Interview with Joachim Baumgartner, Managing Director of Concorde Reisemobile GmbH, one of the oldest and best-known luxury motorhome manufacturers in Germany and Europe
Words Peter Hirtschulz
Originally founded 40 years ago in 1981 by the Reimann family, Concorde has now been owned by the Kühne family since 2003. The company produces around 400 high-class motorhomes a year. The current product portfolio comprises 10 model series, which in turn are offered in up to seven different models. A lot has changed in the caravanning industry over the past 15 years, and also at Concorde. The pandemic has also left clear traces of change. Aboutcamp had the opportunity to talk to Joachim Baumgartner, Concorde’s managing director since 2011, to ask him about Concorde’s development over the past years, the current situation and his future prospects.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Mr. Baumgartner, how, in your opinion, has the motorhome market changed and developed over the past 15 years?
Joachim Baumgartner: I have been building motorhomes since 1983. In recent years, the development has been rapid. Motorhomes have become more and more accepted and popular over the past 15 years, especially camper vans, which have gained massively in interest and sales. But the trend towards ever larger vehicles is also unbroken. In 2007, we built the first motorhome with a length of over 10 metres, thinking at the time that it would be a niche product. Today it accounts for over 20 percent of our production.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Have there been any significant changes in production over the past 15 years?
Joachim Baumgartner: Just about everything has changed in our production. When I took over as plant manager at Concorde in 2005, we were still very much a handicraft operation. Side panels and furniture parts were still milled by hand with the help of templates. In the course of time, we switched very quickly to computer-aided manufacturing. Sespite the computer-aided automation, we have retained the ability to respond to the most diverse special requests.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What have been the biggest investments at Concorde in the past 15 years and with what results?
Joachim Baumgartner: The most important investment was the complete new construction of our manufacturing facilities which was a €13 million investment. Now we are investing another €5 million in a hypermodern plant for the production of body parts, as well as in a bus painting plant.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How much did COVID 19 influence the Concorde business plan?
Joachim Baumgartner: Relatively little, as we had defined a production volume of 400 units for ourselves with a 10 percent plus/minus margin. This means that we have been at the upper limit of our capacity possibilities for years.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the current delivery times in Germany and the rest of Europe for new Concorde vehicles?
Joachim Baumgartner: Depending on the model, the delivery time can be for up to one year. In general, however, we are currently fully booked until June 2022.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Thanks to COVID 19, the motorhome industry experienced another enormous boom, to what extent did Concorde participate in this?
Joachim Baumgartner: As already mentioned, we will not be expanding our production unit numbers any further. We are working at the maximum capacity. However, we are currently experiencing a trend towards ever more elaborate vehicles. This trend intensified in the crisis year.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What measures does Concorde take to convince people to buy a luxury motorhome?
Joachim Baumgartner: We maintain close contact with existing and potential customers through several major events held annually at our plant. Throughout Europe, we support Concorde clubs and also regularly attend their meetings in person. With our “small” liner, the Credo model as a 5.6 tonner, we offer the ideal entry into the world of luxury motorhomes and thus we also spread the idea of self-sufficient travel.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What USPs does Concorde offer against its competition and to defend its pole position in the market?
Joachim Baumgartner: Back in 2012, we created a “flagship series” with the Centurion, which allowed us to implement technical refinements that would be too costly for other series. Our very large windscreen, for example, has highly effective UV-protection that absorbs 98 percent of the radiation. In addition, a sound insulation film is incorporated into the double glazing, which, together with other sound insulation measures such as the mounting of the cab frame on silent blocks, leads to a massive reduction in noise.
We also broke new ground with regard to the heating system. With the usual heating systems in motorhome construction, you quickly reach the limits with a floor space of up to 27 square metres and 3 rooms, especially when winter camping. We therefore work with up to seven individually controllable heating circuits.
Our interior design with curved furniture shapes, elaborate textile panelling and high-quality surfaces are benchmarks in the industry. The same applies to our new exterior design with its automotive front. The direct view ahead of the front bumper has been significantly increased again by a special positioning of the windscreen, or take a look at the rear with the characteristically large roof spoiler. This not only looks good but also houses the reversing camera and greatly reduces the possibility of collecting dirt on the rear wall.
Aboutcamp BtoB: The Concorde company is still a family business – what distinguishes it from a group-dependent enterprise?
Joachim Baumgartner: A greater independence, short decision-making processes and faster implementation of innovations. We have a very efficient working base.
Aboutcamp BtoB: The Hymer Group has decided not to go to the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf again this year. What is Concorde doing?
Joachim Baumgartner: The Caravan Salon at Düsseldorf is an important date for the whole industry and an annual highlight. Last year, the CSD could be held successfully because less than 50 percent of the exhibitors were present. This meant that sufficient distances could be maintained. At the moment, it is too early to make a final decision here because the political decisions are too volatile, and the trade fair concept will not be presented to us until May. So, at the moment, we wait and see.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Will there be another Our Luxury Motorhome Day (LMD) in cooperation with PhoeniX this year?
Joachim Baumgartner: Our LMD event was a great success. At that time we were able to show well over 100 luxury motorhomes and even individual test drives were available. It was a great success. We will repeat this event independently of the CSD.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How do you see the future of luxury motorhomes?
Joachim Baumgartner: The demand for luxury motorhomes will certainly continue to grow. Luxury motorhomes are meanwhile also an ideal alternative to a holiday home or holiday flat. However, it is important that the number of motorhome pitches continues to expand. Concorde is also involved in this field and supports municipalities in the construction of motorhome pitches.
Aboutcamp BtoB: At the moment, everyone is talking about alternative drive sources, including electric mobility – how do you see this in relation to motorhomes?
Joachim Baumgartner: First of all, the infrastructure for the increasing number of e-cars has to keep up. Since we build motorhomes in the six to 26 tonnes weight class, I see only hydrogen as an alternative drive source, but there is still a way to go.