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Chinese sign for rv, touring car
Chinese sign for rv, touring car

Even China is embracing RV fever

The RV world in China is more than 50 years behind the RV industry in the United States. From my two trips to participate in RV events in China, this story is about the Chinese RV consumer lifestyle without comment on their politics or government.

In 2010, I went to China for the largest outdoor recreation show in Asia. It was the first time RVs were included in the displays.  In 2012, I was there it was to present the opening program at the first Chinese National RV Rally.

Chinese rally tents2

The Chinese have a long history as campers and backpackers, but nearly all of their camping is either by tent or in fixed rental park model trailers in the campgrounds.

They have more than 200 beautiful national parks and many local private campgrounds but, as of 2012, less than 30 had any facilities for RV hookups. As a result, while they have several companies making and selling RVs, they have almost no support structure.

Chinese - park model village

This rental park model village is located within a large Beijing area campground.

Dealerships are very rare, there was only one RV consumer magazine in 2012, and aftermarket stores where people could buy parts, accessories and supplies were unknown. RVers in China were basically on their own as were the pioneering RVers in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.

Chinese -- motorhome

Like in the very early camping market in the United States most RVs are either small motorhomes or tent campers as few families own vehicles capable of pulling trailers. Fifth wheels are unknown since pickups are not considered to be acceptable family transportation.

A surprise to most American visitors is the discovery that automatic transmissions are relatively unknown on all Chinese vehicles, including automobiles and RVs, and are held in some disdain by most of the Chinese.

The only automatic transmissions seen were on imported American rental vehicles and one American motorhome.  German and Italian companies import autos and RVs, but all featured manual transmissions.

Chinese - Tent camper

The domestic tent trailers (above) are very stylish and attractive and are seen in very large and very small sizes.       Chinese built travel trailers are mostly small, unlike larger trailers are imports like this German Hobby (below).

Chinese - german trailer2

A few Type A coaches are available, but they are not generally seen as recreation vehicles, but usually as “business coaches” or traveling meeting facilities.

Chinese-King-Long-3

This coach has a conference table in the bedroom area that seats eight on a luxurious round couch and a comfortable lounge with recliner chairs and a large bar and small kitchen.  It would be a great way for a company team to travel cross country to a convention.

A few American brand RVs are being imported by rental firms for use by tourists. But, a majority of those being imported for resale by dealers are German and Italian models with manual transmissions, and many are being built in China plants by Mercedes, Isuzu and others.

About Al Hesselbart

The retired general manager of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., Al Hesselbart is the author of the RV history book, "The Dumb Things Sold...Just Like That." He also represented the RV Industry Association at two symposiums held in China. He has appeared on multiple TV documentaries and is a frequent speaker at RV events. He can be reached at ahesselbart@aol.com.

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