Caravan Salon is the worlds largest trade fair for caravans and motorhomes. It runs for 10 days every year in Dusseldorf, Germany and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Over 200,000 visitors were recorded at this years show, with 570 of the worlds leading Caravan, Motorhome and RV Accessory manufacturers on display.
This show is similar in many ways to the major capital city Caravan and Motorhome shows in Australia. They include direct sales of Motorhome, Caravans and Camper Trailers as well as sales of accessories, holiday destination advice and booking plus manufacture displays of their newest products.
The size of the show was 4-5 times the size of the Sydney or Melbourne show which is not surprising given the population difference. The RV market is very much alive in this area of Europe, even though I believe Australia offers more opportunities and variations of destination than available in Europe for the RV owner.
Australian vs European RV Market
What I noticed first at the show was the complete reversal in percentages of displayed RV's compared to the Australian market.
In Australia I would put the Campervan/Motorhome market at about 25%, with Caravans & Pop-tops being 50% and Camper Trailers being the other 25%.
At the Dusseldorf show the percentages on display were Campervan/Motorhome 65%, Caravans (no Pop-tops seen) 30%, and only 5% or less of Camper Trailers. Off-road Caravans or Camper Trailers were non-existent.
Caravan Design - How do Aussie Vans differ?
The second notable difference, as alluded to above, is the construction. As there is no need to go off-road to reach your destination, all Caravans & Camper Trailers are built light weight and can be towed by normal sedans. There are very few 4WD's seen on roads in Germany.
Australia does import a number of the European made Caravans and some local manufacturers do make the lighter weight caravans, but it should be appreciated that they should only be used on the highways, or with restraint on the many rough regional roads and never on the rougher outback roads.
At the same time I mention the lighter weight caravan limitations, it is appropriate to mention the disadvantages of the real Off-road caravans. The strength almost always comes at a weight cost. That weight translates into higher towing costs, larger vehicles are required and in many cases that weight can actually prevent you getting to places like over sandy stretches or muddy areas.
The diversity of Australian destinations and roads truly does require a more diverse selection of recreational vehicle designs that are, I'm very happy to say, made and sold in great numbers by our local manufacturers, both large and small.
Caravan Accessories - Australia vs Europe
When I took a closer look at the current accessories that are available in the European market I found that Australia is not far behind at all. In fact we are up to date with most internal features and notably ahead when it comes to self sufficiency like solar power.
Because they have very few areas that can be classed as remote, the need for solar power is low. Motorhomes may spend a night or two on a street or in a parking area, but otherwise power is available.
We do not have as many models of appliances in Australia, but we do have the main ones. This is purely a factor of our population and the necessity to provide parts and service for any models imported. This should be evaluated for anybody who is considering importing a special appliance that is not available locally.
As a seller of spare parts, this is an issue we see all to often where a single appliance or unsupported brand has a problem and the owner is unable to source spares. Dometic is a good example of an International brand that have some models that are not imported, so they do not import the spare parts either.
Popular European Appliances
One of the interesting things that I found in the accessories area at the show was that small portable 12 volt evaporative air coolers were very popular. This maybe because air conditioning is not standard on caravans. This type of evaporative air cooler would be very useful for free camping where an air conditioner is unsuitable.
Interesting New Ideas
A new facility that is becoming available in a number of caravan parks in Europe is an automatic machine to empty your toilet cassette.
The user places any thetford or dometic cassette into the machine and pays two euro. It sucks out the waste, flushes the cassette and adds its own chemical to the cassette.
It is a clever idea, no one enjoys emptying their toilet waste cassettes but would definitely become costly if you were using this for every empty.