The early nineteen eighties saw a boom in demand for motorhomes prompted by a new class of holidaymaker. In response, Pilote developed its production facilities and continued to spearhead innovative approaches.
In response to growth in business, Pilote increased its production capacities. A new workshop was built in 1980 and the workforce expanded.
The plant now covered 7,700 m². It housed 3 production lines including two dedicated to motorhomes. There were also plans to introduce a new line covering an additional 2,000 m².
By 1980, 1,000 of the 3,000 vehicles sold in France were marketed under the Pilote brand.
Pilote manufactured its first low profile vehicle in 1981, the R300 based on a Renault Trafic chassis, which would be used until 1999.
For the first time in 1982, more motorhomes were manufactured than caravans. However, although now a secondary concern, caravans still accounted for 25% of turnover.
Pilote’s customers were executives, professionals and couples of teachers. A new class of holidaymaker was born – people in search of more freedom, independence and a whiff of adventure. Their outlook was different from caravanners. In 1979, 47% of people buying motorhomes were top executives, professionals and middle managers. Two years later, this customer base changed. By 1981, it only accounted for 30% of buyers compared to 33% office workers and 11% traders.
With 30% registrations in less than 3 years, caravans were no longer viable. Only motorhomes were capable of withstanding the bumpy road faced by outdoor tourism with ease. Pilote streaked ahead of its French competitors.
Pilote introduced the alternating lines principle. Work was carried out on series of individual models of varying sizes. Caravans were assembled in rotation with series of motorhomes in the old facilities. Pilote produced just over 5 vehicles per day. Of these 5 cells, one finished vehicle was produced every day on the R300 line alone.
The manufacturer’s distribution network consisted of over 100 dealers in several European countries and most French départements. One quarter of Pilote’s turnover came from exports. Pilote operated inItaly, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden with more than 100 dealers.
1984 : Pilote rides the motorhome wave
The caravan market was in a critical state. Although this was a bitter pill to swallow, Pilote rode the motorhome wave. In 1983/84, 2,000 units rolled off the four assembly lines in La Limouzinière. These were distributed between 1,500 motorhomes and 50 caravans.
Pilote focused permanently on quality. This attribute enabled its managers to adapt successfully and without any hitches. Its image as a reliable brand was the key to its success, as was its ability to adapt and respond to market developments. Pilote increased its research budget threefold in two years. This was the price it had to pay to maintain its technological edge.