Sweden is a small country. We are a mere 10 million inhabitants. But the geographics of Sweden means we have long distances between cities. If we want to take our RV to continental Europe it is a very long drive. At least if You don’t live in the south of Sweden. From the far north of Sweden to the south it is almost 1,600 km as the crow flies, with a car it is close to 2,000 km. That is like driving from Copenhagen to Rome.
A large part of the nation is wilderness. One of the last true wildernesses of Europe. When we go RVing we can’t expect to find a campground or RV-parking every 10 miles, or a service station for that matter.
Kabe is Swedish premium motorhomes and caravans. They made their name by being excellent winter vehicles and also have a strong profile in safety. They own the British manufacturer Coachman and in Sweden they produce also the Coachman motorhome models.
We also have the unique right to camp almost anywhere. It is a privilege called “Allemansrätten”, a word not easily translated, in direct translation it reads “all peoples right”. It means we can stay also on non-public land as long as we don’t disturb anyone. In (very) simplified terms it means out of sight from houses, no littering and not to have any negative effects on the land. In short; to be respectful.
All of the above makes us want RVs suitable for wild camping. We want/need a high degree of self sufficiency. And also comfort. Preferably in all seasons. I think most RVers of the world say the same. But in Sweden it is not only words. To sell an RV in Sweden it needs to have heated and insulated tanks. We prefer waterborne heating. If we buy an RV with airborne heating, for example the Truma Combi, we for sure choose the larger 6kW version. With electric cartridge. Even in vehicles around six meters we choose the larger heater.
To sell a poorly winterized motorhome in Sweden is almost impossible. Even though 80% of the RVs are not used during the winter season.
The faiblesse for comfortable living on the road has resulted in the largest fleet of tag axle motorhomes in Europe.
In Dorotea, in the North of Sweden, S Karosser build truck campers that can handle the coldest Nordic winter, in Sweden they are branded Easy Camper, when exported they are called NordStar. The company was recently bought by Kabe.
“Grandfather rule” helps with payload issues
In Sweden all holders of a B-license taken before 1st of July 1996 are allowed to drive motorhomes without any weight restriction. Even liners based on heavy truck chassis. This is because before 1st of July 1996 there was no weight restriction on passenger cars. And since motorhomes in Sweden are registered as Passenger Cars Class 2 they follow the same rules as Your everyday family car.
This means a lot of motorhomes have gross vehicle weights over 3,500 kg. It makes no sense to buy a 3.5 ton vehicle with low payload when You are allowed to drive a heavier vehicle without upgrading Your license.
In Sweden You are allowed to wild camp basically anywhere. This makes for great camping experiences, especially in the North.
High ratio of premium vehicles
Since we like wild camping, good winterization and have less issues with weight of the vehicle it reflects on what vehicles we prefer. The Swedish market have a bigger percentage of premium and upper level midclass vehicles. You won’t find any real entry level vehicles at the dealerships. Forget about €50,000, or even €60,000 motorhomes.
In Sweden the bulk of the sales is in the €90,000 to €110,000 price range. Also vehicles with prices from €200,000 and above have an unusually high market share in Sweden compared with most European markets.
The same is true for caravans. Our domestic brands Kabe, Polar and Easy Camper are premium brands. Built for all year use. And when foreign brands make a push into our market it is with more exclusive and competent rigs.
Adria, market leader in Sweden for well over a decade.
Highest taxes in Europe
In Sweden we have a taxation of motorhomes called “Bonus Malus”. The idea is that environmentally friendly motorhomes get a bonus – lower tax and even a cash bonus. Not so environmentally friendly vehicles are instead punished, Malus, with extra high taxation.
This system is based on personal vehicles, so the emission limit for Bonus is set very low. No light commercial vehicle can reach the Bonus level, in reality they all get a hefty Malus.
To explain the system in detail with all parameters and all the exceptions would take too much space and Your brain would melt from reading about the idiotic system. But if I tell You that the motorhome taxation is between €1,500 and €3,000 annually, You understand that this doesn’t help motorhome sales.
Luckily the pandemic compensated somewhat for the decline in sales due to the high taxes. With no possibilities to go abroad for vacation many turned to motorhomes and caravans for their holiday pleasure. And it seems like most of them keep their vehicles and have embraced the nomadic lifestyle.
There are already signs that this taxation system will not survive. The cash bonus have been cancelled since November due to the fact that it is no longer needed. People buy electric vehicles in a fast pace, too fast for the charging infrastructure to keep up. A new system is needed. To pay for the cost of charging infrastructure the electric vehicles need to be taxed. I expect a tax based on milage will be presented in a few years. That will benefit motorhomes that on average drive less than 7,000 km annually.
Nordic is a small manufacturer that build motorhomes and mobile offices and other specialty vehicles. During pandemic they made some mobile Covid test and vaccination vehicles.
Slow to adopt trends
15 years ago I wrote my first “van special”. I pointed out the advantages of this small and very versatile vehicle. I also pointed out that it was a very popular type of motorhome in France, Germany and Great Britain and predicted the same would be true in Sweden shortly. When it was published Swedish dealers mocked me. Their reasoning was that for the same amount of money the customers could get a larger and more comfortable motorhome.
Five years later some of them contacted me for advice on what vans to keep in stock. Today vans are at least 25% of the Swedish market and every dealer carries them.
Now the European trend is small campervans with popup-roof. A trend that has not caught on in Sweden. Again dealers say they are too expensive. “You can get a much more comfortable full size van for the same money.”
But give it 2-3 years and I am certain also this segment of the market will grow in Sweden. Last year only a handful of dealers carried popup-vans. 2023 many more have at least one in stock.
Hugos is a manufacturer specialized in custom made vehicles. On any chassis.
Few independent garages
In 15 years the number of registered motorhomes in Sweden has gone from 25,000 to 120,000. Most of them are repaired and serviced at the dealership where they were purchased.
With such a rapid growth the dealers have problems keeping up with demand. An average sized dealership sell about 100-200 units per year. In a few years it becomes an almost impossible amount of vehicles to repair and service. There is a need for independent garages to take the load off the dealerships. But so far not many have opened. If this doesn’t change it will become difficult to own a motorhome in Sweden. And already we hear complaints from motorhome owners that can’t get help from dealers when they travel around Sweden. The dealers only have time for their own customers.
Same is true for those that has bought their motorhome outside Sweden and imported it themselves. They have a hard time getting repairs of the living area. Luckily they can service and repair the base vehicle at any normal garage.
Polar is built in the north of Sweden, in Dorotea. Where winters are harsh and snow depth is often measured in meters.
From a caravan country to a motorhome nation
There are more than 300,000 caravans registered in Sweden. And about 120,000 motorhomes. But the market has favored motorhomes the last 15 years. It used to be that caravans sold twice what motorhomes sold. About ten years ago the figures was the opposite. Now the sales figures are almost the same for motorhomes and caravans.
If we had not had such high taxation of motorhomes and shortage of chassis the last two years the numbers would be different.
Now, when entering 2023, the dealers expect a year with increased sales of motorhomes. In total we expect sales in excess of 4,000 motorhomes. Caravan sales are expected to increase with 2-3%.
2022 Swedish motorhome market
The total sales of new motorhomes was 3,523 units. 30% less than 2021.
Top 10 motorhome brands: Adria 362 units; Volkswagen 239 units; Hymer 223 units; Kabe 204 units; Pilote 203 units; Knaus 169 units; Sunlight* 152 units; Bürstner 146 units; Carado* 132 units; Rapido 129 units; Market shares by group: Trigano Group 26%; Hymer Group 25%; Knaus Tabbert Group 8%; Kabe Group 7%; Pilote Group 7%; Rapido Group 5%; Carthago Group 5%; Independent brands** 17%
*In most countries Sunlight and Carado are reported together as Capron. Doing this would land Capron on 2nd place in Sweden with total sales of 284 units.
**Volkswagen, Mercedes, Pössl, Concorde, Ahorn, Bravia, La Strada
2022 Swedish caravan market
2022 landed on 3,164 caravans sold. That is down 18% compared to 2021.
Top 5 caravan brands: Adria 854 units; Kabe 655 units; Hobby 539 units; Knaus 347 units; Polar 301 units
Source: Husvagnsbranschens Riksförbund