New Age Caravans is a neighbour of, but somewhat different from, many of the other caravan manufacturers that populate Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
Growing, in less than six years, from an industry frame supplier to the maker of nearly 1000 caravans a year, it has justifiable aspirations to be one of Australia’s top five caravan manufacturers – if not already, then very soon.
New Age’s purpose-built factory in Epping, Vic, and its large and modern ‘Little Joey’s’ dealership are highly regarded within the industry, with other established players dreaming of something similar.
Built in 2013 at a total cost of around $10 million, it has already outgrown its Greenfield site and has expanded into a second factory next door to house its dedicated R&D division to work on future projects.
Such rapid growth might be cause for customer scepticism if the caravans that can be seen on major highways and tourist parks around Australia weren’t so good.
This is not just my considered opinion after living with the company’s top-selling 20ft Oz Classic for the best part of two months, but one echoed by many happy owners we met on our extended travels up Australia’s east coast. And don’t forget, the Oz Classic S Pack – which is New Age’s best-selling caravan – was also judged Caravan World’s 2013 Best Aussie Van in the $65,000-$80,000 category.
Like any product, they’re not perfect, but even owners who have had minor niggles are usually quick to praise the company’s after-sales service and prompt attention to their issues.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
To understand how this family-owned business has made such seemingly rapid inroads into an already crowded industry, you need to look at its history.
Far from being an ‘overnight success’, it goes back to 1993 when Joe Barrasso, aged 15, started work on the floor of Windsor Caravans. Just 11 years later, Joe started New Age Frames and Designs, operating from a factory in Somerton, Vic, in Melbourne’s northern caravan manufacturing hub. Business was brisk and, after expanding into a larger factory in 2007, he and wife Gabby decided to expand operations and build full caravans.
Gabby – who graduated from Victoria University in 2001 with a double degree in psychology and business IT – took over as managing director of New Age Caravans from its opening in 2009 at a new premises in Metrolink Circuit, Campbellfield, and the new company’s first caravan, the Little Joey, hit the road soon afterwards.
New Age’s Retail outlet
After expanding into a neighbouring factory in Campbellfield, New Age opened its first retail outlet in Cooper Street, Epping, in 2011 and, in 2013, moved its entire manufacturing operation into the current, purpose-built factory behind it in Shirley Way. New Age’s contribution to the manufacturing industry was recognised with a $1 million grant to increase production as part of an Australian Government, Victorian Government and Ford Australia-funded initiative in the aftermath of Ford’s decision to stop Australian vehicle manufacture from 2016.
As well as incorporating the latest in-house CNC furniture cutting into its production line process, the new facility boasts industry-leading features like a certified weighbridge and a high-pressure wash bay that tests every new van.
While employing traditional timber wall framing and aluminium cladding body construction, New Age has still found ways to be an innovator in many small ways. The various ‘New Age’ branded lifestyle items like the robes and slippers, beanies, stubby holders and key rings have been inspired by the hotel industry, with every new owner presented with a gift box.
Its exclusive relationship with Daewoo to fit the space-saving ‘mini’ washing machine to its caravans – the world’s first RV wall-mounted front-loader – is another example. You will also see weight-saving measures and further streamlined production methods introduced across future New Age ranges.
Yet despite its growing size, it is still largely a ‘custom builder’ with up to three quarters of all caravans (mostly in the upper ranges) made to unique customer order, something Gabby plans to change.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #532, December 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!