Huge demand for motorhomes and caravans isn’t just a blip says Mercedes boss

Time 1 year ago

The current boom for motorhomes across the UK is anything but temporary, reckons Mercedes-Benz Vans’s managing director Steve Bridge.

Interviewed on Car Dealer Live earlier this week, Bridge spoke about increased demand for the maker’s own motorhome option: the Marco Polo, based on the Vito medium-sized van.

Host James Batchelor asked if Mercedes-Benz had increased the number of models allocated to the UK as a result.

‘It’s a black art ensuring you’ve got the volume to suit any market,’ Bridge told us.

‘So the answer is yes as people are on staycation now of course. Some of it might be novelty, some of it might be something they’d well researched.’

Although travel restrictions are likely to have caused the current boom, Bridge suggests that demand for vehicles like the Marco Polo could be here to stay.

‘If you look over the last 10 years the leisure market has been on the increase irrespective,’ he told  us.

‘So yes you’ll get the odd blip – like around 9/11 when people didn’t want to fly – but there are many people that like to stay in the UK, and certainly travel to Europe as well.’

However, Bridge said that entering this market came with some caveats – notably around the differences in the way motorhomes need to be bought, sold and appraised compared to vans or cars.

‘The problem with [the camper van market] is the understanding of how to deal with it – and if we’re talking to dealers here they will understand exactly what I mean,’ he said, addressing the show’s audience.

‘Because, how would we ever up-skill every single salesperson in a dealer network to be able to adequately value the part exchange of a specific type of vehicle that someone had brought in to swap against a Mercedes?’

The issue, said Bridge, isn’t so much with vehicles like the Marco Polo or the Volkswagen California – but the larger motorhomes outfitted by third party manufacturers.

‘If a family is looking to make a purchase of that size, they want to be looked after and spend two, three, four hours perhaps – not so much on the base vehicle but more on the superstructure.

‘What colour taps does it have, what is the toilet, what does the microwave do… In dealer land, how could we possibly train everybody to know all those facets?

‘On a Marco Polo, yes, easy enough to do. But when we start to get into bespoke-built conversions on chassis, which is the big market, that’s a specialist field – and it requires an infrastructure to do that. That’s why motorhome dealers exist and do very well!’

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Bridge also spoke of the challenge to outfit the network not just with salespeople who understand such complex products, but aftersales facilities suitable for them too.

‘What we have to do is ensure that we have a good enough network to be able to cope with the family that are maybe inbound from Italy for example,’ he said.

‘And let’s just imagine that, that they were touring around the Lake District and we didn’t have the right infrastructure to look after them when they did break down. Lots and lots of facets to it.

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