Pilote entered a phase of recovery in 1994 and 1995 with the launch of new products First and Bavaria which were instant hits due to their widely-affordable prices.
By 1994, Pilote had survived the worst of the crisis, largely due to its performance on the domestic market. The company recovered although exports were no longer up to their previous levels. They fell to 25% of turnover. The product was expensive which explains why most customers were aged over fifty. Pilote therefore attempted to access a younger customer base launching a more affordable product in spring 1995 costing less than FRF 200,000 – the First. The commercial launch of the First range led to a spectacular recovery in company profits also aided by fashionable models the Pacific 6900 and Galaxy 5800 on a Sprinter 312D Mercedes chassis.
Pilote produced its first full range of budget motorhomes (108 vehicles costing FRF 200,000 per unit), the First 14, 15 and 16. One year later, First by Pilote was a range in its own right within the group offering coachbuilt vehicles, low profiles and A-Class motorhomes. By 1995, production far exceeded the target of 1,000 vehicles.
Frankia applied the same approach to Frankia/Ford vehicles which would henceforth be known as the Bavaria range. Unlike Frankia vehicles, which were manufactured in Germany, these motorhomes were assembled in La Limouzinière.
1998 : PREPARING TO SWITCH OVER TO THE EURO
The Euro switchover was imminent and a trend for consolidation was transforming the European market for leisure vehicles… Pilote prepared for these changes by adapting its IT and commercial tools.
Pilote tackled two major projects – the euro and adapting its IT systems for the year 2000. Considerable investment was required – approximately FRF 1.5 million over two years which also included changing the central unit. Administrative adaptation was just one phase before the arrival of the single currency. Work was also being done on harmonising sales prices. In 1999, a single price became applicable for the whole of Europe including Great Britain and Scandinavia. This allowed customers to make comparisons between different countries. The distribution networks were to remain unchanged.
1999 : PIONEERING SPIRIT STILL DE RIGUEUR AT PILOTE
Pilote began the new millennium dynamically showing the pioneering spirit of years gone by through its involvement in the Dakar rally, the switchover to a 35 hour working week and a spectacular gathering of German motorhome owners near La Limouzinière.
170 employees in France
Pilote produces its 27,001st motorhome.
The 1999 collection was completely overhauled with the adoption of all-polyester exteriors. Hammered sheet metal used on bodywork since the beginnings of the brand was replaced by polyester as an outer skin, which was nothing short of revolutionary.
One year later, Pilote took a further step forward with the DAP process whereby almost all the wood was removed from the structure except the peripheral frame and furniture was put together using inserts doused in insulating material.
A motorhome in the 21st Dakar rally
For the first time in its history, a motorhome took part in the great trek that is the Dakar rally. The Nissan Patrol prepared by Team Dessoude was among the 110 all-terrain vehicles (excluding lorries) which entered. With a special “coachbuilt” designed by Pilote, it was converted to include a roof berth, kitchenette and toilet. The vehicle was driven by Laurent Bourgnon, winner of the Route du Rhum 1994 and favourite for 1998. He was joined by co-driver Guy Leneveu. Partners included Primagaz, which sponsored the navigator and companies actively involved in the economics and dynamism of the motorhome sector: accessory dealers (Electrolux, Lallemand, Brutsaert, Seitz, Alden), a credit institution (Crédit Universel) and a rental company (Avis Car Away). Pilote was a majority partner contributing FRF 500,000. All these companies shared an appetite for the challenge. Involvement in the Dakarrally helped bolster the tradition of great treks and dynamise the image of motorhomes in the public eye. Furthermore, there was no better way of illustrating the brand’s new advertising slogan ‘Habitez la planète’ than this foray onto African soil.
The 35 hour working week creates eleven jobs at Pilote
Pilote signed an agreement on reduced working hours which was approved by almost all staff and created jobs.
Three months of intensive negotiations led to an agreement being signed which was approved by 92% of the 170 company employees and cut weekly working hours from 38 hours and 30 minutes to 34 hours and 40 minutes with effect from 1 June 1999. This agreement was part of the company’s social policy. The agreement also provided for any adjustment of working hours deemed reasonable to fit in with the seasonality of production. Furthermore, reduced working hours at Pilote led to the creation of 11 new posts which were offered first to staff on temporary contracts.