Automotive

Hymer USA to build and sell European-designed campers in the US

Hymer USA to build and sell Eu...
The Hymer Vision Venture makes its world premiere at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon
The Hymer Vision Venture makes its world premiere at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon
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Launched in 2019, Hymer's DuoCar S has tinted windows, simple colors, and minimal exterior ports and flaps
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Launched in 2019, Hymer's DuoCar S has tinted windows, simple colors, and minimal exterior ports and flaps
The Hymer DuoCar S is based on the 593-cm Sprinter, making for a fairly compact, nimble camper van
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The DuoCar S is based on the 593-cm Sprinter, making for a fairly compact, nimble camper van
Hymer's
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Hymer's Vision Venture concept was probably the most talked-about camper van of 2019
A favorite feature of the Hymer VisionVenture: a staircase leads to the pop-up roof, rather than a simple ladder
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A favorite feature of the Hymer VisionVenture: a staircase leads to the pop-up roof, rather than a simple ladder
The light in the Hymer VisionVenture's pop-up roof teams with the white inflatable sides to create a soft, ambient glow
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The light in the Hymer VisionVenture's pop-up roof teams with the white inflatable sides to create a soft, ambient glow
Now in its third generation, the Sprinter brings a fresh new face and a tech-loaded platform to the Hymer Free series
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Now in its third generation, the Sprinter brings a fresh new face and a tech-loaded platform to the Hymer Free series
Inside the Hymer Free S 600
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Inside the Hymer Free S 600
Hymer has given its 2018 off-road show Sprinter a black-out look and rugged all-terrain tires
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Hymer has given its 2018 off-road show Sprinter a black-out look and rugged all-terrain tires
Hymer Free S (Sprinter)
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Hymer Free S (Sprinter)
Crosscamp Toyota Proace Verso camper van
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Crosscamp Toyota Proace Verso camper van
The Toyota Proace Verso isn't sold in the US, but the package seems simple enough to adapt to a different US-market base van
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The Toyota Proace Verso isn't sold in the US, but the package seems simple enough to adapt to a different small base van, perhaps the Nissan NV200 or Ford Transit Connect
The multipurpose Crosscamp would be particularly useful for US city dwellers looking for a single vehicle to do it all
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The multipurpose Crosscamp would be particularly useful for US city dwellers looking for a single vehicle to do it all
Eriba introduced the Touring 820 at the 2019 CMT show in Stuttgart
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Eriba introduced the Touring 820 at the 2019 CMT show in Stuttgart
Thor already has plenty of large caravans, but the Eriba Touring 820 could be a sleeker, more stylish option for its US lineup
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Thor already has plenty of large caravans, but the Eriba Touring 820 could be a sleeker, more stylish option for its US lineup
Inside the Touring 820, Eriba blends dark and light materials, finishes and trim
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Inside the Touring 820, Eriba blends dark and light materials, finishes and trim
Hymer's Free series is built on two chassis available in both Europe and North America: the pictured Fiat Ducato/Ram Promaster and the Mercedes Sprinter
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Hymer's Free series is built on two chassis available in both Europe and North America: the pictured Fiat Ducato/Ram Promaster and the Mercedes Sprinter
Small camping trailers have been growing in popularity, and the Dethleffs Coco would be a fun, stylish addition to the US market
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Small camping trailers have been growing in popularity, and the Dethleffs Coco would be a fun, stylish addition to the US market
Inside the Dethleffs Coco
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Inside the Dethleffs Coco
An electric-assist trailer concept, the Dethleffs E.Home Coco features an 80-kWh lithium battery and roof-mounted solar panels
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The Dethleffs E.Home Coco features an 80-kWh lithium battery and roof-mounted solar panels
A greener breed of mini-campervan, the Dethleffs Globevan e.Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid with 31 miles of all-electric driving range
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A greener breed of mini-campervan, the Dethleffs Globevan e.Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid with 31 miles of all-electric driving range
Dethleffs Globevan e.Hybrid sleeps four on its folding bed and pop-up sleeper roof
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Dethleffs Globevan e.Hybrid sleeps four on its folding bed and pop-up sleeper roof
The Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Ad concept van's roof-top hammock provides the best seat in (or on) the house
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The Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Adventure concept van's roof-top hammock provides the best seat in (or on) the house
Erwin Hymer Group brands like Sunlight aren't afraid to play around with wild and/or futuristic features like the sport-specific amenities of the Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Adventure concept
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Erwin Hymer Group brands like Sunlight aren't afraid to play around with wild and/or futuristic features like the sport-specific amenities of the Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Adventure concept
Unlike the typical camper van, the Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Adventure has dual sliding doors for easier entry/exit
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Unlike the typical camper van, the Sunlight Cliff 4x4 Adventure has dual sliding doors for easier entry/exit
Sunlight Cliff 640 on show at CMT 2019
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Sunlight Cliff 640 on show at CMT 2019
A very different style of van life adventure machine the 2019 Hymer Vision Venture
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A very different style of van life adventure machine the 2019 Hymer Vision Venture
Despite its non-American-market base van, a Crosscamp-style van seems like a good fit thanks to its efficient packaging and appeal to the type of young, adventurous buyer American RV makers are trying to court
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Despite its non-American-market base van, a Crosscamp-style van seems like a good fit thanks to its efficient packaging and appeal to the type of young, adventurous buyer American RV makers are trying to court
The Hymer Vision Venture makes its world premiere at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon
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The Hymer Vision Venture makes its world premiere at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon
Thor CEO Bob Martin (left) and Erwin Hymer Group CEO Martin Brandt
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Thor CEO Bob Martin (left) and Erwin Hymer Group CEO Martin Brandt
View gallery - 29 images

Germany's Erwin Hymer Group is one of the most innovative RV manufacturers in Europe, as evidenced by recent concept campers like the Vision Venture and Galileo. Now it's bringing some of its RV magic over to the American market. Parent company Thor Industries has formed a new Hymer USA subsidiary with the goal of building and marketing European-designed RV products on American soil. Soon, some of the gorgeous RVs Americans have admired from across the Atlantic will be on their way to American highways and campgrounds.

"Is that available in the US?" It's a question we see over and over in response to our coverage of European RVs, particularly when it comes to small, clever and reasonably priced camper vans, a product group sadly lacking in the US. Unfortunately, the answer is usually "No." But with one of Europe's largest RV manufacturers establishing a presence here, now there's hope it will more often be "Yes" or at least "Maybe."

If a North American Hymer sounds familiar, it's because it already happened. In 2016, Hymer purchased Canadian camper van brand Roadtrek and established Hymer North America. The fast, furious camper van expansion that followed included models like the Hymer Aktiv and Carado Axion and seemed almost too good to be true in a market that decidedly prefers trailers and larger motorhomes. As it turned out, it was. Financial improprieties at Hymer North America uncovered during Thor Industries' acquisition of Erwin Hymer Group led to the North American branch being severed from the corporation last year. And like that, the fast-growing market of European-inspired American camper vans disappeared as quickly as it had emerged.

Take two. After completing its acquisition of Erwin Hymer (sans Hymer North America) last February, Thor Industries, now the largest RV manufacturer in the world, has been busy working to integrate its American and European operations. Hymer USA becomes a cornerstone of that work.

Thor CEO Bob Martin (left) and Erwin Hymer Group CEO Martin Brandt
Thor CEO Bob Martin (left) and Erwin Hymer Group CEO Martin Brandt

"The Hymer brand and product offering has already received very positive feedback from our North American dealer network," said Thor president and CEO Bob Martin in announcing Hymer USA last week. "Delivering to the North American market the innovation, design and quality for which the Hymer brand is known will benefit consumers and dealers."

Hymer USA will be based in Bristol, Indiana, part of the "RV Capital of the World" of the greater Elkhart area. In 2020, Thor will invest an estimated $8 to $10 million to renovate an existing facility to serve as Hymer USA's base of operations. It will also relocate select employees from Germany to help implement European manufacturing processes, automation and control standards, a process it calls a first in the North American RV industry.

Troy James, the Thor senior vice president who took point traveling to Europe and integrating Erwin Hymer after the acquisition, will oversee the new Hymer USA brand.

"Hymer USA will feature a very different way of manufacturing not currently seen in the North American RV industry, including automated processes that will be implemented throughout design and assembly," James explained. "Products will benefit from the quality standards set by Erwin Hymer Group, and our new work environment will feature highly skilled team members collaborating directly with employees from EHG's European operations while incorporating the speed to market for which Thor is well-regarded."

So what products is Hymer bringing over the Atlantic? Thor's January 30 announcement says only "European-designed RVs," so we reached out to try to pry away something, anything, more specific but were told that the company is not ready to release any product plans or long-term strategy details just yet. It also declined to clarify if plans apply only to Hymer brand products or to the greater Erwin Hymer portfolio of 19 brands, which includes Dethleffs, Sunlight and Bürstner.

Statements from last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon provide insight into what might be in store for Hymer's US return. At the time, Martin hinted that Thor was interested in tapping into Hymer's expertise in camper vans and multifunctional urban vehicles.

"We see growing potential for [the camper van] product category in North America," Martin said. "Last year, the camper community there grew by 1.4 million households - 56 percent of which are millennials. These new participants are often returning to the roots of campervanning and prefer a lifestyle that involves less effort while offering more adventure and experiential quality."

Despite its non-American-market base van, a Crosscamp-style van seems like a good fit thanks to its efficient packaging and appeal to the type of young, adventurous buyer American RV makers are trying to court
Despite its non-American-market base van, a Crosscamp-style van seems like a good fit thanks to its efficient packaging and appeal to the type of young, adventurous buyer American RV makers are trying to court

Camper vans can be found throughout Erwin Hymer's portfolio, from the newest badges like Crosscamp and Globevan (Dethleffs) to established brands like Hymer and Sunlight. And since Thor already has a very strong presence in the travel trailer and large motorhome segments, camper vans seem to be the missing piece of the puzzle that Hymer could easily fill.

Martin has acknowledged that some Erwin Hymer products are based on chassis not available in the US, stressing that those built on available chassis like the Mercedes Sprinter and Fiat Ducato (Ram Promaster) could be rolled out in the US more quickly. The versatile camper vans of the Hymer Free series seem like a nice place to start.

Hymer's Free series is built on two chassis available in both Europe and North America: the pictured Fiat Ducato/Ram Promaster and the Mercedes Sprinter
Hymer's Free series is built on two chassis available in both Europe and North America: the pictured Fiat Ducato/Ram Promaster and the Mercedes Sprinter

We'll get more official information soon enough, as the first Hymer USA products are planned for launch later this year. In the meantime, we've filled the gallery with some of the Hymer group European camper vans and caravans we'd most like to see make the trip over to the US.

Source: Thor Industries, Erwin Hymer

View gallery - 29 images
3 comments
guzmanchinky
My recommendation: buy a Sprinter, have a company like Outside Van, Sportsmobile or El Kapitan convert it exactly the way you want it. That way you can order only the options from Mercedes that you want or need, and have the interior fitted with exactly what you want. It costs about the same or less as buying a ready made one from a dealer (like the Winnebago Revel) but with far more options for customization. I just did that with a 2019 4x4, made the outside look like a plain white plumber van for stealth camping and loaded the Sprinter with every safety feature they had. It also has the RVIA sticker on the side so it's legal in all RV parks.
ThomasBarr
Hymer Europe (Erwin Hymer Group SE) bought Roadtrek without doing the appropriate due diligence. Now renamed Hymer NA, Hymer Europe failed to properly oversee the design and manufacture of the Hymer Aktiv that they put their name on. Hymer Europe then mismanaged not only their purchase of Roadtrek, but also the $200,000,000 they lent Hymer NA along with the loans they backed for Hymer NA, This not only hurt Hymer Europe, its vendors, dealers, and employees, but also all the people that trusted the Hymer name by buying the Hymer Aktiv and other product built under the watch of Hymer Europe. Thor has now bought Hymer Europe, just as Hymer Europe once bought Roadtrek. The Hymer Europe products are well designed and built, and use space within their RVs well. Even having been brought out in 2016, the copies that a number of manufacturers have introduced including Thor are not as good as the original. Other Hymer Europe products that have not been introduced here have the potential to change the market as much as the Hymer Aktiv has the class B market here already. Rapido who bought the original Roadtrek portion of Hymer NA as a good will act is providing a limited warranty for units purchased before they bought that part of the company. They are also providing a way older Roadtreks can get supported in the future. These units don’t have the Rapido name on them and they didn’t oversee the manufacture or design of these RVs as Hymer Europe did for our Hymer Aktivs. As a Hymer Aktiv owner I need to be able to get replacement parts if something needs to be repaired. I also need electrical drawings for the work Hymer did to maintain my unit. Properly done the reintroduction of the Hymer products to the North American market is a great opportunity for Thor, the RV traveling public and owners of Hymer products already on the road here. At the Tampa RV show I talked to people who were buying their third Travato. Not because they were having problems with their existing Travato, but because they wanted to get the new improvements and they had someone willing to buy their existing unit. To make Hymer USA successful, Thor needs to support the existing Hymer NA products. These units were built under the watch of the same organization that Thor is looking to use to direct Hymer USA. Hopefully Hymer USA will do better than Hymer NA. The Hymer Aktiv and Wannabee Facebook site has been a great place for all of us to share our Hymer Aktiv experiences and travels alone with a place to get support from other owners. I’m sure we would all welcome input directly from Thor and Hymer USA to help resolve problems or get support.
VicStar2
Hymer is now a Thor owned business and like every other RV brand the monster has gobbled up, the quality you expect from Hymer will disappear just like it did with Airstream. Would you buy a new Rolls Royce made by Cooper mini?