I’ve reviewed a couple of Kokoda caravans recently – Platoon II X-Trail and Force X-Trail GT – and I found the common denominator to be their capability in handling outback roads and offroad tracks. However, Kokoda’s 2016 Best Aussie Vans (BAV) winner in the $50K-$65K category – the Veteran XLi Platinum – is a little more genteel in the offroad department, serving up a balance of luxury and bushability.
2016 marked Kokoda’s first foray into Best Aussie Vans and the Mamo family behind the brand came away with its first win. Following the event, I caught up with the team, including owner George Mamo and his daughters Chloe and Shenoa – who represented the company at BAV – to find out how the winning van was engineered and what the win means to them.
CW: Can you recall your immediate feelings on the 2016 BAV victory?
Kokoda team: When the call came through to the team at head office, the overall atmosphere was ecstatic and the feeling was one of complete excitement. We all held our breath until we heard the words we’d been waiting for. There were some screams of joy and an outburst of emotion from the entire team.
George wasn’t in the office at the time so we made the call to him. He was overjoyed and, for once, a little lost for words but he had never doubted the quality of the van and the team behind its engineering, design, construction and delivery.
CW: What are the characteristic traits of the winning Veteran XLi Platinum?
Kokoda team: The van has many traits that make it a stand-out product. From our perspective, the main features that catch the eye would be the stylish interior, premium tap fittings and contemporary cabinetry. The “i” in XLi is actually a symbol we have employed to highlight the innovative and intelligent smart technology added to this product such as the Smart TV and Wi-Fi.
CW: What precipitated your interest in BAV? Are you contemplating BAV 2017?
Kokoda team: We were very humbled and excited to be invited to Best Aussie Vans 2016. George gave the go-ahead to commit to the competition and, within minutes, the team was putting the plan in motion. We (Chloe and Shenoa, George’s daughters) spearheaded the entire project working closely with our manufacturer and suppliers to create the Veteran XLi Platinum.
We are working behind the scenes to produce another truly different and unique model to compete in 2017. The entire team and the wider Kokoda family are very much looking forward to the challenge.
CW: What impact did the BAV win have on Kokoda’s business?
George: The impact of winning Best Aussie Vans has been unbelievable. January, which is commonly a slow month, started with a bang. The shows in early 2017 saw a huge influx of new orders and the Veteran XLi was coming out on top as our most popular. The office had an increase in enquiries over the phone and online about this new model. It really has been a very positive result for Kokoda.
CW: How did you get started in the industry?
George: My interest in caravans began about 12 years ago when I ventured into the dealer market as a second-hand dealer. I was very passionate about the industry and wanted to learn more. As the years passed, I saw a niche and a unique opportunity to create a brand where I could offer a quality built and affordable product that matched and even superseded the standards of other competitor brands. About seven years ago, Kokoda was born and I am proud to stand by the brand that I began and my team who will take Kokoda into the future.
CW: How has Kokoda established its reputation in the caravan industry?
Kokoda team: Kokoda is predominantly a family business with George’s wife, sons, daughters and in-laws at head office. Alongside the family, we have a strong, dedicated and hard-working team. The morals and examples we set within the industry all stem from the importance of family and the hard work which got us all to this point. That is what we pride ourselves on day to day.
When we began we placed an emphasis on having strong marketing, a presence at shows Australia wide and building a prominent dealer network. Now, in 2017, we have firmly cemented our name around the country. We attend a multitude of shows and we have continued in our goal of maintaining a presence in the marketing world. Our ethos has remained unchanged. We are a proud business which is still in the very early stages of growth and we will continue to work hard in offering superior products whilst also creating an even more improved network and service structure for our customers Australia wide.
CW: What are your caravan-building beliefs and values?
George: It is not unknown that Kokoda has a large production within the Campbellfield region outside of Melbourne. We have selected our entire production network since day one. To this day, we have some of the very same manufacturers working with us as we had when Kokoda rolled out its first van in the Tribute range in 2011. My beliefs and the entire team’s beliefs are brought to life every day that a new caravan is completed. I wanted and still desire to offer customers a more affordable caravan that comes with all the inclusions and features offered by our competitors.
CW: What does the future hold for Kokoda?
Kokoda team: We are working on many changes that will be implemented over the next 12 months. Our aim is to continue to offer our customers a product that they can be proud of. We hope to expand our network further by increasing our dealer network and offering dedicated Kokoda repair centres. We will also dedicate our time towards more innovation and excellence.
We are attending the first-ever Kokoda gathering in October at Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. This will be a first for our team and we very much want to reach out to our network of customers and introduce for the first time our young and vibrant team behind Kokoda Caravans.
The full Q&A feature appeared in Caravan World #563. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!