The boom in caravans, camper vans and mobile homes continues. And there's no end in sight. This offers new potential for independent vehicle workshops. Or is it...?
According to a recent study by the Caravanning Industry Association (CIVD) and the renowned Allensbach Institute, there's no end to the camping boom in sight. According to this study, the association of German caravanning fans grew by more than 2 million newcomers to 13.8 million campers in the last two years, which represents an increase of 16 percent. 1.6 million camping vehicles are registered in Germany in total. So the camping market hasn't been a niche business for a long time. Independent vehicle workshops, especially commercial vehicle workshops, are now seeing new potential in this field.
And it's an enticing prospect: Campers invest a lot of money in their hobby, which often becomes less of a hobby, and more a real way of life. If you travel long distances with a camper van, mobile home or a caravan, the reliability of the "home on wheels" is particularly important. The technology obviously needs to be in perfect condition. This represents reliable turnover or suitably qualified workshops.
As highlighted by the industry initiative "Quality is added value", an additional specialisation in mobile homes, camper vans and caravans is also a way to stand out from the competition and provide customers with additional quality service. But there are significant hurdles to be overcome.
Don't just 'dabble' in caravan repairs
"Caravan repairs is not an area that a workshop should just 'dabble in' in response to the current boom in the sector", warns Dierk Conrad, Managing Director of Commercial Vehicles at ZKF (German Association for Motor Trades and Repairs), in conversation with the trade journal "amz". There is a wide range of requirements that must be met by workshops in order for them to be successful in the caravan segment.
It starts with the space available: Without sufficient space in the workshop area, nothing can be done. After all, the standard length of camper vans and mobile homes is around five to six metres. The majority of the partially integrated and integrated mobile homes and overcab bed models are six to 7.50 metres long. In addition, the court area must be large enough for customers and employees to manoeuvre the vehicles.
But the most important factor is that the workshop is suitably qualified. In some cases, mobile homes are much more complex than standard commercial vehicles or even passenger cars. In addition to skills and qualifications in automotive engineering and body construction, workshops also need additional skills in other fields. For example in furniture construction or gas installation systems.
Certification as a caravan specialist
The ZKF supports its member workshops in the training and qualification of its employees with special courses. The association has also been providing suitable workshops with "Caravan specialist" certification since 2015. The ZKF has now certified around 120 member workshops in this field throughout Germany.
But the criteria are tough: In particular, workshops must provide specific proof of experience in the field of caravan repair. "We request at least three examples of orders that can be verified by sending photos and invoice copies", explains Dierk Conrad. This doesn't mean "simple repairs", but examples of work that cover the entire range of tasks in the caravan segment. As Dierk Conrad already emphasised: Caravan repairs aren't something that interested workshops can simply 'dabble in'.