The mobile homes manufactured by the Volkner Mobil company cost more than most single-family homes in Germany. They are made individually for each customer – and you don’t have to do without luxury.
Camping is booming. New registrations for caravans and motorhomes set new records every year. In 2020 there were 107,000 – an increase of more than 40 percent compared to the previous year. According to the Caravaning Industry Association, the German industry generated 12.5 billion euros. And the manufacturers are optimistic about the future, because the younger generation is particularly interested in camper vacations.
“Camping used to mean that I would brush my teeth with 20 other people at the sink and someone went to the bathroom behind me,” says Stephanie Volkner, who runs the Wuppertal company together with her husband, in an interview with NewsABC.net. “Today camping means flexibility and freedom. You can cook your own spaghetti Bolognese for dinner one day and go to a fancy restaurant the next day. “
Company founder Gerhard Volkner had the right nose. The trained locksmith originally made trailers and commercial vehicles. One day he bought his parents a mobile home. But he was dissatisfied with it when he used it himself, so his wife says. So he just built one himself, based on a truck chassis. “In 1997 he exhibited it for the first time at a trade fair,” says Stephanie Volkner. “And then it started.”
Most campers cost between 1.1 and 1.8 million euros
The first models still had a rear garage in which a car could be stowed away for jaunts at the holiday destination. Volkner later redesigned the vehicle: the garage was in the middle, the engine towards the rear. The entrepreneur has patented the central garage. “In contrast to the rear garage, there are no restrictions for the interior,” says Volkner. The garage can be extended and used as a terrace. An extendable wall – the so-called wall-out – also offers more living space.
Stephanie Volkner has been with the company since 1998, the couple have two sons together. Last year the older one started training as a body and vehicle builder in the family business – voluntarily, as the mother emphasizes.
Volkner does not want to reveal how many motorhomes the company builds each year. Just this much: “We get more orders than we can deliver.” It takes two years from the first contact to delivery of the vehicle.
Such motorhomes have their price. Customers have to pay at least 400,000 euros for this. Most of their campers, according to Volkner, cost between 1.1 and 1.8 million euros – a good ten to twenty times as much as a normal motorhome.
Inconspicuous on the outside, luxurious on the inside
From the outside, the vehicles are usually reminiscent of normal coaches. Inside you will usually find a fully equipped kitchen including a dishwasher, a large seating area, a bathroom and a bedroom.
Despite their size, the motorhomes can be parked on normal campsites or parking spaces. In some countries it is also allowed to stand one night free. Your motorhomes are completely self-sufficient, says Volkner, and hold 750 to 1,000 liters of fresh water. During construction, the entrepreneurs make sure that nothing can go wrong on the way: “Basically, the motorhomes are built like airplanes. Nothing should fail during the flight. That is why there are two major assemblies. So the vacation can be continued after a few simple steps at the most. “
Volkners deliver their motorhomes worldwide, even if the focus is in Europe. Your customers are very different, from young to old and from different industries – from professional athletes to politicians. Even the military has already ordered. “The majority, however, are clearly entrepreneurs who want to travel freely and flexibly,” says Volkner. Some also used it professionally to visit different locations and be able to travel comfortably. Then the camper is also used as a mobile office.
Wealthy customers, on the other hand, order unusual special requests much less often than many people believe. “Basically anything goes, but most customers don’t want any frills,” says the businesswoman. “Of course we can build in a whirlpool if that’s what we want, but most customers prefer to go to a wellness center. That is less effort. “
However, racing drivers would like to have a walk-on roof terrace from where they can watch the race track. Others want a pull-out kitchen with a beer dispenser or an accommodation option for their boat outside.
A truck driver’s license is required to drive the motorhome. In Europe, the owners usually drive their vehicle themselves, while this is unimaginable in other countries, says Volkner. It is better to hire a driver there: “But sometimes drivers drive the motorhome to a certain place, for example Stockholm, where the owner can fly and then start a journey through Sweden, Norway and Finland.”
Many customers send greetings to Wuppertal while on the go. One had just driven through northern Norway for four weeks at minus 20 degrees, another sends pictures from southern Spain, says the entrepreneur. In the case of couples, however, the classic distribution of roles still prevails: “The man takes care of the technology, the woman the interior.”
Even taking a vacation is part of the Volkners’ job: the family tests the motorhomes themselves. “Otherwise they wouldn’t be so good,” says the boss and laughs.