Hyundai’s camping car makes RV and trailer makers cringe

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Hyundai’s camping car makes RV and trailer makers cringe

Hyundai Motor’s Grand Starex Camping Car is giving a headache to recreational vehicle and trailer manufacturers who fear a possible decline in sales.

Last month, Hyundai released its camper van with a 48 million won ($42,663) price tag in response to the rising popularity of camping in Korea. The leisure industry estimates 1.5 million to 2 million Koreans will go camping this year and the market will be worth 500 billion won.

“With automobile campsites increasing steadily, demand for camping vans is also rising,” Hyundai said in a press release. “Grand Starex Camping Car is also a daily driver, so it will create new demand from the existing camper van industry, which is focused on rentals.”

Hyundai said 110 units were pre-ordered last month, and customers could wait as long as six months for delivery because the company is outsourcing the vehicle for camping components and modifications.

“We don’t have an assembly line in our plant to produce the camping van,” said a Hyundai official.

Recreational vehicles (RV) and trailers in Korea are produced by commercial vehicle manufacturers or small remodeling companies on a made-to-order basis. Most of them rent, rather than sell, their vehicles.

There are also imported RVs, but since most of them are expensive and too big for Korea’s roads, demand has been weak, according to industry insiders.

Manufacturers and importers began to expand aggressively about 2002, when the government began to treat RVs the same as regular cars. Previously, they had been considered special vehicles subject to stricter inspections and regulations.

Although there is no specific figure on how many RVs are sold in Korea, industry insiders said their business will be affected by the Grand Starex Camping Car.

“The real advantage for them [Hyundai] is that they have the brand value, which Koreans really care about,” said Lee Hun-woo, an executive director at Doosung Motor, which makes RVs and other special-purpose vehicles. “I can’t measure how much it will affect local RV makers, but it would be a lie to say there won’t be an impact.”

Price competitiveness is also a concern; RVs from local manufacturers cost 70 million won to 100 million won. Considering Hyundai’s marketing resources and network, Lee said, consumers who have been juggling their budgets to buy RVs will probably rush to the model.

However, not all industry figures are seeing the release of Hyundai’s Grand Starex Camping Car as negative news. Some companies have said that it will heighten awareness of the local RV industry and eventually expand the market, offering more choices to consumers.

“This is good opportunity for the RV industry because now more people will become familiar with RVs,” said Park Dong-sun, a sales director at Cheil Mobile, which produces Edwin RVs. “I think Hyundai’s RV and most RVs from local manufacturers are placed in different segments, so the impact won’t be as serious than expected.”

Because of its size and the ease with which it can be remodeled, Hyundai’s Starex van has been widely used for RV makers as the base vehicle for their RV products. However, while Hyundai’s model is focused on mobility, equipped with only basic features, such as roof top beds, a small fridge, a microwave and a sink, the privately remodeled RVs are equipped with more convenient features.

The most notable difference is that Hyundai’s RV doesn’t have a bathroom with a shower and lacks an entertainment system, like a large flat-screen television.

“There are various camping vehicles and each model has different convenient features,” Park said. “Hyundai’s model is cheaper with basic features, but that may not be satisfactory to all the camp-goers here.”

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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