An interview with Gerd Adamietzki, CSO

In june, Knaus Tabbert presented an innovation offensive consisting of 18 new models for 2023 to specialist dealers. How did you manage this in spite of the pandemic and strained supply chains?

Adamietzki: Never before in the history of our company have we been able to present so many new products to our dealers. This variety is also our way of addressing the needs of our dealers and end customers as well as the challenges along the supply chains. Dealers are inundated with inquiries about motorhomes and caravans. Caravanning has never been more in vogue.

At Knaus Tabbert, we also viewed the pandemic as an opportunity. We stepped on the gas and launched the largest investment program in the company’s history. We have worked on new models and innovative equipment technologies. By collaborating with three new chassis suppliers, we have been able to optimize and expand our product portfolio. In addition, we have invested in human resources and production: on the one hand, in further training and education, on the other, in digitization and automation.

With Volkswagen commercial vehicles, Mercedes an Ford, Knaus Tabbert has increased the number of its chassis suppliers from two to five this year. What are the advantages of this?

Adamietzki: In the past, exclusive supplier relationships played an important role in our business model. However, in the last two years in particular, these have increasingly proved to be a bottleneck whenever our traditional partners were unable to deliver.

We then began discussions with other chassis producers who were still active in the market. And we discovered that Knaus Tabbert is perceived as an extremely attractive partner. Mercedes, Ford and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles all wish to supply chassis to Knaus Tabbert in the future. Fiat and MAN, our existing suppliers, will not be reducing their planned delivery volumes; the new chassis will be delivered on top of them.

For our customers, this not only translates into significantly shorter delivery times, but also a considerable increase in variety. With the CUV, the Caravan Utility Vehicle based on the VW Bulli, we will in future even be able to offer a new vehicle category.

Why did the collaboration with Volkswagen lead your group to introduce a new vehicle category, the urban camper?

Adamietzki: The Bulli is a vehicle with a long tradition and cult status. With the seventh generation now coming onto the market, it stands for reliability, comfort and quality. What makes the T6 platform so special for caravanning is that its dimensions are below those of previous entry‐level motorhome models. The vehicle can virtually be driven and handled like a standard Bulli. At the same time, it can also be used in everyday life. The key point, however, is that despite its compact dimensions, innovative ideas have allowed us to upgrade the vehicle to a fully‐fledged motorhome. One of its distinguishing features is a collapsible shower that almost doubles the bathroom’s surface area.

Long delivery times, delayed deliveries. What can customers expect this year?

Adamietzki: Delivery problems are a serious issue for the economy. You can read about this in the press every day, and you continuously encounter this problem in your dayto‐day operations. It’s no different in manufacturing. Sometimes we are short of vehicles, then it’s electrical appliances or windows.

In the past months, we had to reschedule our production almost daily. Sometimes we had to send employees home early and on other days, they had to work overtime. This has been a challenge for our staff, for production, but also for our dealers and their customers.

By making our production more flexible, we were able to adjust somewhat to the tense delivery situation. We expect further delays to occur in the coming months too. We can safely say that these are not due to Knaus Tabbert as we have increased and trained our workforce and expanded our production in the past few months. This year, we have already invested approximately 33 million euros. In addition, we are adding suppliers to our network, and this increase in the number of suppliers is already becoming noticeable, particularly in the motorhome sector.

With the KNAUS AZUR, Knaus Tabbert is introducing a series caravan with a frame construction to the market for the first time. What are the advantages of this technology?

Adamietzki: We have been working on frame construction, also known as Fibre Frame technology, since 2016, but the complexity of this production method has presented us with challenges and confronted us with new problems, time and time again. We had to continuously rethink our strategy, start anew and explore different avenues. Yet the approach convinced us – even though the implementation was unbelievably complicated. This result is now all the more significant.

With the Azur, we have finally raised the new production method to the level of series production. In order for the components to be bonded, however, the individual parts have to be manufactured perfectly. We have achieved this through robot‐assisted production, which is now making its entry into the caravanning industry for the first time. This means that we have developed a new manufacturing process that will revolutionise the industry.

The new process also impresses when it comes to our products. The self‐supporting, high‐strength frame ensures optimum stability and durability as well as a high degree of flexibility in the layout and room design of caravans.

Weight can be reduced with the same, or even greater, degree of stability compared to traditional sandwich construction. The effects on fuel consumption and load capacity are equally positive. At the same time, the frames stand for high quality and resilience.