Dethleffs enjoyed a sales boost of 50% at last autumn’s NEC show, the popular German brand’s motorhomes clearly hitting the right notes with UK buyers. Britain is Dethleffs’ third-largest market, after Germany and France, and a key part of new managing director Alexander Leopold’s strategy to increase sales by 16% in the 2016 model year.
Alexander has joined Dethleffs from outside the leisure vehicle industry. In his previous role, he worked for an agricultural equipment manufacturer, but sees many similarities between the two sectors. "Many people think that buying a tractor is a rational process, but it's an emotional one, too – very similar to the caravan business, in fact," he said.
Since arriving at Dethleffs four months ago, he's overseen an overhaul of the company's vehicle programme, and is targeting the mainstream segment – in other words, he sees the space between the entry level and premium ends of the market as being the core focus for Dethleffs - concentrating on "creative innovations". The longitudinal electric drop-down lounge bed in the new 4-Travel range, plus double floors for the revised version of Esprit (see below) are just some of these.
He praises the all-embracing ethos and values of Dethleffs, as encompassed in its 'Friend of the family' marketing tagline and recently personified during a rally at the factory for its international customers.
"Every two years we have a customer event here in Isny," he said. "It’s a special programme for them. They’re a Dethleffs customer not because they’re buying a product – they’re buying a feeling."
Alongside innovations in new ’vans, aftersales will be improved. New IT systems and training will be introduced as part of a drive to ensure that customers don't have to wait for weeks and weeks to get spare parts and components.
The UK remains a priority for Dethleffs, added Alexander, and two new dealers will be appointed for next season. Watch this space.
Dethleffs has certainly been busy recently. Entry-level Trend gets a makeover to push it a little more upmarket, while upper-mid-market Esprit has also been revamped. Advantage, which was reworked for the 2015 season, gets a new layout and Globebus has been reborn as Globebus Active. There are tweaks to the portfolio-topping Globetrotter XLi, and a new low-profile range is in development after the deletion of Globe 4. Called 4-Travel, it will debut later in the year.
Entry-level offering Trend gets a broad rework, with new interiors and the option of specifying a drop-down bed for all layouts. There are two wood finishes and three soft furnishing schemes to choose from, plus lots of must-have kit as standard. There’s a choice of four layouts – twin single beds T 6717, island bed T 6757, island bed T 7057 DBM and twin single beds T 7057 EB – initially as low-profiles, with an overcab coachbuilt version to follow in the autumn.
All models are based on the Fiat Ducato with low-frame chassis, with MTPLMs of 3500kg. The new Trend’s facelifted exterior uses the LifetimeSmart floor construction, which is wood-free and rot-proof, while roofs have hard-wearing GRP skins. Habitation doors are 70cm wide, with entrance steps to match. The large rear garages feature doors on both sides and have generous headroom.
Inside, the kitchens get 142-litre fridges and soft-close drawers, with white lockers faced in high gloss. Electrically operated drop-down double beds are a cost option, and you can even have a single-bed version in the T 6757. Prices range from £45,990 to £46,990 (all prices quoted include OTR costs and VAT).
Another Trend model, the ST, was on display at the launch. The twin fixed single beds 6617 ST sported a bold contemporary look with dark cabinetwork and vivid upholstery colours. Equipment levels were higher than the Trend, with added extras like a black radiator grille and LED daytime running lights. Like the Trend, it's based on the Fiat Ducato with MTPLMs of 3500kg.
Globebus has morphed into Globebus Active, a range of small ’vans designed for ‘downsizers’, and for touring cities and narrow streets. Five layouts will be available, as low-profiles and A-classes, all based on the Fiat Ducato. Despite being compact, there’s ample room to stow leisure kit in the garages. Choose between transverse beds (T/I 1, T/I 11 and T/I 15), French bed (T/I 2) or twin singles (T/I 4). Generous kit lists include Chassis and Family packs as standard, with Active Plus (cab entrance step for low-profiles, flush-fitting windows, bike rack, awning, reversing camera and roof rails) as a cost option. As low-profiles, Globebus Active is priced between £48,990 and £49,990; for an A-class, it’s £55,990 to £58,990. All Globebus Active models are based on the Fiat Ducato with MTPLMs of 3500kg.
The upper mid-market Esprit receives a complete overhaul to its exteriors and interiors: double floors have been rolled out across the range, so last season’s Esprit Comfort (the winterised version of Esprit) only survives in overcab form. Available as low-profile or A-class, there are four Esprit models: T/I 7150-2 DBM, the island bed T/I 7150-2 EB, twin single beds T/I 7150-2 DBT (a new layout) and the island bed T/I 6810-2 – all based on the Fiat Ducato with 130bhp engines.
LifeTime Plus rot-proof construction features, with white aluminium sidewalls and GRP roofs, and there’s a new rear moulding with LED lights. The double floors bring frost-proof plumbing to the range and all water tanks are heated. The habitation doors are 70cm wide with two-point locking.
Esprit interiors benefit from a height of 2.03m, sport cream and wooden tones and offer a choice of two upholstery schemes. Some of the design touches are steals from the portfolio-topping Globetrotter XLi: the L-shaped front lounge and ‘Gourmet Center’ kitchen with its sweeping worktop and pull-out storage, for example. The interior ambience benefits from adjustable mood lighting, while there’s a wide choice of plug sockets and two USB ports. Other spec highlights include large showerheads and high-pressure water pumps plus high-quality mattresses.
Esprit low-profiles will cost between £63,990 and £64,990, with Esprit A-classes in the £73,990 to £74,990 bracket. All Esprit models are based on the Fiat Ducato with Al-Ko chassis. MTPLMs range from 3500kg to 4250kg, depending on the model.
In other news
All 2016 ranges will receive 16in steel wheels, and LED daytime running lights are included in the Chassis pack for low-profiles. Improved EvoPore comfort mattresses replace the previous cold foam ones.
Advantage receives a new layout, the 6.99m-long island bed T/I 6651. All models get new external stickers around the windows, plus a new rear moulding with upgraded lights and LED stripes, to aid visibility. Advantage low-profiles will cost £54,990 to £56,990, and A-class variants £63,990 to £65,990.
There are no changes to Magic Edition (£58,890 to £63,890 for low-profiles and £67,990 to £73,990 for A-class) or Evan (£54,990 to £67,390).
Improvements to Globetrotter XLi for 2016 include the removal of the step between the bathroom and bedroom, the addition of a sink cover and cutting board, and the separation of the travel seat headrests. Globetrotter XLi will cost £91,790, with the Iveco-based Globetrotter XXLA £99,990 to £100,990.
An exciting new Dethleffs range will be launched later this year: 4-Travel will replace Globe 4, debuting with three layouts: the two-berth T 6966-4, plus four-berths T 7116-4 and T 7156-4. All models feature a longitudinal drop-down bed in the lounge (Dethleffs is claiming this as an industry first, but this innovation already features in Bailey’s Approach Autograph 765 and Approach Advance 665 models).
The new range will ride on the Fiat Ducato with low-frame chassis and features large rear garages. Standard kit includes wide habitation doors, flush-fitting windows, a sporty rear spoiler, a large-capacity fridge and an exterior hatch that groups all the services together for ease of use.