The condition of the caravanning industry in the eyes of Łukasz Złotnicki - [interview]

The condition of the caravanning industry in the eyes of Łukasz Złotnicki - [interview] – main image

There is an obvious slowdown in the caravanning industry and it is not the effect of pre-Christmas calm. We asked Łukasz Złotnicki, the owner of theCampery Złotniccy company , which has been operating in the caravanning industry since 2010 as a professional service, motorhome rental and seller of various brands of motorhomes, for his opinion on this subject.

The pandemic and post-pandemic years have been heavy for the industry, despite some supply chain and availability issues. How do you assess the situation year-on-year?

The years 2020 and 2021 were a boom dictated, of course, mainly by pandemic-related conditions. We observed a huge interest in renting and buying new cars, a lot of customers also bought used motorhomes and trailers - both domestic and foreign.

We saw this especially after the traffic on our site. Many people could not cope with minor repairs or service activities and sought our help. It gave us some idea of scale.

It should be noted that the fashion for motorhomes and mobile lifestyle was also conditioned by phenomenal media exposure - caravanning as the only form of recreation away from home seemed to escape restrictions and bans. It was kind of a snowball effect. Suddenly, many entrepreneurs wanted to invest and enter the motorhome rental market .

In 2022, however, several phenomena took place - pandemic restrictions were lifted, we observed for the first time in a long time that hotels opened, and the full availability of air connections and freedom of travel changed the rules of the game.

The alternative of all-inclusive holidays was previously unavailable or difficult to access for a long time. Suddenly in 2022, due to the lack of demand, the supply of vehicles purchased with the intention of commercial rental in 2020 and 2021 increased. The owners of these cars used various intermediary platforms and began to resort to all means to "catch" the client. Demand, however, decreased significantly, which turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle for many.

What's next for the recreational vehicle industry? How is the mood in Europe?

Problems with the supply of base cars had an extremely serious impact on the situation. Delays and lack of deliveries of Fiat Ducato left their mark on the market situation, especially in our western neighbours. Fiat has not delivered the contracted quantities of vehicles for 2 years in a row and we already know that in 2023 it will also fail to meet its obligations.

Other manufacturers are looking for alternatives and reach for other solutions. Poland is a specific market due to fiscal regulations - the vast majority of our sales are motorhomes based on Ford. Due to the situation on the market, leading European motorhome manufacturers, such as the Hymer group, also "apologised" to Ford. Its brands Etrusco, Dethleffs, and Bürstner have already started to offer models on this platform - this has not been done yet.

The search for replacements for the Ducato is feverishly underway - and so more and more manufacturers are "floating away" to Renault or Mercedes, for example. But also the possibilities of these producers are not inexhaustible.

The deficit and limited production capacity had to lead to increases in the end, and so it did. Successive changes in price lists make one wonder whether they are really dictated by real increases in production costs, or whether the point is to economically tie up this business in the face of problems with supplies and sell less, but at a higher price.

Personally, I have serious concerns about the Polish market. The well-selling Roller Team Zefiro motorhomes we offer not so long ago cost 240-250 thousand. net.

Currently, with the introduction of the 2023 collection, we are approaching the ceiling, often reaching even 330,000. This may prove to be an insurmountable barrier for many potential customers.

An additional element adversely affecting the economic situation is unquestionably uncertainty and sociological and psychological aspects related to the proximity of an armed conflict right on our borders.

From our perspective, it is already clear that in the next few years more and more brands and models of motorhomes will be built on Ford chassis - which is optimal for us due to the low excise duty on the sale of motorhomes.

The last years belonged to Roller Team, Benimar and Caravans International, possibly Chausson. They had 2 liter chassis and a reasonable price nonetheless. These brands will certainly continue to develop, but Giottiline, Bürstner or Dethleffs will get in their way here - this will dilute the market of low-excise motorhomes, with higher prices at the same time.

Competition between brands will ensure that such sales records as in the recent past will not be repeated. Sungliht or Carado will also be bolder in this segment.

On a European scale, 6-7 producer groups will be of the greatest importance in the coming years. Manufacturers remain optimistic for now, but well-developed markets that are the backbone of the largest players' sales, such as Germany and Italy, will also eventually feel some turbulence, if they do not see it yet.

How can companies in the industry survive this upcoming difficult period due to the reduced demand for new motorhomes?

The "sales harvest" will not be repeated so quickly for a long time and it will certainly be a more difficult time for everyone, both in terms of sales volume and business profitability. I believe that the future belongs to the service.

Motorhomes have much greater service needs than popular "passenger cars". Repairs, retrofitting, current services are the basis. The caravanning industry in Poland does not yet fully appreciate that this market is opening up and does not invest in these service opportunities as much as it should.

It is difficult to build a sales base, but it is 3-4 times more difficult to prepare a website. It is both time-consuming and capital-intensive. The return on investment is much longer.

For customers - following the example of our western neighbors - the factor determining the purchase of a new motorhome from a specific dealer will be the service. We can already see how crowded motorhome services are, and the development of infrastructure in this area has not caught up and will not catch up with the development of the car sales market in recent years.

Are you saying that we might even have trouble servicing motorhomes through an authorized dealer network?

Over time, we can even observe scenarios that are widely discussed abroad - the practice of not servicing cars bought from other dealers is simply a tool of competition. Why is it like that? Once again, we must emphasize that the technical and service potential is smaller than the demand for this type of service. Customers of motorhome services who did not buy a car from a given dealer due to its limited processing capacity may inevitably be pushed to the end of the queue.

Dealers do not really care about every service customer, but about maintaining high quality of service for contractors, whom they look after from the moment of buying a car.

Another important aspect that already appears as a potential problem is the liquidation of motor vehicle claims. There are more and more motorhomes, and in traffic (like every car) they are subject to various types of bumps and collisions. This type of repair requires much more outlays on service facilities and there are few points in the country where such damage can be repaired in accordance with the manufacturer's technology.

Let's go back to the subject of rentals - what future awaits this market in Poland?

I believe that the recently publicized bankruptcy of camptoo will make individual clients approach agents and all kinds of intermediary platforms with reserve. This will make it difficult for "backyard" rental companies to develop and acquire customers. In a nutshell - in my opinion, we are facing a more or less slow "reset" to the situation from 2019 - I count that about 20-30 entities with 10 and more cars in their fleets will remain on the Polish market.

What are your thoughts on the situation of trade fairs in Poland? This topic seems to heat up the environment like no other.

I agree with the voices articulated by the industry - there should not be 2 large trade fairs one after the other in autumn . This is completely unnecessary and is the result of a rivalry between 2 organizers who do not want to get along.

The spring and autumn fairs are the right direction, but this year the quality difference between the events was clearly visible in favor of the event in Poznań. If the organizer of the fair in Nadarzyn does not take anything, then no major nationwide player will appear there again.

The attendance is a result of the organization of the fair itself, the organization of the rally and recognition among suppliers. The fair in Nadarzyn this year did not convince either us - the exhibitors, or the caravanning community.

The Polish Caravanning Group, after this year's successful edition of the summer fair in Służewiec, plans to permanently introduce another, third event in the season to the calendar. We liked this year's event, but each event of this type is associated with huge costs for exhibitors - and these will be under very strict control in the near future for most companies in the industry.

And what are the development plans of the Złotniccy company?

The key aspect on which we put emphasis will be, as I have already mentioned, the development of the website and infrastructure. Despite everything, we try to develop sales activities and the portfolio of represented brands.

We are currently developing the infrastructure of the existing facility and expanding the range of maintenance services we offer. We train our staff so that they can serve the customer even more professionally.

Of course, we are constantly working on the project to build our new headquarters, which will double our service capacity.

Thank you for the interview, we wish you business development and completion of construction.

Maciej Kinal
Maciej Kinal

I feel best in the form of trade fairs and meetings with enthusiasts. Technical freak. In my life I have dismantled many motorhomes for the first time. Fan of large vehicles, mountain biking and traveling without weight and financial restrictions. At CampRest, I am responsible for all publications on automotive topics.

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