The dust had only just began to settle on the Australian Winnebago name dispute, Jayco once again delivered a plethora of new or updated product (including its first ever fifth-wheeler) while Goldstream introduced some very special anniversary models. These are just some of the many highlights from the 59th Melbourne Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow, which closed its doors yesterday.
Avida RV was until very recently (and not without controversy) officially known as Winnebago Australia. Astute readers may recall that we reported four months ago how tough trading conditions in the United States have seen manufacturers take a renewed interest in new markets that were previously regarded as less important.
It's no coincidence therefore that Winnebago Industries, based in Iowa, went to the Australian Federal Court in 2011 over the local use of the "Winnebago" name. The court ruled against Winnebago Australia and its dealers, ordering the company to cease trading with the name. This is despite the fact that the Americans have, according to Avida's CEO Ben Binns, known about the whole arrangement for several decades.
He says his company built more than 10,000 RVs in almost 50 years (and relocated premises no less than 10 times) and he expressed surprise that the US giant decided to pursue legal action after so many years. "We're a new company but we're an old company," said Binns, adding that Avida has the most extensive overall range of motorhomes out of any Australian RV manufacturer, along with the largest local dealer network of its kind.
This was evident in the range of products on display at the show. Various models from eight out of Avida RV's nine ranges were exhibited, with several of them boasting unique claims to fame. For example, the compact-looking Avida Eyre, built on a Fiat Ducato chassis, claims to be "the lowest profile motorhome on the market", while the Avida Escape (also built on a Ducato) is one of the few production campervans on the market that comfortably sleeps four people.
Only the ultra-top-of-the-range $600,000+ Classic wasn't to be seen - but only, insisted Binns, because existing specimens had already been sold to customers.
After 20 years in business, Goldstream RV is marking the occasion with a range of "20th Anniversary" models. Described by Goldstream's Mitch Damyon as being "a new direction for the company, sporting an edgy new look and drastically updated interiors" - they are the fruits of Goldstream's considerable investment in new manufacturing facilities, like a new German-built Beisse cutting machine and edge bander. The following three rigs were among the new 20th Anniversary models exhibited.
Australis Great Southern Land 19' Rear Ensuite caravan
This van is an updated off-road package with independent coil suspension and Redarc battery management system. There's a carefully revamped interior, described in one brochure as containing "the latest in luxury RV, the most modern and up-to-date kitchen appliances, and a fresh new look." A new bedside table and wardrobe configuration also make their first appearance.
Goldstream Goldstorm RL Vacationer Series 3 camper
Based on one of Goldstream's most popular models, this camper is based on a 14ft9in body that's been fully specced out with what Goldstream says would normally be options. The side walls are now built 50mm higher than normal in order to address the dilemma of bench height space, while also permitting a fridge to be comfortably slotted in. Composite aluminium walls replace the exterior aluminium cladding (although the traditional material is still available upon request), and as with other 20th Anniversary models, the interior has been heavily revamped.
Explorer ST Pop-top
The layout of this model was extensively revamped five years and has over the years continued to be subject to improvements. Like the Australis caravan and Storm RL Vacationer camper, the 20th Anniversary Explorer has received a generous facelift both inside and out, including what are said to be updated and modern appliances and new modular furniture.
The Nova Terra Sportz and flagship-model Nova Pride were the standouts at the Nova Caravans stand - and astute followers of our print titles and websites may already be somewhat familiar with these models, what with both models having previously been tested by Caravan World magazine.
Nova Terra Sportz
Nova's Paul Golding conceded that this genuine off-road caravan at one time wasn't sparking as much interest among customers as he'd like. He explained how that changed when Nova commissioned a video production company - to paraphrase his words - to try and break a Terra Sportz model in an outback trip in severe off-road desert-like conditions. "We tried to get the production company to destroy it and all they managed to damage was the back step," he said. It's a fun little promotional video (it goes for 26 minutes so make yourself a cuppa first) which you can view here.
The flagship of the range first launched in 2009, the Nova Pride may be better known to our audience when it fought it out against other luxury rigs in the 2012 Caravan World magazine Legends Series - Luxury category. As would be expect in a luxury rig, it's a tandem-axle van packed with features and enough LEDs to light up a landing strip. A full-width rear bathroom with separate shower cubicle is another nice touch - although at almost 30ft it needs a serious tow vehicle. An electronically controlled slide-out bed, a first here, is another clever addition.
While you're at it, check out the Nova Workabout. This sub-20ft van sleeps two, has an en-suite and kitchen, and as you can see, comes with its very own in-built desk or office space. It's a neat idea for those who mix work with their travels.
"Innovation" is a term that often gets thrown around but in the world of RVs, it's not very often that something radical changes on what is the fundamentally tried and tested design that is a box on wheels. In the case of Al-Ko's electronic stability control(ESC) braking technology, however, the product would appear to give the term justice.
ESC is a safety system designed to independently brake a towed rig when it detects a critical transverse action. Al-Ko says it is standard on some high-end rigs, or it can be in many cases be fitted either as an option or as an after-market add-on. Its purpose is to kick in automatically when it detects a situation on the road that could cause a rig to move or sway dangerously in what might result in jack-knifing or other serious accident.
Although it's been around for a while, ESC appears to be making noticeable inroads into the Australian RV market, both in the after-market and during manufacture. According to Al-Ko's Brad Hooper, 30 RV manufacturers currently offer ESC as a "regular" option (with many more open to fitting one upon request). He also mentioned that there are currently 60 licenced after-market fitters for ESC units, and this is expected to grow to up to 150 operators in the near future. In other words, an ESC installer won't be far away for long.
Finally, in a sure sign that ESC technology is gaining traction (pardon the pun) in the RV industry, Hooper pointed out that RV insurer CIL Insurance announced it would provide a 10 per cent discount on policies for rigs properly fitted with ESC technology.
You can see Al-Ko's demonstration ESC video here. Skip to the 3:00 minute mark to see the product in action.
No RV show would be complete without a healthy selection from this iconic manufacturer. True to form, Jayco had on display an extensive range of vans, pop-tops, camper trailers and - are you ready for this - a brand new fifth-wheeler! There were considerably more items to be seen (more than we've got room for) so here are just a few of the standouts.
A project that's been in the works for some time, the 28.80-2 2 fifth-wheeler is Jayco Australia's first venture into the big boys market. It can happily sleep two and accommodate another two, with every comfort and accessory you'd expect in a big fifth-wheeler. A smaller rig is also planned for release. Said to be around the 24ft mark, its smaller size means it will be open to more tow vehicles than its larger counterpart.
Jayco camper trailers
Jayco manufactures seven camper models, and there were two that stood out during the show: the Swift and the Penguin. The former, Jayco's compact entry-level camper is especially popular owing to its sub-$18k price (or even less in some cases), while the Penguin is a nifty two-person camper aimed at the older crowd. The new Penguin on display at the show had an electric winch and awning - a popular choice for older RVers, along with its extra-comfortable inner spring mattress.
New Sterling caravans and automotive-grade paint finish
The revamped Sterling range had several notable improvements. Far more than just an annual facelift, according to Jayco, all new Sterling vans now feature slide-out as standard if this was previously an option (the exception being those models where it wasn't an option to begin with). The revamp also includes internal white kitchens, an improved ensuite, fully moulded vanity and standard leather trim.
Another interesting addition on new Sterlings is the option of two three-colour automotive-grade paint finishes (three finishes are also available for Jayco's Conquest motorhomes). Automotive paint-grade paint booth facilities are being developed at Jayco so don't be surprised if more customised paint options on these and maybe other models become available later down the track.
The Dometic-Waeco group has a product list as long as both your arms. From fridges to solar panels to underwater cameras, there's little in the way of accessories that this company doesn't cover. Along with a large stable of existing products there were several new additions for this year's show.
Milenco Aero Extra Wide Mirrors / Grand Aero Extra Wide Mirrors
Yes, it's another set of towing mirrors, but the devil is in the detail. Made by European manufacturer Milenco, the range is, according to Dometic, "engineered to fit all current cars, 4X4s, and vans." Details include a thumb wheels to "shape" the clamps to the mirror, and what Dometic calls an upgraded gripper system that dispenses with straps.
Milenco Quattro Level / Triple Level / Super Level Indicator
These are very sturdy and light-weight levels intended to overcome the problem of conventional levels sinking in soft ground. Dometic says the polymer levels are twice as high as conventional plastic levels ("which are never quite high enough" according to the brochure) and are "the tallest and widest level ever made for a caravan or motorhome." You won't need chocks for these levels either. A spiffy-looking "Super Level Indicator" (RRP $19) is available for use with the Quattro and Triple Level, which will no doubt see other caravan park dwellers asking you if they can borrow it.
Dometic Annexe Wall Kits
This product received considerable interest because it's basically an annexe that fits to practically any caravan thanks to its patented Universal Fitment attachment. The fitment arm can be adjusted to varying heights (given that heights among caravans are different) and, once the attachment hardware is permanently affixed, the annexe supporting arm fits neatly into place. The unit requires very little modification when fitting the hardware and uses interchangeable parts, such as optional doors and windows. In addition, it's made from a water-repelling polyester material rather than traditional canvas. The advantage here is that it won't absorb moisture, making storage easier and quicker. We're told bigger units for motorhomes and fifth-wheelers are coming next.
And finally... all our print and digital titles were there too
Our show ambassadors, Arthur and Marg, did a top job at our stand. They looked after all our print and digital RV titles below, and of course they promotted our $50,000 Coromal caravan giveaway rig. Hopefully you got your entry in on time.
· Discover Downunder
· Caravan World magazine
· Camper Trailer Australia magazine
Phew! And that's just our RV titles.