25 June 2021
25 June 2021, Comments Comments Off on Romain Girard – Trigano VDL
Romain Girard - Trigano VDL

Fast market, compact vehicles

Compact, innovative, “almost” a campervan: the new semi-integrated model from Trigano VDL, sold as a Challenger X 150 and Chausson X 550, opens new scenarios for the European market

Words Renato Antonini

To complete its range of motorhomes in the compact RV segment, Trigano has launched a vehicle that sits between vans and semi-integrated motorhomes. It has been developed by Trigano VDL, the French branch of the group, and offered as a Challenger X 150 and Chausson X 550, with minimal differences between the two models but sold through separate sales networks. The theme of a mini, semi-integrated model similar to the campervan is not new, but Trigano VDL has interpreted it in an innovative way by exploiting the potential of the drop-down bed. We asked Romain Girard, product marketing manager of Trigano VDL, how the project was born and what future development it could have.
For two and a half years at Trigano VDL, Romain Girard has had the role of product marketing manager. Previously, he was the product manager for the Challenger and Chausson range of campervans. Before joining Trigano, he worked in various positions at FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) from 2008 to 2019.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Trigano VDL has launched a compact vehicle with reduced length and width on the market. Is the compact motorhome an ongoing trend that will have further developments in the short to medium term future?
Romain Girard: We believe the global market is growing and moving very fast. Offering new formats of vehicles (especially compact ones) will be important for the next few years.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Will there be an increase in the compact low profile segment after the boom in camper vans?
Romain Girard: With our X550 and X150 launch, we want to create a new segment, not just a compact low profile. Our goal is to offer the final customer the perfect balance between a van and a motorhome, with the best of each. This is a major request from the market and we believe it is a trend for a new segment for the years ahead.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Will the new model take sales away from the van segment or the traditional low profile segment?
Romain Girard: As the market is growing, it is also segmenting. As a consequence, we can develop new offers to perfectly answer the needs of our customers. Our X550 and X150 will be a new alternative for motorhomes owners in general but also for newcomers.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Which target user is your new model aimed at?
Romain Girard: We believe our X550/X150 is the perfect combination of all the different segments. Our thought is that X550/X150 customers can come from: smaller campers to have more comfort and habitability; larger motorhomes to have a better driving experience and a very exclusive design; and those currently outside the market who want to have a leisure vehicle close to automotive standards.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Is the compact camper, or rather the camper van and the compact low profile motorhome, a vehicle intended essentially for couples or will it be extended to other user groups?
Romain Girard: Our X550/X150 has been developed as a vehicle for two people, but like most of our van products, even if they have two double beds, the lounge can easily accommodate meals for five people.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Both in the past and now, several European companies have produced vehicles that we could define as “compact semi-integrated”, 599 cm long and with a narrower width. How is your new model different?
Romain Girard: Our X550/X150 is different from the outside and from the inside. The main difference is the approach: we want to mix a real house with a car, not starting from a campervan or a low-profile. We are very positive about the result. Our exterior design is very exclusive and automotive oriented. The habitation area has been developed to offer a unique layout for a compact model with home design touches.

Aboutcamp BtoB: On more than one occasion in the past, Trigano VDL has launched Challenger and Chausson models intended mainly to catch the attention of the public at trade fairs and in the specialised media without having the aim of actually moving to series production. Is the situation different with the X150 / X550?
Romain Girard: By creating a new segment, we can really stay focused on commercial targets, i.e. we don’t want to just propose a show car or a dream. There is a roadshow across Europe to present the vehicle to our dealers. Customers can see and order our new X550/X150 and we are even starting work on how we can develop this new segment in the next years.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In which factory are the Challenger X 150 and Chausson X 550 manufactured?
Romain Girard: They are manufactured in our Tournon-Sur-Rhône plant in France.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In the vast Trigano universe we see numerous brands, various factories and different design teams: why were these new models born in Trigano VDL?
Romain Girard: Because Chausson and Challenger have a strong DNA for innovative production. All the Trigano VDL team is working very hard to offer new ways of enjoying leisure vehicles. Our X550/X150 is one amazing result. You can be sure that we will keep on this way in the years ahead.

Aboutcamp BtoB: For the development and production of this product, has there been, or will there be any collaboration with other companies in the Trigano group?
Romain Girard: The development has been done mainly by Trigano VDL but as for all our products or projects, we maximize the collaboration with different Trigano group companies.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Are we talking about an isolated model or a series of vehicles? How will the range evolve?
Romain Girard: By creating a new segment, we cleverly reinvent a part of the leisure market. We will see how this new segment will be appreciated by the market and see what other models we can offer while respecting the segment pillars of design, compactness and habitability.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How much do the needs to reduce weight and emissions affect the definition of a new compact vehicle?
Romain Girard: These two items are a key part of all Trigano VDL developments, even if polluting emissions are mostly linked to the vehicle/chassis. We want our products to be efficient and functional. Our new X550/X150 are clearly in line with this approach. For example, having a totally new roof developed to be aerodynamic and give our product style, fun and efficiency.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In Europe, a good proportion of buyers of semi-integrated and motorhomes consider the presence of a large load compartment to be essential to transport a scooter, bicycles or e-bikes. On your model there is no load compartment: will this limit its potential market?
Romain Girard: With X550/X150, we want to focus on living space on the inside to have a feeling of home in a vehicle that is under six metres long. If you compare our product to a classic van, you have an amazing feeling of habitability and unique flexibility, meaning that you don’t need to move all your belongings to sleep. There is a towing kit available on our products which provides a nice and functional alternative way to carry bikes.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Is it correct to say that the X 150 / X550 vehicles are innovative models, but built with traditional techniques?
Romain Girard: To allow such a design from the outside and such habitability on the inside, we had to set up exclusive processes and develop new solutions such as: monobloc skyroof; hideaway bed; 100 percent invisible fixing of exterior parts…, so clearly it is an innovative model built with innovative techniques.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Does the decision to place this product in the Euro 55,000 to Euro 65,000 price range have any strategic reasons?
Romain Girard: Our product has been in development for two years with a design and materials that work to allow a new experience for the customer. With no direct competitor on the segment, we wanted to be in line with the product quality and the global market by offering a new alternative to premium vans and motorhomes.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Technically, a vehicle like this could also have been born 10 or 15 years ago, or are there any technical evolutions that have only allowed its development now?
Romain Girard: It is always difficult to compare vehicles with a 15 year gap (as there are so many differences). I would say that it is even more complicated to offer this kind of product today because of our customers’ expectations in term of insulation, technology, flexibility or design.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Have any changes been made to the production lines for the production of the new model?
Romain Girard: As the overall size is different from other vehicles, we adapted some workstations to preserve quality and the safety of employees.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How much have considerations related to the image and aesthetics of the product affected its design?
Romain Girard: Our customer studies indicate that design or product image is not the first reason for a purchase today. Nevertheless, as newcomers are discovering the market and as our leisure activity has a better image year after year, we believe our new X550/X150 brings more attractiveness to the entire market.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What advantages and limitations can they bring?
Romain Girard: As said previously, design must be a priority but always linked to functionality because our goal is to offer leisure vehicles for the pleasure of our customers.

About TriganoVDL
Trigano VDL is a subsidiary of the Trigano Group. The plant at Tournon-sur-Rhone is located in the Rhone Valley, in the Ardeche department of France. This plant is the largest RV production unit in Europe. Trigano VDL produces motorhomes branded Challenger and Chausson, but also caravans branded Caravelair and Sterckeman. The Trigano VDL plant was created in the mid-70s and now, with 850 employees, is producing more than 13,000 vehicles per year.