Opinion: Will 2012 mirror last year for the RV world?

Malcolm Street gives his two cents on the RV year that was, and what's in store for 2012...

Opinion: Will 2012 mirror last year for the RV world?
Opinion: Will 2012 mirror last year for the RV world?
LOOKING BACK ON 2011 from an RV point of view, you could say it was a year of refinement and updating, rather than a boom for new model releases.

That does not mean that manufacturers have been taking a holiday, but there is no doubt that economic uncertainty had its effect on the business. That said, new developments and changes have still been going on – some new manufacturers have even entered the field.

Movers, shakers and newcomers

A couple of years ago, motorhome manufacturer Sunliner came out with their caravan range and not so long ago, I looked at the relatively small Carnie model, from Australian Motorhomes. (I say relatively small because at 5m, it still has a full-width rear bathroom – the space has been achieved with a mid-van bed that rises and lowers electrically.)

Another motorhome manufacturer, Talvor, also entered the caravan market this year with a very smart looking range and from the boating sector, the Haines Group came in with their Seachange range.

Not to be outdone, Australian Off Road, a well-respected camper trailer manufacturer introduced their Matrix – fully equipped caravan well sized and weighted for serious offroad travel.

Developments ahead...

Weight, at least too much of it, I suspect will be one of the engineering challenges of 2012. Some, like niche offroad manufacturer Free Spirit, are working on several technologies and others, like Sunland Caravans, are taking a much more informed approach with what their customers desire to have fitted.

Still with Sunland, the development of the Winton with its Clipsal C-bus control and management system was certainly a technological milestone. Everything in the van – lighting, electric jockey wheel, awning and sound system can be controlled from touch screens within the van or remotely from an iPhone. Expect further developments in this area.

Ditto at Paradise Motorhomes. Listing the developments that keep coming out of their slide-out dominated range would be an entire article in itself, but engineering for both lighter weights and safety are prime considerations.

A fresh approach

On the eco front, while basic and home-developed rainwater collecting systems have been around for a while, Trakka were first off the rank with their external rear-wall moulding that collects rainwater off the roof and drains it into the motorhome tanks. That option is available on their extensively developed Trakaway range.

Speaking of motohomes, one of the more interesting designs that appeared this year was the Winnebago Eyre (see CW 497, Jan 2012). A little different to most layouts on the Australian market and clearly with some European influence, it would be good to see further developments in this area.

Fifth wheelers have been a very slow development in Australia, for reasons not always obvious. That said, several companies – both local manufacturers and importers – have made good improvements this past year. The importers in particular are looking good for future developments.

On the cards for 2012

How about the next 12 months? I don’t have a crystal ball, and some manufactures are keen to keep their secrets until products are unveiled. What will happen on the world economic scene is anyone’s guess but I suspect that, like us humans, getting the weight off with new developments in body/chassis structure will be a priority.

The RV industry has not been shy in embracing certain new technologies, such as energy-saving LED lighting and solar panels. This trend is certain to continue in all areas, particularly if it has eco benefits, without the loss of lifestyle expectations.

Finally, if the trend continues, while there will certainly be new designs appearing from the major manufacturers, I suspect there will be more niche products – for example, the hard shell camper trailer/caravan designs – that could set the way forward in 2012.

Have your say below.

WORDS Malcolm Street
Written exclusively for Caravan World Online