23/11/2017

23 November 2017
23 November 2017, Comments Comments Off on Rving in Italy
Rving in Italy

Rving in ITALY

A split on the “Belpaese”, which has a long tradition in the use of motorhomes and caravans and where, finally, there are signs of market recovery.

Words Gianni Picilli

In 2017 open air tourism in Italy marks its 85th anniversary (its forebear was Luigi Bergera, later co-founder of the F.I.C.C. – Fédération Internationale de Camping, Caravanning et Autocaravaning in 1933 and Confedercampeggio in 1950). The movement started in the name of tent and caravan and initially it was reserved only for the very wealthy. Over time open air tourism adapted to the way society was evolving, thus starting in the Eighties it gradually focused less and less on tents and more and more on motor caravans. If truth be told, the development and habits of Italian campers were such that “caravans” were mostly confined to trailer parks to the advantage of motorcaravans and to the detriment of tents. Today, probably due to the financial crisis, the Country somehow underwent a true revolution. Tents, in new shapes and sizes, are back on trend, especially among young travellers, if they are already fully fitted. Caravans are no longer manufactured in the Country, but imported in a very small number: about 1,000 units/year. Nevertheless, the number of vehicles on the road is particularly remarkable and in 2016 counts with as many as 189,599 units, of which only 30,000 circa (as at 2016) are less than 20 years old. Motorcaravans, after years of glory and after spreading everywhere (an average of 12-15,000 vehicles per year between 2000 and 2008), today, because of economic issues, in lack of a single and clear regulation and because of too many legal disputes, the number of registrations dropped in the part years to 3-4,000 vehicles per year, even though the trend appears to be reversing. This is also why over 30% of vehicles on the road (year 2015: 87,333) is over 20 years old out of a total number of vehicles on the road of 281,687 recreational vehicles. Probably the economic reasons and the disputes of the past decade on the driving and parking regulations on motorcaravans pushed a steadily and slightly – at least since 2008 – growing number of people towards vehicles with length of approximately 6.00 m, very easy to handle and fitted with a smaller, yet adequate, number of accessories: the panel vans. Also in Italy over the past 8-10 years the “van” market moved from 7% to about 17% of total produced and registered vehicles. After all there must be a market rationale if some foreign manufacturers have opened dedicated plants in the Country to manufacture their vans. Many of the interviewed readers who own a van stated to have chosen that type of purchase (a good percentage had already experimented with coach-built and low-profile vehicles) not just because it incurs less management and maintenance costs, but also because it’s easier to park in city centres without wreaking havoc among traffic wardens. A survey among Confedercampeggio members showed that 93.4% of them own a motorcaravan, while the remaining 6.6% uses a caravan. Breaking down the number by categories, 53.3% prefer coach-built/motorhomes; 23,4% low profile vehicles, while the remaining 23.3% prefer camper vans. Considering that between 2005 and 2007 low profile production ranged between 37.4% and 39.5%, then it may be derived that in the past eight years the preference of our Members have changed, since low profile purchases went down while panel vans are slightly increasing. Without a doubt the Italian recreation vehicles market has changed for many years. Not only has the ownership of single Italian brands changed, not only were some Italian factories displaced somewhere else in the Country (including internal restructuring in terms of number of operators), but also the preferences of Italian customers changed as an effect of the crisis and technical advancement. The world of open air tourism is changing. People keep going to campsites, but also and mostly in trailer parks (a rather Italian thing). Campsites are turning more and more into actual “resorts”; of course people still sleep in “tents”, better if already pitched and furnished at the campsites. “Mobilhomes”, more and more evolved, equipped and fitted with air conditioning systems, are a safe investments for campsites. Italian tourists are tired of towing their caravans around and are more and more partial to motorcaravans. Those who prefer vans moved from approximately 8% in 2008 to about 17% in 2016 both in Europe and Italy; “low profile” vans are losing ground to the befit of vans, while old coach-built models, so dear to our little children and their mothers, is holding its ground. In summary, it may be said that our industry has gone through a very good streak (Italy in particular) up to 2006-7, then it went deep into a financial crisis between 2008 and 2015 (in Europe the crisis had stopped some years prior). Now, in 2016 and 2017 there were clear and unequivocal signs – finally – pointing to a recovery. Sales and registrations are on the rise, and recreational vehicles are used more frequently. Italian campsites host as many as 4,648,684 Italians (average stay 7.03 nights/year 2016) and as many as 4,613,032 foreigners (average stay 6.47 nights/year 2016); of them, according to Ufficio Italiano Cambi, 1,431,000 came into the Country with a “tent, trailer, caravan or motorcaravan”. In Europe there are almost 6 million recreational vehicles (motorcaravans and caravans) and every year over 150,000 (81,000 + 72,000) vehicles are registered; on Italian roads there are 477,602 (ACI, 2015) vehicles and almost 5,000 (4,000 +1,000) are registered. Europe counts with over 30,000 campsites. Italy has almost 2,400 motorhome parks (equipped or not) in Europe were not officially surveyed. In Italy approximately 1,240 motorhome parks are run by municipal authorities; 1,600 free or managed privately and about 1,000 in holiday farms. A new complaint: fees are constantly increasing. We are the fifth European nation in terms of manufacture and exports. Number in Italy are also increasing and this is reason for hope in the near future. But we will no going back to 2007 numbers (approx. 15000 motorhome registrations). In Italy there are 80,000 motorcaravans that have been on the road for over 20 years; moreover, more than 100,000 caravans are severely outdated: the number is impressive since those who travel rarely cross path with a caravan bearing Italian plates.


 

Laika
It is perhaps the most famous Italian motorhomes’ brand, which has managed to combine prestigious products with high market shares. One of the first Italian companies building camping vehicles, Laika started its business in 1964 with caravan production, immediately showing the innovative spirit that would animate the company over the following years. In 1977 the first motorhome was released, which in Italy was a rarity at the time: we are talking of Motorpolo line, high-end vehicles featuring style and innovation, which laid the foundations for future production. Besides, Laika has been always characterized by top quality assistance services. In 2000 Hymer group (now Erwin Hymer Group) purchased 70 % of Laika shares and then purchased the whole block of shares shortly afterwards. Joining the German giant, allowed the creation of a new, large, cutting-edge factory, inaugurated two years ago in San Casciano Val di Pesa (Florence).

Mobilvetta
Born in 1975 based on a previous experience in the furniture industry, Mobilvetta has always been strictly focused on furnishings quality and design as a whole. This feature is reiterated by the products launched in recent seasons, for example the brand new, avant-garde design- emblematic K-Yacht Tekno Design motorhome. Along with Elnagh and McLouis, Mobilvetta has been a SEA group’s member for some years, which is now controlled by Trigano. Production is mainly focused on mid-high end market: the group’s catalogue especially includes motorhomes an low profiles as well as a few overcabs.

Arca
An historic brand, well known by caravanning enthusiasts: born in 1961, Arca was the first Italian company to launch on the market a mass-produced motorhome in the early 1960s. This decidedly resourceful company successfully introduced innovative vehicles with sophisticated design, thus gaining significant market shares. After several flourishing years, ARCA experienced a crisis that compelled it to join Trigano group in 2001. Today, the company is essentially focused on domestic market and it is one of the few Italian brands exclusively involved in the high-end market. The products range has been deeply renewed for a couple of seasons, heavily focusing on body design and quality.

Etrusco
A very young brand, born in 2016 out of the marriage between one of the major Italian companies in the industry (Laika) and the German giant Erwin Hymer Group. It is in fact in the new Laika factory (a Hymer-controlled brand for some years now) that Etrusco models are produced, strictly according to parent company’s directions. Both body and housing solutions are derived directly from Carado and Sunlight production, but interiors significantly change thanks to exquisite Italian-style furniture. Etrusco line features few models only but includes both mid-range low profiles and motorhomes.

P.L.A.
P.L.A., an acronym for founder’s name, Pier Luigi Alinari, is a joint venture company founded in February 2010 in the so-called “Italian Caravan Valley ” district, located in the heart of Tuscany. The company resulted from Pier Luigi Alinari’s passion and over forty years’ experience (see Caravans International and McLouis), who few months ago sold its business to Rapido group. Production line includes several types of camper, both entry level and mid-range. Yes Camper and Giottiline are brands associated to P.L.A. , the latter purchased after bankruptcy-related crisis.

CI
Along with Roller Team, CI is one of the two Trigano Spa brands and one of the main productive Italian businesses (its market share is around 20%) as well as a direct spin-off from Trigano group (its purchase dates back to 1999). Behind CI acronym we find the memory of Caravans International, the company that mostly contributed to motorhomes spread in Italy, with a massive production of motorized vehicles since the mid Eighties, fully embracing the idea of a cheap overcab, easily accessible to the large public. CI then has widened its products line and today entry level vehicles are flanked by mid-range overcabs, low-profiles and motorhomes. Current models are characterized by excellent standard equipment. Besides the most traditional motorhomes, CI’s catalogue features even several vans: the Tuscan company was one the first companies in the industry to believe and invest in mass produced motorhome van and today it has become a pretty large producer of this type of vehicle.

Roller Team
A quite young brand, Roller Team was born in 2000 out of a historic Italian brand in the industry (former Roller) and today is the second Trigano Spa company (in some respects, even the largest national company), along with CI which it shares the assembly lines and basic features of the various models with, although different for some graphic solutions and design. It is therefore a strong Trigano group’s brand focused on mid-market (overcabs, low profiles and motorhome), but its catalogue includes also some entry level product, like Auto-Roller. Van production is quite remarkable:CI and Roller Team are the two top selling companies in Italy’s industry segment, with a market share of around 25%.

Rimor
Run for over thirty years by its founder, the proactive entrepreneur Luano Niccolai (passed away a few years ago), Rimor was established at the beginning of 1978 and became a leader in the domestic market thanks to its sound and reliable products, with excellent price-performance ratio, ranging from cheap to mid-high end motorhomes. Although today its market share in Italy has dropped below 5%, Rimor keep obtaining very interesting results in French and German markets. Its products line includes overcabs and low profiles, plus a couple of vans, ranging from entry level to mid-range vehicles. Rimor has always tried to differentiate its vehicles supply: after doing business with Ford for many years, now it produces both on Fiat and Renault’s bases. Rimor has recently joined Trigano group.

Elnagh
Historic Italian VRs sector’s brand, Elnagh started its business in the caravans sector during the Sixties. Along with Mobilvetta, it constituted the original SEA group’s nucleus, which recently has joined Trigano group. Elnagh is the only Italian company in the industry whose history is bound to the city of Milan, although a few years ago its factory was moved to Tuscany, along with other group brands. Elnagh has built both caravans and motorhomes for a long time, then left the habitable trailers sector. Today it produces overcabs, low profiles and motorhomes, focusing on mid-market.

McLOUIS
Founded by Pierluigi Alinari in 1999, thanks to its generalist products’ outstanding price-performance ratio, McLouis has immediately been largely welcomed by the public. After a while (2001) the company came under SEA Group’s control (along with Elnagh and Mobilvetta), and shared its lot, becoming an integral part of Trigano group. Today McLouis keeps good market shares and is still focused on the mid and mid-low market, but it has widened its products range, which now includes low profiles, overcabs and even motorhomes.

Blucamp
Born in 2000 with the purpose of bulding products for Blurent rental network, Blucamp is in turn structured as a sales network to the general public, albeit with a smaller scope. Vehicles included in their catalogue are derived from Rimor production.

Wingamm
Historic Italian company (born out from Turri&Boari experience), has an extremely limited but uber quality production (mostly export-oriented). Wingamm offers a very peculiar product: low profile with fiberglass monocoque. Excellent design and top level building technique characterize the few models included in the catalogue.

XGO
It is a Rimor-related brand (Trigano group), establisehd years ago and recently launched on the Italian market (from which it had disappeared for a while) with the aim of creating a new category of low cost motorhomes. New models, in fact, are around 40,000 euro; we find both low profiles and overcabs built on Fiat Ducato bases.

Simone Niccolai – President of APC Italian Caravans and Motorhomes Manufacturers Association

Aboutcamp BtoB: What action has the APC taken to improve the image of motorhomes and to promote this type of holiday in Italy?
Simone Niccolai: The main mission of the APC is promoting tourism and RV reception facilities which, unfortunately, in our country are still a long way from meeting European standards. We have implemented several measures in recent years, ranging from press and TV advertising campaigns, to campaigns to promote motorhome parking areas, such as the “Bando ai Comuni del Turismo in Libertà” which celebrates its 17th anniversary this year and with four municipalities receiving awards for building rest areas. Last but not least, it is worth mentioning the partnership that binds us to Fiere di Parma for Salone del Camper implementation, the second most popular European exhibition by visitor numbers.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Based on production and domestic sales, what is Italy’s situation today?
Simone Niccolai: In Italy, we have been witnessing a constant growth in motorhomes and van registrations for some time. This year has confirmed the current trend for sales growth, which in October was + 18.5% compared to the previous year: all bodes well for a strong recovery at the end of 2017. With 85% of production being exported, production has actually boosted the recovery of companies in the industry, which these days are mostly concentrated in the so-called “Italian caravan valley” between Florence and Siena which employs around 5,500 people.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Since the crisis, all markets have grown, some considerably: why is Italy still falling behind?
Simone Niccolai: Even for our sector, the reason for Italy’s position is the general difficulty of Government policy responding adequately to the general recovery, which it also perceived in buyers and industries’ optimism index. Consumer credit is still difficult to obtain, so we can understand the difficulties of trying to increase sales further in Italy.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What were the reasons for the crisis? Can we can say we have overcome them yet?
Simone Niccolai: Generally speaking, the major world economic crisis have also contaminated our country. I think it will take some time to overcome this crisis. However, even if we look back on our market, we see that the new and used market has never dropped may be a sector that grows and develops faster than others.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Compared to the situation of overproduction in previous years, we have now experienced a shortage of products: does this slow down sales? How can we get out of this situation?
Simone Niccolai: Companies associated to APC are moving quickly and making huge investments to increase production to meet the demand from Europe. However, some did not pay attention to changes in demand changes so were too late to increase production in time.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Unlike Germany, France and Great Britain, in Italy we only build motorhomes: caravan production in Italy is negligible, and even sales are extremely scarce. Is this acceptable?
Simone Niccolai: In this case, we must speak of demand instead of production. Unlike other countries, in Italy a caravan has always been considered as a permanent “second house” rather than for touring. This has resulted in such low demand that investment in producing them is not feasible.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In terms of products, until a few years ago, Italy was the land of overcab motorhomes, while today this type has become notably less popular. By contrast, the van market is growing, both in relation to Italian production and imports. Is this a temporary situation or has market actually changed? And, if so, why?
Simone Niccolai: Well, regarding overcabs vs lows profiles and vans, we may offer two hypotheses: the decrease of family sizes means they do no need so much space in motorhomes, and because in many younger families, a van is more practical and functional as it may replace the second car or even be the family’s only vehicle.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Next year the two national trade fairs in Italy will be held in Parma: why have you made this choice?
Simone Niccolai: Yes, there will be two national trade fairs in Italy. The first is the “Salone del Camper” which is by the partnership with Fiere di Parma and the APC as an international fair and is the second largest trade fair in Europe after the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon. The second is the “Tourism & Outdoor, Camper, Destinations and Sport” show, which is a unique event in Italy, and has a different emphasis as it is dedicated to tourism, outdoor sports, recreational vehicles and all accessories used for these.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Will local, regional trade fairs still make sense after the start of the second national fair in February?
Simone Niccolai: We can only talk about the “Tourism & Outdoor” show which the APC considers as a crucial spring-time opportunity for sport, tourism and motorhome lovers as it brings these three worlds together with a common interest. Let’s not forget that about 40% of visitors to the Salone del Camper show do not own a recreational vehicle, but claim that they participate in sports and seek sustainable tourism.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How important is the rental market in Italy?
Simone Niccolai: Rental is a growing phenomenon and data at the end of 2016 shows it has grown by +19% compared to the previous year. This trend also seems to be confirmed for 2017, reflecting a strong preference towards using this option, which has also been seen in other sectors. Besides, this trend is important because it gives new users the opportunity to try this type of holiday and hopefully consider buying a motorhome in the future.