The Victorian Supreme Court has ordered troubled caravan manufacturer Jurgens Australia to wrap up, with ASIC recently announcing that Ernst & Young will oversee the liquidation process.
Jurgens Australia established caravan assembly in Tooradin, Victoria in 2008 and, following strong growth, moved to a $5m factory at Pakenham five years later. The company assembled a range of lightweight vans from co-mponents sourced from Jurgens South Africa — the dominant caravan builder in Africa with a storied history dating back to the 1950s.
The brand placed its focus in the lightweight caravan sector, with local input to ensure compliance with a host of Australian standards alongside the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). Fit-out of the CNC-produced furniture took place at its Pakenham factory, and by 2018 Jurgens’ annual production had peaked at around 600 vans. This included touring vans and pop-tops suitable for offroad travel.
Jurgens Australia had several South African-based owners linked to the parent company during its production run. In 2017 South African national Paul Kyriacou took over controlling ownership as part of his acquisition of the South African affiliate companies. Troubles with supply and changes to the management structure saw the local business struggle — and this struggle was magnified when Jurgens South Africa was placed into provisional administration late in 2018. The problem was resolved, but ripples flowed across the local business as buyers shied away.
Following supply issues, production at the Pakenham factory faltered, and the business experienced cash flow problems that resulted in a well-publicised lockout by the landlord for several days in March 2019.
Soon after, Kyriacou posted on the company website that he was “pleased to advise we have resolved this issue, the gates are open, and we have resumed operations.”
Following production uncertainty and the onset of COVID-19, the factory gates were locked again over a rent dispute in February 2021. Kyriacou posted that he was “committed to continue manufacturing in Australia and will be moving to new premises to support this endeavour.” This did not eventuate, and in early 2021 there were reports from the Victorian AWU that workers were denied entitlements including superannuation, holiday pay, and the federal government’s Job Keeper scheme.
It's now been a year since Jurgens Australia ceased operations, with the recent announcement from ASIC set to seal its fate. Those owed compensation will need to claim with Ernst & Young in Melbourne.