The American RV manufacturer, Thor Industries, has bought Erwin Hymer Group for around €2.1 billion.
The German company, which added the UK-based Explorer Group brands Elddis and Compass to its extensive pan-European network of motorhome manufacturers last year, had made it known that it was looking for a potential outside investor, and had recently signalled that it was looking at possible private equity investors.
But even still, an all-out trade sale could be a surprise to the industry.
Thor, which is headquartered in Elkhart in Indiana, currently has a relatively limited interest in the European market, although it does own Airstream along with Thor itself.
It is buying Erwin Hymer through a mixture of cash and 2.3 million Thor shares. That means the Hymer family, the relatives of Erwin Hymer who founded the company in the 1960s, will still have a stake.
The Germans were very keen to stress that, despite the deal, everything will be very much business as usual. Martin Brandt will continue as Chief Executive of the Erwin Hymer Group, although he will report to Thor’s Chief Executive, Bob Martin. The company says there will also be “no changes in production facilities or employee levels as a direct result of the transaction”.
Erwin Hymer’s son Christian Hymer said: “With Thor Industries, our family has found the ideal new owner partner. Thor Industries and the Erwin Hymer Group are cut from the same cloth and, in their philosophy, still bear the stamp of their founders. An entrepreneurial mindset, a spirit of innovation and quality leadership are top priorities for both groups.”
Thor’s Mr Martin said: “This transaction gives us access to a new market with favourable macro and secular trends affecting RV demand similar to those we have seen in North America. In addition, we see numerous areas for near-term and long-term synergies between the Erwin Hymer Group and our existing subsidiaries.”
The Erwin Hymer Group, which expects to have a turnover of €2.5 billion this year, established a North American offshoot earlier this decade. Among other things, this has been pressing ahead with research into driverless motorhomes.
Markets have reacted mildly positively to the news. Thor Industries, which employs 18,000 people and in 2016-17 had a turnover of $7.3 billion (US), is quoted on the New York Stock Exchange and at the close of trading yesterday its shares were up 2.5 points.
The Germans were very keen to stress that, despite the deal, everything will be very much business as usual