The leading lights of the motorhome industry recently gathered in Manchester for our Owner Satisfaction Awards – which has four new category winners for 2015.
The awards has been going since 2004 and celebrates the best in motorhome reliability and build quality, plus great customer service offered by supplying dealers, as voted for by readers of Practical Motorhome.
It is the only survey of its type to feature both new and pre-owned motorcaravans, and since 2012, it has been generously supported by specialist motorhome insurer Coast.
The highest-scoring manufacturer of new motorhomes was Vantage Motorhomes, the Leeds-based panel van converter, which polled 88.5%. For used motorhomes, Swift Group’s Escape brand came out on top, with 93.5%.
Vantage Motorhomes founder and owner, Scot Naylor, returned from testing a new motorhome in Spain to discover his firm had topped the poll. Vantage is no stranger to the awards, however, having won it in 2013 and 2011.
“Customer service is our thing,” he said. “It’s our priority and was the reason we founded the business in 2006. Winning this award reassures you that you’re on the right track.
“And we want to build on this win. We had a year where a few little things needed looking at; now we’ve fine-tuned that with our suppliers and we’re hoping that this is the foundation to move forwards. Next year we want a score beginning with a nine, which was what we’ve had in previous years.”
Vantage has exciting plans for 2015, Scot added, with the opening of a van conversions supercentre for prospective customers, and a new unit geared solely to servicing and repairs and inspections. Some new models are coming, too, so keep an eye on Practical Motorhome.
Other familiar names in the Gold Awards league table (scores of 80-100%) for new motorhomes included WildAx, MURVI, Adria, Bürstner, Dethleffs and Escape. Silver Award winners (60-79%) included Shire Conversions, Bailey, Auto-Sleepers, Auto-Trail, Autocruise and Elddis. Popular import brands Chausson and Rapido also figured.
Swift Group’s Escape brand has been a runaway success since launching in 2010. Conceived to take the fight to imported budget motorhomes, Escape has since become a firm favourite with the British motorcaravanning fraternity, thanks to generous kit levels and good build quality for an affordable price. It was the highest-placed UK-produced brand to appear in last year’s chart for new motorhomes; now that many pre-owned examples are available on dealer forecourts and for sale privately, Escape has romped to the top of our pre-owned charts.
“We’re delighted with the success of the Escape range,” said Swift Group’s Commercial Director, Nick Page. “A combination of great value for money, desirable layouts and the fact they are packed with features are a very attractive proposition for buyers.
“Escape has proved to be very popular with families and has featured prominently in the national press throughout the past year with great reviews – a further testament to its success.”
And he added that recent improvements made as part of upgrades to Swift Group’s 2015 motorhome portfolio would make them even more sought-after, on both the new and – in time – pre-owned markets.
“We continually look to improve construction, design and reliability – which are the cornerstones of our business. For the new season, we launched SMART construction on all our coachbuilt motorhomes including the Escape range, so enhancing reliability and product quality.”
Retaining customers and tempting them to upgrade was a priority, Nick added: “It’s a case of consistency and continuing the winning formula of great value for money, desirable layouts, lots of features you wouldn’t get in similar-priced motorhomes and a high level of quality.”
Many other well-known manufacturers appeared in our league tables for pre-owned motorhomes. UK producers MURVI, Swift, Bessacarr, Autocruise and Romahome collected Gold Awards, as did imported brands, Roller Team, Hobby, Adria and Bürstner doing well.
Silver Awards were won by domestic firms Auto-Sleepers, Auto-Trail, Lunar, Elddis/Compass and Tribute coachbuilts, while brands from across the English Channel included Chausson, Dethleffs, Pilote, Rapido and Hymer. Campervan producers VW (for its popular California) and Westfalia also received Silver Awards for their trophy cabinets.
The Practical Motorhome Owner Satisfaction Awards also recognises exceptional service from supplying dealerships. The highest-scoring retailer of new motorcaravans for 2015 was Heart of England Motorhomes in Northamptonshire, which broke the tape at 87%, just ahead of last year’s winner, West Country Motorhomes (85.5%).
Heart of England Motorhomes has been a regular Gold Award winner over the past 12 years. And this fact was recognised by awards co-ordinator ‘Gentleman’ Jack Bancroft, who suggested a special Platinum Award was made to Heart of England Motorhomes to recognise its consistent excellence.
As awards compere Henry Hope Frost quipped, “We don’t want you to go home empty handed, Gary.” Collecting both gongs was founder and director Gary Rowlands, who was delighted with his haul and had this to say about offering great customer service:
“All our staff buy into our ethos. Everything has to be 110% – workmanship, presentation, attitude and, most importantly, ‘owning’ a problem! Mediocrity is not a word in our vocabulary.
“All Heart of England customers know if they have an issue with their ’van, no matter how small, they can pick up the phone and talk to Karl [Benz, Sales Manager] or myself. If it’s technical, then our Service Centre manager Ian Ingram will always take your call.”
Confidence is returning to the market, Gary believes: “We had one of our best NEC shows for a number of years last October, due in part to the high quality of the Carado and Bü̈rstner ranges we sell.”
Gary added that of all the awards he’s collected, the Platinum Award was the one he treasures most.
“I’d like to thank all our customers who have voted for us since 2004. This award means more than any other we have ever won. To demonstrate a consistent high level of service is very satisfying for all our team and confirms that we have raised the standard of service to a level people not only expect, but deserve.”
The award for best supplying dealer of pre-owned motorcaravans was won by Meridian Motorhomes in Bosham, West Sussex. It scored a near-perfect 99%, just pipping Taplow’s Southern Motorhome Centre to the award. Heart of England wasn’t far behind it, either, scoring 96.5%.
The Practical Motorhome Owner Satisfaction Survey 2016 will launch in the May issue of Practical Motorhome.