This year Nuts RV celebrated their 30 year anniversary. Originally, established as a sports car customization shop, approximately 20 years ago, after a close evaluation of the European RV market and a impactful visit to the Düsseldorf Caravan Show, Mr. Araki adjusted the course of the company and has never looked back. Nuts RV has become the largest manufacturer in the Japanese RV market and has ambitious plans for growth.
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli and Bartek Radzimski
Photo Antonio Mazzucchelli
Aboutcamp BtoB: How did arrive at the decision to start producing RV’s?
Kenji Araki: When I was in the custom cars business, I always went in USA to learn about the trends. However, with the foreseen decline of that market in the late 90’s, I explored alternatives and realized that RVing, especially European style RVing could have potential. To see the market up close, I visited the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf for the first time and I was completely overwhelmed by the size and potential. I was so impressed that I decided to shift my company’s focus to the RVs market and put my full energies into manufacturing and selling camping cars.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Can you tell us about your company structure and organization?
Kenji Araki: Nuts RV is headquartered near the city of Fukuoka, the biggest city on Kyushu island. As part of the company’s growth, in 2005, we founded a factory in Dalian, on the northern coast of China, with the purpose of reducing labor costs and alleviating risk with a second manufacturing location. In 2008, I established a company in New Zealand aimed at RV Sales and Rental. The next key step in our expansion was taken in 2013 with the opening our third factory on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. Additionally, in 2014, we expanded our production facility in Japan by moving to a 15,000m2 factory in the city of Kita-Kyushu. This, most recent step, resulted in the Japanese plant becoming our largest.
Our manufacturing concept is split into the plants abroad focusing on the labor intensive RV shell, furniture and interior manufacturing with Dalian concentrating on the composite wall shells and Philippines doing the monocoque FRP ones. The mating of the shells with the base vehicles plus installation of all electrical and market specific components takes place in our Japanese plant.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How do you manage the distribution of the vehicles?
Kenji Araki: Our company is not only manufacturing vehicles designed and branded with the Nuts RV brand, but also we manufacture on behalf of several other domestic brands who lack production facilities. Therefore, from the overall production 80% is our product while 20% is sold under different brands.
With regards to our sales channel, we only sell through our own dealerships. At the moment, we have 7 such dealerships located in the biggest cities around Japan.
Aboutcamp BtoB: How much is your production volume and how it grew in the years?
Kenji Araki: The total production last year was 850 units. We have grown significantly over the last year and if you compare our volume 10 years ago it was about 300 units. I strongly believe that we can continue to grow and with that in mind, we already fixed our target at 1,000 units for 2020.
One important topic for you to keep in mind is that unlike in the other foreign markets, in Japan the manufacturing concept is done to order, not to stock. This means that the production of the vehicle begins only after the order is places by the end customer. The merit of this is low stock at the dealerships; but the demerit is longer lead-times to deliveries. At the moment, customization by the end-customer is quite popular in Japan, so they accept longer lead-times in order to get more unique vehicles.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What are you forecasts for the next years?
Kenji Araki: Right now, the overall trend in Japan for RVing is quite positive, the interest of the public is quite high, and you can see the large number of people coming to this show. One key problem, however, is that for many manufacturers the turnover and the number of units that they can manufacture is not increasing. This is more related to manufacturing capacities, rather than market demand; however, the end result is that, in my opinion, the users’ waiting time is too long. Some customers get discouraged when they have to wait 10 months or even over a year for their vehicle.
Nuts RV has taken significant steps and made investments to address this issue we also face. Very soon we will be able to provide very competitive lead-time over our competitors, so this will give us a big sales advantage.
Aboutcamp BtoB: I know you have interesting ideas on how to promote the market to make it grow…
Kenji Araki: In Japan, we have the RV manufacturers association, JRVA. Even if we are the biggest manufacturer in Japan, I am just a member at the moment and not involved on the board.
JRVA is organized from a manufacturing or BtoB prospective; however, I feel that we need a more BtoC approach and further development in the infrastructure that is dedicated to RVing. Due to this, from last year, I established an end user focused association, called Camp Japan. The main purpose of this organization is to promote and organize activities and events that will provide a means for existing and potential customer to further enjoy RVing.