What if you were given the opportunity of having your vehicle restored as much as possible at the factory where it was manufactured? That is the offer that is presented by the Auto-Trail Refresh scheme.
It’s a situation that will be familiar to many motorcaravanners. Your pride and joy sitting out on your drive, or tucked away at a motorhome storage site nearby, has given you countless memories over the years. But let’s face it. It is possibly over a decade or so old now and starting to show its age
Perhaps there’s a scrape down the side that was the result of you thinking you could manage just one more of those narrow country lanes. Maybe the once smart decals have started to peel?
Or perhaps the years the vehicle has spent out in the open, exposed to everything the British weather can throw at it – not to mention British birdlife – mean that what was once a pristine white exterior now looks slightly unsavoury.
In short, is your motorhome becoming less of a magical vehicle that can whisk you away at a moment’s notice, and more of a rattling, bashed-about metal box on wheels? And if that’s the case, what can be done?
One solution is obvious – you could always think about new models and consider buying a motorhome. But what if you have fallen in love with your vehicle and don’t want to part with it? Perhaps they no longer manufacture models with the motorhome layout you like so much?
In addition, concern about how much you might get in part exchange could mean that you would rather hang onto your existing motorhome.
You could always take it to the workshop at your local dealership. But that can sometimes be a fairly hit and miss affair, and you might not always know for sure how things will turn out. That’s where the Auto-Trail Refresh scheme comes in.
A refreshing new idea
Launched earlier this year, the scheme aims to take in your old and tired Auto-Trail motorhome and try to return it to its former glory, bearing in mind the effects of the passage of time.
“We had over 100 emails within the first two hours of launching the scheme,” says Clare Osbourne, Auto-Trail’s repair centre manager, as she shows us around the section of the factory where Refresh is operating.
This morning, there are two low-profile motorhomes passing through, a Mohawk and a Savannah.
How the Auto-Trail Refresh scheme works on the exterior
Spray-painter Michael Lamminan is busy giving the Savannah a full machine polish, repairing some of its GRP and resealing some joints.
“We’re also redoing the front wings,” he says. :We’ve had an issue with some of the older Fiat Ducatos, where the paint has been peeling off. This one is a 57 reg, so it dates from between September 2007 and March 2008.”
Michael, who has worked for Auto-Trail for four years, can see the value of bringing your vehicle back to where it was made. “After all, we have had the experience of building them,” he says. “Some of the ones we have repaired had already been done by some dealers who don’t know how GRP works and used filler instead – the kind of thing you can pick up in a DIY store. That will come off as soon as the vehicle gets back on the road and starts to vibrate.”
The Mohawk, meanwhile, is a little further through the process, and already has a new set of decals. You can really see the difference.
Clare says that while most work is focused on renovating the exterior, they can refresh some parts of the interior, too.
How the Auto-Trail Refresh scheme works on the interior
“Inside, we can repair damp patches and change the wallboard. Over time, floors can delaminate, and we can repair that.”
Replacing spare parts and other items could be trickier, which is one reason why anyone looking for a complete interior overhaul might be in for a disappointment.
“We can replace upholstery, but it will only be with what is available now,” Clare adds. “At Auto-Trail, we only guarantee to keep spare parts for seven years, so anything beyond that will have to be repaired with newer fabric.”
But the replacement of larger items, such as ovens, should be more straightforward. It was the increasing demand for spare parts that led Clare to come up with the idea of the Refresh scheme. Relatively few other manufacturers offer such a service at their factory. For example, another firm said it is something it could do, “but we are so busy at the moment, we don’t want to shout about it”.
However, Clare says the rationale for setting up the Refresh scheme seemed obvious. “I noticed last year that more and more people were coming to us for spare parts, so I simply thought, why not take it from there?”
She adds that there are clearly advantages for Auto-Trail itself in making sure that older models still look presentable on the road.
“I believe in this because it is always better to see a nice Auto-Trail on the road, as it encourages people to look at our brand. It also helps us to keep in touch with our customers, and it is very rewarding for staff,” she says.
Popular with owners
Turnaround time is usually about two weeks, although it could be longer, depending on the nature of the job. The same applies to cost.
But if you’re thinking that you might like to put your vehicle through the scheme, you could be in for rather a long wait. When we visited in May, the earliest available slot was in September.
The owners of the Mohawk and the Savannah that we saw on the day we visited both wanted their vehicles refurbished as quickly as possible. “But we can also arrange and plan the work as a winter job,” says Clare.
There seems to be one thing in common about many of those customer enquiries. “Most of the people who come here are keen on keeping their motorhomes, not selling them on,” says Clare. “They want to give them a new lease of life, so that they last a bit longer.”
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