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RupertGeorge
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Caravan Construction


Is it time for a major shake up in the British caravan industry. The build quality leaves so much to be desired it is more akin to the 1950/60s when the motor car industry was producing poor quality products.

Which ever model of the main players purchased they all look good in the showroom but there is a great chance something will fall apart, break, not work, crack or leak.

This even applies to the top of range models, have had some experience of this. Manufacturers should get their act together and build quality first before lightness and cost. Dealers also have a part to play as the law requires them to put things right under warranty.

Caravanners would I feel sure pay a little extra on a new van if the worry and inconvenience of returning to the dealer for warranty repairs was greatly reduced.


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Maybe this is why there are more and more European vans appearing on British roads. Take myself for example, I looked at all the British vans in my layout and price range and was not impressed with any of them and ended up buying an Adria Adora.

 

Bailey, Swift etc. beware because this is exactly what happened to the car industry.

 

Dave

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Rupert George, you are only repeating what I and many others have been banging on about for many many years. It is disgraceful and many have voted with their feet and gone over to the dark side ( German caravans) in order to make sure their investment doesn't fall apart through damp or just not being screwed together properly.

That said I do think that SOME are getting to grips with proper materials and bonding methods but still have room for improvement!

I have offered some manufacturers advice and even offered to discuss it with them over the years but no one seems to really care.

The picture on my profile says it all, it's why I voted German.

I am now going to duck down below the barricades whilst others say how good their English vans are. , to which I say " I am very pleased for you but I do not want to risk my money on English vans YET"

until I see proof of real improvement.

 

 

. ....Peter

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However I suspect that most UK manufacturers are up to their necks with orders and are struggling to cope with demand.

So what message are we sending to them?

Graham

Unless otherwise stated all posts are my personal opinion 

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I read somewhere that delivery dates for some new UK vans is next June so somebody is buying them.

 

Ian

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Absolutely Graham.

 

I think there is a touch rose tinted specs and green grass over t'other side in this discussion.

 

Foreign built vans over here are a miniscule proportion of the total van sales and as such if they had construction problems it wouldn't even register on the 'My Van Leaksometer'.

 

Now I'm not saying UK built vans are perfect but if you get a problem there are loads of dealers and the board rooms are in the same country and you can shout at people who understand you.

 

Most foreign vans are a fair bit weightier than their UK built counterparts and a fair bit more expensive, maybe with the honourable exception of Adria who make very full use of the availability of very cheap labour in their home country. One reason our vans are lighter is because driving licence regs and car weights are driving them that way and arguably it's driving van makers to be inventive with their structural systems. Hopefully the EU's drive for lower weight cars to help fulfil stretching emissions and consumption targets won't backfire on us like it has in cars with VAG.

 

Yes we get complaints on CT and yes in a perfect world there'd be no problem vans and people don't seem to realise that a premium range van is built of the same basic materials, on the same line and using the same structural and sealing systems as its entry level brother that costs £10,000 less. As has been said on here hundreds of times, we hear very, very little from the thousands of people who have no trouble with their vans at all. So don't get it out of proportion, though I understand that if you get a bad one, then they're all bad.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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However I suspect that most UK manufacturers are up to their necks with orders and are struggling to cope with demand.

So what message are we sending to them?

I think it is true that UK caravans have failed to keep up with the expectations of their customers, and in some cases the build quality seriously declined around 5 years ago. A considerable effort to overcome the weaknesses in body construction has been made by the major manufacturers in the last 2 or so years (we have had price hikes in order to pay for it) and the high investment made by us has yet to be justified. The caravan manufacturers have been very lucky to have had the marketing conditions to get through this period of decline and (hopefully) recovery. Competition from Germany and Slovenia has in my opinion only failed to clean up because the model layouts and decor are not to UK taste. The Sterling/Euro exchange rate has knocked a fair amount off the prices of European 'vans, at the same time as UK 'vans have moved up in price. I think it is a very dangerous time for UK manufacturers, because if one of the larger retailers commissions a range of German 'vans with the popular UK layouts, there could be a significant and permanent loss of market share by the UK manufacturers. If there was any decline in the size of the UK market, then UK manufacturers would inevitably be in trouble. Yes - It's potentially the same old story as the motor industry etc.

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However I suspect that most UK manufacturers are up to their necks with orders and are struggling to cope with demand.

So what message are we sending to them?

 

 

The demand for new caravans has dropped and probably that's why your seeing dealers now cutting away certain manufactures from their sales portfolio, especially if they're committed to numbers for kick backs. Dropping from its peak of 33,350 units in 2007 to a lower 18,450 units until the end of 2014.

 

So I'm not to sure where the message is there.

 

2000-2014_UK_TC_home_dispatches_web_final. pdf

Edited by Silverback
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I am still convinced that if the industry pulled its socks up to make sure that every single van that rolled out of the factory was damp proofed properly, then we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Even if only 5% slip through it is not good enough.

Earn makes a valid point about the European makers. If only they would Anglicise the interior they would have a very clear run over here, unfortunately they are too busy selling over there to do this.

When Lowdhams had their own specials made by Hymer, it was enough to make me buy one, unfortunately they could not sell enough to make it profitable enough to continue, I do enjoy my Anglicised Hymer although I am not keen on the latest non Anglicised ones models. Perhaps Hymer should rethink their ideas?

. .....Peter.

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I suspect that if you checked continental forums like CT, if they exist, you'd find the same proportion of people complaining of problems with their vans. It's the paucity of foreign made vans in use over here that gives the impression they're better.

 

Making any caravan 100% guaranteed leakproof and usable is virtually impossible. Given that it's a lightweight hollow cube with joins all round that isn't welded and travels over unsmooth surfaces in all sorts of weather conditions. A fully moulded GRP shell with no doors or windows might just about meet the requirement.

 

All manufacturers are doing their best to develop and refine their body engineering subject to the very small development budgets that operating in a highly competitive, relatively low volume business allows. We've seen what can be done at Swift but it has both weight and cost penalties which the midrange and entry level markets just won't bear.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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1, Design a product that people like enough to buy. (size - weight - price - looks)

 

2. Design it to 'design out' problem areas, and strong enough, and TEST it. (common sense really)

 

3. Make it from materials that are fit for purpose. both in use and longevity. (e. g. No ABS - Fittings that rust/break/ are nasty etc.)

 

4. Train and pay your staff to assemble it correctly. (Common sense again and cheaper actually)

 

5. Use double protection designs. i. e its not designed to leak but if it does it will not rot and we can fix it. ( eg NO WOOD )

 

6. .Use where possible a common bin of components across all ranges. (like locker hinges etc so simple )

 

7. Maintain and make available a proper spares system - direct to the public. (Sorry but Bailey really nailed this )

 

8. Do not change designs / finish year on year. ( Hymer bodies are a prime example as are many other German makes )

 

9. Remember one bad customer experience - they will tell everyone - who will also do the same. A good one never gets as many repeats. (Human nature)

 

10. Listen to the customer. They know what they want. ( I know of one manufacturer that did that last year - sales have increased )

 

Should be so simple.

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I suspect that one of the problems is that at least two, maybe even three of our UK caravan manufacturers just aren't large enough to warrant the sort of product development facility that needs to be going on in the background to bring about substantive changes in build. Such research costs and can be a drag on profitability, though holding a torch to guide towards the future, if the business can sustain itself for that long.

 

In a way this is demonstrated by Bailey and Swift Group, the two biggest players, being the first to offer vans using substantially alternative construction materials and methods. Explorer Group didn't really change materials but went for sticking them together, which is a sort of halfway house and Lunar and Coachman bring up the rear with little dramatic development.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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As a largely satisfied German caravan owner just a couple of comments.

 

German Caravans are heavy, I am not claiming they are light. There is a tendency to fit the heavy duty of a component. But the most important there a failure to distinguish between Mass in running order and MPTLM. With a British van you are lucky to get a payload of 150kg with a German van it can be more than double that. I do not believe that I could sensibly load a van for a family of 4 with that restriction it is just plain unrealistic So there must be a huge proportion of vans running over weight.

 

B&E entitlement I think that this is an European requirement. I was talking to a couple of Dutch colleagues who are caravanners and both of them had taken the test to enable them to tow heavier outfits.

 

I wish I could believe that British caravans area as well made as the best of the foreign competition, unfortunately I just don't so I know where I choose to spend my money, maybe my glasses are rose tinted, but I really don't think that the quality issues are purely a result of the number of British vans sold. I think that it is still very much a cottage industry where short production runs contribute to an inconsistent build quality

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You do need to be careful when considering payload on German vans. Their MIRO's are usually for very, very basically equiped vans and once you raid the options list and bring them up to the sort of spec. that's standard in the UK you'll find the payloads are about the same.

 

Take an Eriba Touring Troll 540 (I've owned two of them).

 

MIRO 980kg

MTPLM 1300kg

Payload 320kg

 

except you need to add:

  • exterior locker door 1. 5kg
  • spare wheel & bracket 20kg
  • flyscreen 5kg
  • sprung bench cushions 10kg
  • sink cover/chopping board 0. 5kg
  • shower hose and curtain 5kg
  • 12V charger 10kg
  • carpet 8kg
  • stone protection panels 2kg
  • entrance door rubbish bin 2kg
  • electric Ultraheat 1kg
  • warm air trunking 3kg
  • Hot water boiler, piping and taps 3kg

That little lot adds up to 71kg, which reduces the payload to 250kg which is still a lot more than UK vans but not as much as a first glance would make you think. Also earlier 540's had an MTPLM of 1200kg which meant their actuall available payload was 150kg after up speccing, which is about the same as a similar size UK van.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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You do need to be careful when considering payload on German vans. Their MIRO's are usually for very, very basically equiped vans and once you raid the options list and bring them up to the sort of spec. that's standard in the UK you'll find the payloads are about the same.

 

Take an Eriba Touring Troll 540 (I've owned two of them).

 

MIRO 980kg

MTPLM 1300kg

Payload 320kg

 

except you need to add:

 

  • exterior locker door 1. 5kg
  • spare wheel & bracket 20kg
  • flyscreen 5kg
  • sprung bench cushions 10kg
  • sink cover/chopping board 0. 5kg
  • shower hose and curtain 5kg
  • 12V charger 10kg
  • carpet 8kg
  • stone protection panels 2kg
  • entrance door rubbish bin 2kg
  • electric Ultraheat 1kg
  • warm air trunking 3kg
  • Hot water boiler, piping and taps 3kg
That little lot adds up to 71kg, which reduces the payload to 250kg which is still a lot more than UK vans but not as much as a first glance would make you think. Also earlier 540's had an MTPLM of 1200kg which meant their actuall available payload was 150kg after up speccing, which is about the same as a similar size UK van.

I take it that you have weighed all of these components and have taken into consideration the weight of the components that they replace and subtracted it.

 

Dave

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Those are the 'additional' weights quoted from the current Hymer/Eriba Price List.

 

The only bits that are 'replaced' are: some van wall, for the locker door; swapping cold taps for hot/cold; some plastic lining on the lower door and foam rubber seat cushions replaced by steel sprung.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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The car industry is no different for quality for certain brands, go on any forum and you will get the same negative stories you read on any caravan/motorhome forum, for example, check out one of the Land rover owners forum, and look at the amount of quality issues they have, there is a member on there that has rejected a new discovery sport 3 times already!

 

And don't assume Germans get away with it either, from personal experience, had a BMW 1-series that was the most unreliable car I've ever owned, after breaking down on me 3 times it got part exchanged. ................for another BMW (does that make me as bad as the caravanners you say keep buying UK vans after having issues previously?)

 

from industry experience, no matter what you buy, you are likely to get some sort of issue with your purchase, be it very minor, or on rare instances major, it is unfortunately the nature of the product, in an ideal world it would be great if everything supplied was 100% perfect throughout its lifespan, but that is just unrealistic.

Edited by Caravantech
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