China going RV Crazy (?!)

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GWM Trailer 300x124 China going RV Crazy (?!)

Greatwall Trailer, being towed by a Hyundai...

We know the SUV lifestyle is taking off in China, you have the real offroaders that go mud plugging and boulder crawling at the weekends, and you have the soccer moms that wobble all over the roads with their little emperors bouncing around on the back seats, but what we didn’t know is that the RV industry is taking off in a major way. At a recent automotive show in China I did talk with an RV importer and manufacturer from Tai’an City in Shandong that claimed to be doing swift business with its imported RV’s and Trailers (Caravans for UK’ers) and also had a tidy little sideline in imported full size trucks going as well, obviously I didn’t believe his sales figures and silently laughed at his 2011/12 sales goals, but obviously I’m the idiot here as RV’ing seems to be the next big niche market:

From USA Today:

FANGSHAN, China — Loading up the Winnebago and seeing the country via its highways, byways, campgrounds and tourists traps is a classic American summertime pursuit. And now it’s come to China.

“We’ve done all the usual kinds of travel,” says Beijing businesswoman Liu Xiaofan, who though only 40 has just retired. “Now we want to enjoy our lives, and our RV can help us live a happy and healthy life.”

On Thursday, they drove their Chinese-made Zhongtian recreational vehicle, bought recently for $93,000, to join hundreds of other RVing fans at a campsite rally in Fangshan, a southwestern district of China’s capital.

The Lius want to go well beyond a cross-China excursion: They hope one day to drive to Europe and eventually travel coast-to-coast across the USA.

After more than three decades of dramatic economic growth, China’s better-off citizens are busy testing new lifestyles and leisure pursuits, from horse riding and skiing to golf and overseas travel. RV camping is another recent trend here, promoted by entrepreneurs and a central government keen to boost domestic tourism and consumer spending.

In a nation of 1.3 billion people, where car ownership remains a dream for most Chinese, RV owners number 5,000, with just a few dozen RV camps, according to the China RV & Camping Association. Approximately 8.9 million households own an RV in the USA, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, and there are thousands of RV camps in the country.

Change is coming fast in China, says Wang Jidong, the RV association’s secretary general, as local governments and businesses build hundreds of RV camps nationwide.

Americans still can’t grasp the fast pace of development in China, says Lu Jun, 41, general manager of the Beijing International Automotive Camping Park, which opens later this month in south Beijing.

“When I talk to U.S. RV suppliers, they ask if I want to buy three or four vehicles,” says Lu of imported RVs costing over $70,000 each.

His reply? “I want to buy 1,000″ to fill the 100 camps his company will build within two years.

Traffic rules that require a heavy vehicle license for larger RVs, and discourage trailer-type RVs, put off potential buyers, complains Wang, whose association hopes to persuade Beijing to relax the laws within two years. Meanwhile, trailer parks will hook Chinese tourists, and future RV buyers, by offering rental RVs in fixed, user-friendly environments, Lu says.

Kong Fanning needs no convincing. A real estate businessman and RV fan, Kong, 51, drove his wife and daughter 17 hours from their home in Changsha city to attend Thursday’s rally. He has racked up 31,000 miles in two years in his 15-foot RV, small enough to be driven on an ordinary license.

“I hate flying; it makes me feel like a hostage or convict to be so restricted, but with an RV I can go, and stop, wherever I like,” he says. “I can cook what I like and enjoy so much freedom.”

Luxurious RVs from the USA, such as Jayco’s Presidential 390, a coachlike model costing $650,000 in China, drew many admirers, including Hang Yong, an auto executive from the wealthy eastern city Wenzhou.

“In China, there is official support for the RV industry, and people’s desire to own one will definitely grow,” says Hang, whose company plans to manufacture cheaper “Chinese-style RVs,” with features such as fan extractors to cope with stir-fried Chinese food.

The prospect of RV competition from China, infamous for cheap knockoffs, worries some Americans. In June, U.S. RV blogger Bob Zagami warned that putting a Chinese-made RV on to a U.S. dealership “is about as un-American as you can get.”

Even so, cheaper prices are vital to growing the RV culture among ordinary Chinese, says university teacher Huang Jie, 45. She plans to buy a low-end local model for a trip to Tibet.

Great Wall are one of the companies in question that are working on their own range of trailers, RV’s and customized coaches. Their basic RV, which is based on their Wingle pick up costs around 168,000rmb, where as their trailer range is from 158,000rmb and rising.

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6 Comments

  • Rick in China
    August 6, 2011

    Must be limited to specific areas of the country. I’ve never seen a place to PARK an RV, let alone one in Chengdu (either for sale or on the road) or its surroundings.

  • CCT
    August 6, 2011

    Ive seen the GWM Wingle based ones a few times at various road bike races, and once saw a US spec style one parked up outside the Inter Continental in Suzhou. They must be a nightmare to park in China, my SUV often gets scraped going into underground car parks because of the 2.2m limit which my car reaches due to the roof racks, parking a 3m tall truck must be a sodding nightmare.

  • dragin
    August 6, 2011

    Great article by Calvin MacLeod.
    The opportunities for imaginative Chinese entrepreneurs, in both city and countryside, are mind boggling. U.S. RV makers are scrambling to get their piece of the market, before the homeland manufacturers catch on.

  • Laurent J. Masson
    August 7, 2011

    There might be an opportunity for European RV makers. American RVs are just too big to be driven outside the US, whereas in Europe, there’s a large choice of RVs shorter than 7 meters. In Southern France or Italy, there are also some companies renting motorhomes to people from Northern countries, who want to enjoy the sun after a 2-hour flight instead of a 2-day drive.

    I could enjoy visiting China in a small motorhome.

  • Gerald
    August 8, 2011

    There is definitely a grassroots RV thing going on here, my brother-in-law’s got 2 RVs (smaller ones, not the US monsters) which he rents out and uses for his business.

    Where does he park them? On a side-street outside the 5th ring.

  • Leandro
    January 28, 2014

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a
    famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

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