ERWIN HYMER GROUP is a concern that brings together a wide range of leading brands on European markets. Many people do not even realize that a given caravan or motorhome manufacturer belongs to this group. Currently, in addition to Hymer, it also includes Buccaneer, Bürstner, Carado, Compass, Crosscamp, Dethleffs, Elddis, ERIBA, Etrusco, Laika, LMC, Niesmann+Bischoff, Sunlight and Xplore. In addition, EHG also includes the McRent, CROSS-rent and rent easy rental chains, as well as the Mover equipment and accessories wholesaler and the Goldschmitt manufacturer of suspension systems. The portfolio of brands is substantial and the European dealer network is constantly developing.
Opening of a new Hymer Center Pomorze store
The opening of the new Hymer Center Pomorze was an opportunity for our editorial office to talk to representatives of the group. Rudi Fimpel (Dealer Network Development Director) and Andreas Sailer (Dealer Network Development and Export Specialist in Eastern Europe) told us how the market has been developing in recent years, what are the plans of the concern and what challenges are facing the entire industry in the upcoming time.
CampRest (CR) – Gentlemen, thank you for accepting the invitation to talk. The occasion for our meeting is the opening of the new Hymer Center Pomorze, which will now offer as many as 4 new brands from the group's portfolio. How do you rate this place?
Rudi Fimpel (RF) – On a national scale, which is Poland, this is an important event for us, and the new location will certainly help us build an even stronger image of the group. Hymer Center Pomorze was awarded the distribution of such a wide portfolio of brands by several factors, of which, however, the most valuable was and remains trust. Our fruitful cooperation with the Zasada Group has been going on for almost 30 years, and we have also been cooperating with Monika Zawilińska for a long time. She has extensive experience in the industry and created the Warsaw Caravanning Center from scratch, successfully developing business based on our brands. It was a natural and well-thought-out decision for us.
CR – Andreas, Poland is one of the markets you are responsible for. Thanks to your commitment and actions, a distribution network for the brands of the Hymer group was created. How do you evaluate the last years?
Andreas Sailer (AS) – I have held my current position since 2020 and from the very beginning I tried to overcome the adversities that stood in our way. The pandemic and problems in the supply chain, the lack of base vehicles and problems with the distribution of the contingent of available vehicles to individual markets were huge challenges and no one expected such a development of the situation. Looking now from the perspective of the last three years, of course, we still have a lot to do, but we managed to build a network of several proven partners in Poland. The market is constantly evolving and as manufacturers we are constantly trying to react dynamically and respond to specific trends and changes in customer preferences. These changes concern, for example, preferences as to the type of buildings, interior layouts or the current fashion for campervans and popular "blaszaki".
CR – How do you assess your market share and prospects for the future?
AS – Poland is a specific country with a peculiar fiscal policy. So far, it has been difficult for us to compete quantitatively with manufacturers from southern Europe, whose designs were largely based on Ford base vehicles with a cylinder capacity of less than 2 liters, and thus covered by a much lower excise duty than in the case of the vehicles we offered until recently Mercedes and vehicles supplied by Stellantis. Due to the introduction of models based on the Transit and MB Sprinter to our offer (none of which currently exceeds 2 l) and the improving situation related to the availability of base cars, we hope to increase the share in the motorhome market and build a really attractive offer for the Polish market.
RF – It should be noted that the phenomenon of competition between the Fiat, Peugeot and Citroen brands has basically disappeared with the consolidation within the same Stellantis group. Dependence on this one supplier proved to be problematic not only for us. Fortunately, we managed to find solutions and flexibly adapt to the situation.
Erwin Hymer Group factory in Nowa Sól
CR – Serial production of motorhomes at the EHG factory in Nowa Sól is to start soon. Can you tell us more about this project?
RF – It's true, the decision to build the factory and its location was made three years ago. We decided on this location due to the proximity of the highway, border and suppliers of base cars. The Stellantis concern manufactures its vehicles in Gliwice, and the VW Crafter chassis already contracted by us are manufactured in Wielkopolska. In addition, we have access to qualified staff and well-organized infrastructure on site. At the beginning, the new plant will focus on the production of popular "tin cars" and campervans, primarily for the Carado and Sunlight brands. The future will show what will happen next. In any case, we see great potential for the new plant in Poland.
The potential of the Polish caravanning market
CR – How do you assess the potential of the Polish market in the context of the current slowdown in the industry?
RF – When I visited the industry fair in Poland for the first time just before the pandemic, in 2019, I immediately noticed the potential of this market. A country with a population of less than 40 million, a thriving economy and the growing popularity of caravanning were all in all a good omen. Of course, no one foresaw the coming pandemic, and the implications of it ultimately made it a rather unfortunate time to "start". The slowdown is also noticeable now – we are all seeing a decline in overall sales. Nevertheless, for me personally, as an emerging market, Poland shows great potential for the future. I assume that in the next 5-6 years it will be one of the top 5 European markets for us as a producer group (and No. 1 in Central and Eastern Europe). We are very pleased with the development in recent years and we also have positive signals from our affiliated brands. Ultimately, the results of each of them are the measure of our success. As the EHG group, we are, in a way, their "umbrella", a guardian looking after their interests.
CR – During the pandemic, a lot of representative offices and dealerships selling motorhomes and trailers were established, but without service facilities. What are your observations in this regard?
AS – Here we have to look at specific data. Observing the German market and its development, we see a two-fold increase in new registrations between 2014 and 2019. Then we saw the pandemic boom, which was also a quantum leap for the industry. To this should be added thousands of imported and registered used vehicles, whose owners in the vast majority (80-90%) have no relations with dealers. In such circumstances, service is an absolutely crucial aspect. Professional service/after-sales service is an inseparable condition for building lasting bonds between the seller and the customer. We use the saying here that the showroom/seller is responsible for the sale of the first vehicle, while the sale of subsequent vehicles is the merit of the service. It is an indicator of trust in the brand.
RF – Service is very important to us, which is why we have established a separate company whose task is to provide the highest quality maintenance services for the brands that are part of the group. For now, we are implementing this program in Germany, but it will also cover other countries where we are present. Emphasis will naturally also be placed on broadly understood training for service technicians serving customers from individual markets.
CR – Thank you for the interview and we keep our fingers crossed for further dynamic development of the group on the Polish market.