We’ve already featured two big motorhome manufacturer conglomerates in Part 1 (Erwin Hymer Group) and Part 2 (Trigano), so here are three smaller groups (at least in terms of motorhomes) that you should also keep in mind when considering buying a motorhome.
This German monolith was formed by the merger of Knaus and Tabbert at the start of this century. It has had a bit of a bumpy ride, briefly going into administration in 2005 and being taken over by a new financial backer in 2009. But since then it has grown to the point where it listed on the German stock market last year and has since seen sales grow despite the pandemic. The company has a wide range of caravans under its wing. Only three motorhome brands are currently sold in the UK, however.
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Knaus was formed in 1960 as a caravan manufacturer – it still makes highly innovative caravan models. Motorhomes came along in 1988, and today the company produces a wide range including luxury A-classes and low-profiles and van conversions. It uses a wide range of base vehicles too – not just standard Fiats, but also VW Crafter and MAN vehicles. www.knaus.com/en
Weinsberg, named after the town where Knaus was founded, is now marketed as Knaus’s budget brand, although motorhome production under the Weinsberg name started in 1969, nearly two decades before the first Knaus motorhome appeared. Today the brand offers a full range of coachbuilt motorhomes (including the bizarrely named Pepper edition), and CaraTour and CaraBus van conversions. www.weinsberg.com/en
Morelo, which Knaus Tabbert took over in 2011 just a year after it was founded, is a bit of an anomaly within the group. It only produces liners – big palaces on wheels. One of its ranges is even called the Palace Liner. With prices that are similarly large, it’s perhaps not surprising that the brand is only available through one dealer in the UK. https://www.morelo-reisemobile.de/en
This French group was founded in 1948 as a furniture company, and then a caravan maker, but really started growing in the early 1980s when it diversified into motorhomes as well. It now owns a wide range of brands, some of which it created, and some of which it acquired, but only some of them are available in the UK.
In 1961, the same year the Trevelyan family in Britain were building their first motorhome that led to the formation of Auto-Sleepers, in France Constant Rousseau created the first Rapido folding caravan, initially designed for his own holidays. It proved very successful, and a new factory was opened in 1975. M Rousseau was keenly aware of a changing market, so in 1983 the first Rapido motorhome was unveiled. Nowadays the company only makes motorhomes, with a full range of A-classes, low-profiles and can conversions. It has launched two sub-brands, however. Itineo, launched in 2006, was initially just focused on budget A-classes, although it has since moved into low-profiles. Dreamer (known as Campérêve in France) was launched the same year, offering van conversions under the Dreamer Select and Dreamer Fun label. https://www.rapido-motorhome.co.uk
Fleurette, which Rapido Group acquired in 2005, is unusual among coachbuilt manufacturers in making its own GRP. Its brands include Fleurette and Florium: the former is supposed to be for the home French market, while the latter is for export, but both brands should be available at the handful of UK dealers who currently stock the make. https://www.fleurette-florium.fr/en/
If Westfalia has a bigger reputation than its current UK dealer network might suggest, that’s because it’s the name behind the Mercedes Marco Polo, the Ford Nugget, and previously the VW California before VW took production of that in-house in the noughties. The van conversion specialist has had a turbulent time financially, and a number of owners – Rapido took it over in 2011. As a company it dates back to 1844, but it first started converting vans in the 1950s after getting a request from a British army officer. The towbar side of the business became a separate entity in 1999. With a new factory opening in 2017, it now offers a range of upmarket van conversions. www.westfalia-mobil.de/en
Rapido Group acquired WildAx in 2017, and the acquisition has certainly helped the West Yorkshire company expand rapidly, with a new much larger factory currently being planned. Initially offering van conversions mainly on Fiats and Citroens, the company has more recently moved into offering Mercedes- and Ford-based conversions as well. www.wildaxmotorhomes.com
Cabinet maker Andre Padiou built his first Pilote caravan in 1962. His brother Philippe took over as CEO ten years later. The company built its first motorhome in 1978, following a research trip to the USA, and pioneered the low-profile concept in 1983, by which time it had stopped making caravans. The first A-class followed two years later. Today, thanks to a series of acquisitions, it owns a number of brands, not all of which are available in the UK.
The group’s flagship brand currently produces Pacific low-profiles and overcabs and Galaxy A-classes. In recent years these have also been available under the Bavaria brand through one UK dealer, although this arrangement has now stopped. The company did acquire UK van converter Danbury in 2017, but it has since brought its van conversion production back in-house and has existing plans for it. (VanWorx, meanwhile, has taken over Danbury.) https://www.pilote-motorhome.uk
This upmarket French brand was acquired by Groupe Pilote in 2001, and now functions very much as an all A-class and liner brand within the group. Notable developments have included a motorhome with 360° vision – a first for an A-class. https://www.levoyageur-motorhome.uk
Frankia may sound (and is) German, but it has been part of the Groupe Pilote stable since as long ago as 1990. Despite having a relatively small production run, the company has been responsible for some notable innovations in motorhome design, including the double floor, a hatch for all services, and the “Plus” layout, featuring single beds that drop down over the cab to create a front bedroom.
Frankia was the winner of the best motorhome over £80,000 at the Practical Motorhome Awards 2022, courtesy of the I8400 Plus Platin.
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This German monolith was formed by the merger of Knaus and Tabbert at the start of this century