The results of our annual Owner Satisfaction Awards for new motorhomes and dealers of new motorcaravans have just been announced.
Since 2004, these awards have recognised the best in motorhome reliability and build quality, plus the great customer service offered by supplying dealers across the UK, 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 2014, it has been generously supported by leading motorhome water and heating systems supplier Whale.
The highest-scoring manufacturer of new motorhomes was Elland-based van converter WildAx, polling a hugely impressive 97% among our respondents.
In the charts for offering the best customer service for the supply of new ’vans, Becks Motorhomes in Great Yarmouth romped home with 92%, seven per cent more than nearest rival Heart of England Motorhomes, the winner in last year’s survey.
Movers and shakers in 2016’s survey of new ’vans
Based on responses to our survey, 15 manufacturers occupied the Gold Award league table this year, where established UK producers Bailey, Auto-Trail, Wellhouse Leisure and Auto-Sleepers appeared among popular imported brands Adria, Hymer, Roller Team, Carado, Dethleffs, Hobby and Pilote.
Silver Awards saw recognition for Tribute coachbuilts, Autocruise, Swift, Elddis and Bessacarr, with Bürstner and Chausson representing the Continental marques.
Among the UK volume producers our respondents offered feedback on in the survey, Auto-Sleepers, Auto-Trail and Bailey improved on their scores from last year, elevating themselves into the top rank following their Silver Awards in 2015.
For direct sales, that is smaller converters who sell to customers without going through a dealer network, regular winners and strong performers Murvi, Vantage and Shire led the way.
New motorhome dealers who did well
According to our respondents, Becks Motorhomes is 2016’s best supplying dealer for new motorcaravans, pulling ahead of a pack including well-known names such as Heart of England Motorhomes, Dolphin Motorhomes, Geoff Cox Leisure and Davan Motorhomes. Scores ranged from 92% to 81%.
In the next tier, Lowdham Leisureworld and Marquis Leisure reprised their Silver Awards from 2015, both companies increasing their scores. Brownhills, Emm Bee Motorhomes, Glossop Caravans and Camper NE joined them in this classification.
Mentioned in dispatches
Many established names didn’t make the Gold and Silver Award league tables for 2016. This isn’t a reflection of poor performance; instead, these firms scored highly among our respondents, but just not in sufficient numbers.
For new motorcaravans, this included Autohaus, Carthago, Knaus and Rolling Homes, with Danum Leisure, Don Amott Leisure Kingdom, E S Hartley, Moran Motorhomes and Motor-Plus among the supplying dealers of new motorhomes.
Platinum Award for outstanding service
In recognition of outstanding performance since the inception of the awards in 2004 – winning more Gold Awards than any other manufacturer – Murvi Motorcaravans is the proud recipient of a Platinum Award. These are recommended on a discretionary basis by awards co-ordinator and compiler Gentleman Jack. Congratulations to Rex Kneebone and the team at Murvi in Ivybridge, Devon, for their consistently high scores for reliability and customer service.
Our winners have their say
“On 2 February, we notched up 10 years in the leisure vehicle business, so perhaps we can have two glasses of bubbly now,” said Duncan Wildman, proprietor of WildAx Motorhomes.
“I’m very proud to win an Owner Satisfaction Award, because as a manufacturer and a retailer it’s all about customer happiness and making the best products you can.
“We’ve got a good name for customer service – we’re hands-on and talk to our customers a lot. From order to delivery there’s an eight-month lead-time, so there are quite a few opportunities to keep customers updated.”
Based in Elland near Halifax, WildAx is well-known for its clever conversions on vehicles including the Citroën Relay. Its biggest seller is the Solaris XL model – a four-berth based on the 6.36m-long Relay – while the 5m-long Pulsar, a pop-top camper with up to four berths, plus kitchen and washroom, won the Best for Innovation gong in our Motorhome of the Year Awards 2015.
When asked how he keeps his customer base happy, Duncan cited regular communication.
“Motorhomes are complicated items that can go wrong,” he said. “The mark of a good manufacturer is how you deal with the problems when they occur. We don’t get many warranty jobs, but when we do, we deal with them quickly … and this gets mentioned a lot on the internet forums. The important thing is to be in touch, and our customers are clearly happy with that.”
For 2016, WildAx will be adding 25% to its total production capacity and increasing its dealer network to five outlets across the UK, plus one in Ireland.
One dealership that can deposit another award in its trophy cabinet is Becks Motorhomes in Norfolk, winner of best supplying dealer for new motorcaravans for 2016.
The views of our respondents clearly chimed with that of managing director John Maitland, who said the Great Yarmouth-based business has a simple mission statement: it tries to exceed customer expectations.
“We treat customers how we like to be treated when we are customers ourselves, and this has certainly been one of the reasons for our growth over the last 50 years,” he said. “But when selling quality products like Bailey, Hymer and Bürstner motorhomes, we do have a bit of a head start on our competitors.”
Despite being based in Norfolk, Becks Motorhomes has a far wider customer base than just East Anglia.
“For new sales, it’s all over the UK,” said John. “We’ve found that sometimes getting other dealers to look after customers does not work for us, but fortunately the recent increase in mobile motorhome engineers has enabled us to provide the level of backup – with us sourcing the parts – that our customers expect.”
John added that a dealership aspiring to offer excellent customer service has to do more than just offering quality brands; the ’vans have to be completely right before they leave the forecourt.
“You cannot beat a thorough pre-delivery inspection (PDI) on the motorhome before the customer gets it,” he said, acknowledging one of the most frequent complaints recorded in our survey – that many PDIs fail to spot and rectify issues that can become bigger problems over time.
For in-depth analysis of the Practical Motorhome Owner Satisfaction Survey 2016 for new motorcaravans and their supplying dealers, see the April issue of Practical Motorhome, on sale 11 February.
Coverage of awards for used motorhomes and their supplying dealers, plus base vehicle reliability scores, will be published in the May issue, on sale 10 March.
Based on responses to our survey, 15 manufacturers occupied the Gold Award league table this year