future? How was this concept born? What are the links with other EHG projects?
Jens Kromer: The Lyseo Gallery is a near-series show car. The production version Lyseo TD Gallery is expected to go into production from autumn 2022. In this case, we were able to fall back on a basic technology that was developed within the Erwin Hymer Group. The application in the front area of the vehicle above the driver’s cab is a patented exclusive solution for Bürstner. With the Lyseo Gallery we underline our expertise in vehicle interiors.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Are campervans a market phenomenon that Bürstner is strongly committed to?
Jens Kromer: Yes, definitely. Bürstner is known as a full-range supplier and has embarked on a very successful path with the Campeo, Eliseo and Copa series. With individual solutions and strong brand values, Bürstner vehicles have quickly established themselves in the campervan segment in recent months.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Will the campervan segment have product and typology developments, perhaps with more compact vehicles with a pop-up roof? Or will it be just a refinement of the consolidated scheme, with the classic campervan on the Ducato?
Jens Kromer: In addition to our Campeo and Eliseo series based on Fiat Ducato / Citroen Jumper, we have been offering a vehicle in the Compact Camper segment since spring 2021. We will continue to expand this area as well.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Let us talk about caravans: is that a market segment that still matters to Bürstner?
Jens Kromer: With a look into the past, it becomes clear that Bürstner started with caravans. As already mentioned, Bürstner operates as a full-range supplier today. Of course, this segment will continue to be an important pillar in the Bürstner product portfolio.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What problems and what opportunities did the Covid period have for Bürstner?
Jens Kromer: Since the beginning of the pandemic, the situation has changed both for Bürstner and for the entire industry. The already increasing demand for recreational vehicles has increased significantly again in the past few months. Our products are more trendy than ever. Of course, this positive market development also brings challenges. The effects of Covid were particularly felt in the supply of materials.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the current problems with the supplies of materials and components?
Jens Kromer: In the spring of 2021, the major effects of Covid on the production sites became apparent. The causes are varied. They range from delivery bottlenecks for chassis, electronic components and windows to raw materials such as wood or plastic.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How is the present situation at Bürstner in relation to delivering new vehicles and in terms of production and the waiting lists (are there any?) for clients?
Jens Kromer: Of course, the disruptions in the supply chain have also had an impact on Bürstner. Due to, in some cases, short-term production postponements, so far, we have been able to avoid longer line standstills so have been able to avoid cancellations of orders. In spite of all efforts, however, some long delays are inevitable.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Bürstner is participating and benefitting in the present market boom. How do you think the infrastructure will accommodate all the new vehicles that were sold recently?
Jens Kromer: As a manufacturer of leisure vehicles, we are primarily trying to expand the dealer network and service structure. In addition, of course, there are many other actions that must be taken. Since the interest in recreational vehicles has noticeably increased, we are sure that further new possibilities in the field of camping will be opened up (such as farms, hotels and new campsites and parking spaces).
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is there any engagement by Bürstner in helping all the new clients find campsites and motorhome sites or other places to enjoy their Bürstner products?
Jens Kromer: This shows the advantages of a strong group. Here we work very closely with our colleagues from FreeOnTour. Accordingly, Bürstner customers also benefit from their offers and services.
Aboutcamp BtoB: As a member of the EHG you don’t participate in this year’s Caravan Salon. How do you plan to compensate missing contact with existing and prospective clients?
Jens Kromer: In the past months we have had very good experiences with the strategic alignment of our sales and marketing measures in digital formats. We were able to reach thousands of new customers via the digital channels and, together with our local trading partners, inspire them during our concept of Bürstner Days for our new products and offers.
Of course, we will continue with what we started last year and will expand our Bürstner Days concept to the main European markets.
Nevertheless, trade fair appearances continue to play an important role in our sales and marketing strategy. With our aim to participate in the leading trade fairs every two years, we are accommodating those customers for whom a visit to the trade fair plays an indispensable role in their purchase decision.