Welcome to Van Live!, Martin
Tell us about your current role – what do you do?
I’m the UK agent for Pilote, and liaise between the factory and the dealerships. We have eight dealers for the Pilote brand, plus two for Le Voyageur and four for Avenir.
I make proposals to the factory and the dealers about how things might run a bit more easily, and provide suggestions on what sort of products we should be providing for the UK market.
How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been in this role for eight years, but I have been involved in the company for more than 25 years. When I was starting out in my career, I worked for a dealership that was the UK importer for Pilote motorhomes.
My first visit to the factory was 25 years ago, collecting vehicles for the show at Earl’s Court, in London. In 2006/7, I helped to build Pilote’s dealership network. Then I left the industry to work elsewhere for a while.
I was approached by Pilote in 2013 to take on all of the group’s brands, including Pilote, Bavaria, Le Voyageur, Frankia and Danbury.
What memories do you have of trips as a child?
We’d holiday in static caravans in North Wales, and I’ve had a couple of touring caravans myself.
Do you go on trips with the products?
I’ve just arranged to have an Avenir van conversion to use in place of staying at hotels when I do dealership tours, so I’ll be using that from now on.
Where would you like to go on a trip?
I’d love to do the North Coast 500 in Scotland. We were in Inverness last year and thought that it would be a great place to explore.
What’s special about your brand – what’s its USP?
Pilote has been around for a long time, and was among the first European motorhome brands to come into the UK. A lot of UK ideas and designs have gone into the vehicles over the years.
The big thing for Pilote is the emphasis it places on having as much room as possible inside the vehicle. So the designs for the lounging areas are very open-plan and always include four seats for travelling. We are also keen to keep the weight of vehicles down, because a lot of younger people cannot drive motorhomes over 3500kg – we want everyone to be able to drive our ’vans.
And what’s the company’s position in the UK?
I always relate it to cars, so it’s at the upper end – like a BMW or an Audi. We’re competing with the likes of Hymer, Bürstner and Dethleffs; that calibre of vehicle.
What news from your brand this year?
It’s going to be a strange year for us, but I think we are now in a position where the dealers and the industry generally will have a fantastic time for the next two years.
There are so many people out there looking for safe ways to holiday. Motorhome and caravan sales are going to be strong for the next two years.
Where do you see the industry going?
Weight has always been important for the industry, but now even more so, as people go out to buy a family unit that is shared across generations.
What tips do you have for people who are buying a new motorhome or caravan?
Customers need to find one that’s practical in size and weight, and able to go anywhere in the UK.
I would definitely recommend a European vehicle, because in my opinion they are more geared to wild camping – for example, bigger water capacity, better insulation properties – while UK vehicles tend to be more caravan-orientated.
Favourite meal or recipe while out on tour?
Italian: it’s our favourite.
What’s on your driving playlist?
My life’s been in music – I’ve been a musician since I was 10 and my taste is vast. One day I can listen to jazz, the next rock and the next classical, so there’s no particular category on my playlist.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us!
I was a percussion drummer and spent many years performing. In fact that’s how I got into the industry, because when I was 20, I played with a keyboard player who was also the sales director of a motorhome company.
I’ve just arranged to have an Avenir vehicle to use in place of staying at hotels when I do dealership tours, so I’ll be using that from now on.