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Wednesday, 2 Jul 2014

Bigger, better caravan industry HQ launch faces fat vans challenges

CTIAVic HQ open
CTIAVic HQ open

By Garth Morrison Editor

Victorian Minister for Ports, Major Projects and Manufacturing, David Hodgett, accentuates the positive for caravanning industry growth.

David Hodgett uses and understands caravans and the value they provide to families through affordable road tourism holidays.

So although fully aware of the dangers of naming individual caravan brands in a room filled with caravanning industry people the minister went to a positive story.

New Age Caravans, he said, is a good news story. “I am blown away by this company”, he said.

He said New Age has gone from 14 caravans a month in 2009 to 115 a month now.

“This is a good news message for the industry”, he said as he opened Caravanning Industry House, the new headquarters of the Caravan Trade and Industries Association in West Melbourne.

The timely well researched HQ expansion is in line with CTIA’s bigger and better direction which moves the annual Caravan and Camping Supershow to a new Melbourne Showgrounds venue.

This dovetails with an industry driven Go Make Some Memories campaign to build road touring interest through caravanning. Caravanning in this context extends to RV's in all their forms and applications on and off-road.

CTIA President Peter May and CEO Rob Lucas each underlined the contribution of a ‘stalwart industry’ with dedicated members which has celebrated its 60th trade show and is working on a 61st blockbuster at Melbourne Showgrounds.

Strong industry roll-up.
Strong industry roll-up.

There was a big industry roll-up to launch the Brand New Day at CTIA HQ, so with so much current knowledge available, GSA took the opportunity to ask industry members whether the new black for caravan buyers is “Outback”.

“Yes” is the answer with a strong push into self-contained caravans.

One builder said  his business requests for caravans of this type have increased by about 60 percent. The self-contained caravan momentum has been building for some time, but when expert industry technical opinion on braking offered that big caravans are putting on so much weight that stopping them effectively is an issue GSA noted an elephant in the room.

One fully loaded fulltime caravan home was said to have weighed in at over 4000kg a builder said.

This GSA believes will make it potentially an illegal, unsafe proposition behind the majority of popular tow vehicles on the Australian market which are usually rated up to about 3500kg.

Which Department of State Development, Business and Innovation Business Development Officer Simon Mahady, who accompanied David Hodgett says is an engineering opportunity.

Weight is obviously the enemy in caravan production, he said.

David Hodgett
David Hodgett

“Why not throw a university at the problem and start from the bottom up by engineering a lighter chassis and then move on to the caravan structure?” he asked.

Many Industry members see the need for lighter, strong caravans, but understandably, are caught in a cycle of buyer demand for more and more weighty home comforts in caravans compounded by their need to survive in a fiercely competitive market.

Literally, the driver for industry builders is the rapidly decreasing pool of safe, suitable, warranted tow vehicles available to put in front of their bigger caravan products.

One major result  is that some caravans fall well short of a reasonable load carrying capacity.

Reasonable, in GSA’s opinion, is at least 300kg in a single axle but 400kg is more like it for anybody with a tandem axle who plans to really holiday in their caravan.

 David Hodgett is also interested  in the proposition that caravans designed and built to a high all-weather standard have the potential to extend time spent in them road touring.

GSA believes this should have the Go Make Some Memories knock-on affect of increased revenue for caravan parks, campsites, cities, towns and regions as caravanners are able to use their caravans more regardless of the weather.

Extended Research and Development of caravans and Recreational Vehicles (RVs) in general  could also assist with soaking up some of the spill of talent from recent automotive industry setbacks.

The Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing Association of Australia Ltd (RVMA) CEO David Duncan says that 23 per cent of manufacturer members have been audited for compliance. The first round of physical inspections/compliance audits started at the end of April.

GSA believes two essentials need to be addressed by manufacturers and major industry bodies if the Australian caravan industry is to move forward to compliance which gives buyers and industry assurance of a consistently quality product.

1. Payload (the caravans actual carrying capacity) must be fit for the (buyers) purpose. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate numbers must be legal, right, safe and within both the warranty parameters of the caravan and that of its potential tow vehicle.

2. The industry must embrace audited processes and compliance.

GSA gets regular requests for help from caravan buyers on these topics.

This one which came through on Wednesday July 2, while GSA was at the CTIAVic launch is typical :

" I was wondering if you could possibly help me?"

I have  purchased a caravan through a dealership in Brisbane. On their brochure it states that my car (Toyota Prado 2010 150 series) is able to tow this particular van. After receiving the van and doing some research I have discovered that my car can only tow 2500kg. The tare  mass of the van is 2220kg with an ATM of 3402kg.

I have contacted Toyota and Qld Transport to see if I can upgrade the towing capcity of my car to allow me to tow this van and they have all said NO.

After contacting the salesman who sold me the van they have told me that it is now my problem?

Is there anything I can do to get a refund. I have also contacted Fair Trade and I am going to put in writing a complaint to this company but in the meantime I would like to know if you have any advice that could help me in this situation?"

The dealer involved has sold what appears to be in pictures sent to GSA  a US built caravan. Ian Cole of the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTAQ) said today that he has advised the buyer of the MTAQ complaint process and he is waiting on registration of a complaint.

GSA response -

For a start GSA thinks the caravan is not fit for purpose and on the lynchpin of our consumer law there are grounds for redress.

From the  industries point of view this is the task in front of us. No client should ever be put in such a position. If proven this is a resounding lack of Duty of Care.

Editor’s note: A by-line on a GoSee story indicates opinion. The attached hyperlinks open related articles on the Caravan Industry Blueprint funded by the Victorian Government and released in 2012. GSA thanks CTIAVic who gave us access to the Blueprint.

The Blueprint reports (2012) that Victoria is the national manufacturing centre for the caravan and camping industry, which in total generates more than $1.4 billion in revenue for Victoria and employs more than 5,150 people across 800 Trade businesses and 3,000 people within 500 caravan, holiday and tourist parks.

The industry has enjoyed a record of growth at or around 10 percent per annum over the last 15 years. Victoria now has 131,000 registered caravans and campervans which represent 26.6 percent of Australia's total registrations.


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Pressures build as caravan park industry shifts cut back campsites available in peak periods

Cabinomics joins caravan park vocab as significant change shows through industry research

Caravan compliance potential long-term win for both buyers and builders

Apply two key questions to test tow tug claims

Better informed buyers choose the best tow vehicle for their caravan needs

AL-KO shows life saving significant development in towing safety in Sandown test run

Major risks in under size caravan tow tugs South Australian Police say

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory


Peter May
Peter May

Rob Lucas
Rob Lucas

Caravan Industry Australia (CIA Victorian Trades Division)
Caravan Industry Australia (CIA Victorian Trades Division)

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