Pilote expanded its catalogue with two low profiles on Renault chassis (Pacific 632 and 652) and enhanced its high-end portfolio by acquiring the company LeVoyageur.
On 27 January 2000, the Pilote Group acquired the company LeVoyageur, a specialist in high-end and customised motorhomes based in Montreuil-Juigné in the neighbouring Maine et Loire département.
LeVoyageur enjoyed a positive and exclusive image for ‘high-end motorhomes with a French twist’ (vehicles costing between FRF 300,000 and FRF 350,000) and focused on personal relations with its customers with a strong emphasis on advice and service.
LeVoyageur manufactured 120 motorhomes and achieved turnover of FRF 37 million.
The Pilote Group continued to push ahead acquiring German supplier RMB, investing in a new production site for its subsidiary LeVoyageur and adopting a new logo.
After acquiring Frankia in 1990, the Pilote Group consolidated its position in Germany with the acquisition of RMB (Reisemobilbau), the German specialist in high-end customized A-Class motorhomes. A prestigious luxury brand, RMB produced 50 motorhomes a year in its plant in Wolfeg in southernGermany. Its turnover was €8.5 million which it achieved with a workforce of 50 employees. RMB offered vehicles ranging from the ‘White Star’ costing around €100,000 to the ‘Luxusliner’ with an in-built garage for a car and a price tag which could exceed €500,000. The group’s workforce rose to 430 employees with this new acquisition.
With output of 3,500 units, Pilote was the 4th biggest European manufacturer following Trigano (approximately 12,000 units), German supplier Hymer and Italian company SEA (between 8,000 and 9,000 motorhomes each).
PILOTE INVESTS IN A NEW PRODUCTION SITE FOR LEVOYAGEUR
Pilote decided to invest FRF 15 million in a new plant for its subsidiary LeVoyageur. Covering an area of 10,000 m², the new site in Membrolle-sur-Longuénée replaced the existing 5 200 m² plant in Montreuil-Juigné. This production unit had seen considerable growth in the past six years. Its workforce had increased from 13 to 47 employees. Existing output of 140 motorhomes per year had potential to increase rapidly to 200 units.
LeVoyageur designed and manufactured very high-end and even customised vehicles for an exclusively French customer base. These models boasted exceptional quality due to close relations maintained with customers.
2002 : PILOTE CELEBRATES ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY
1962-2002 – 40 years which saw the family business from La Limouzinière become a leading European manufacturer of leisure vehicles. Its success was built on a number of major principles: work, professionalism and team spirit. As before, innovation continued to be a key focus allowing the company to maintain its edge over the competition and adapt to market trends.
On 11 June 2002, Pilote celebrated its 40th anniversary. Of all the big names in the leisure vehicle industry, Pilote was undoubtedly the first to show its belief in the success of motorhomes. This hunch which became a passion supported by solid expertise made the family business a success. No longer seeking to prioritize volume, Pilote continued to be an all-rounder favouring medium and high-end products while also offering loss-leader prices.
Pilote invited its employees, all its French and international distributors, its suppliers and partners to a celebratory evening at La Cité Events Center in Nantes. At this warm and dignified ceremony, Philippe Padiou announced his intention to place greater focus on the high-end market. This strategy is illustrated by the launch of the Platinum range – A-Class vehicles designed by R.M.B. but marketed under the Pilote brand.
In 2002, the A-Class range was given a new look and a coachbuilt model on an AL-KO chassis was added to the Atlantis 58 range.
This year also saw the launch of the P8 model (permanent bed and front lounge) which was widely copied by all competitors.
480 employees and 3,200 motorhomes manufactured
2003 : NEW PROJECTS
Launch of the Platinum series
In 2003, Pilote launched the Platinum series comprising heavyweight double-decker vehicles manufactured by RMB.
Construction of a second plant in La Membrolle-sur-Longuenée announced
The Pilot Group announced its plans to build a second production site in the La Membrolle-sur-Longuénée industrial estate.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE MOTORHOME MARKET AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM
In 2002, the Group produced 3,300 units, 1/3 of which were sold in France, 1/3 in Germany and 1/3 in the rest of Europe.
The motorhome market had grown considerably in recent years. In 2003, some 17,500 new motorhomes were sold in France and 60,000 in Europe. Competition came mainly from mobile homes and holiday homes.
The trend for motorhomes was symptomatic of a new style of holidaymaking. Several customer categories were evident: retirees and pre-retirees aged around 55 who visited France and Europe by road, young families with small children and fans of short stays whose numbers had increased since the introduction of reduced working hours.
Interestingly, Loire-Atlantique, where Pilote started out, registered more motorhomes than any other French département (more than 700 per year).
The average price of a Pilote motorhome was around €50,000 although the Angers plant specialising in high-end vehicles charged around €90,000.
If this trend for footloose holidaymaking were to continue, popular tourist destinations needed to continue to make improvements to their facilities.
2004 : THE LA MEMBROLLE SUR LONGUENÉE PLANT OPENS FOR BUSINESS
The Pilote plant in La Membrolle-sur-Longuénée plant opened for business. Spearheading the brand’s operations, new Explorateur vehicles would henceforth be manufactured at this site with buildings covering more than 10,000 m². These A-Class motorhomes on a Mercedes chassis, of which there were five, were headed up by the Galaxy range. They were partly based on LeVoyageur motorhome technology, one facet of which was the duralinox frame. Pilote recruited around fifty staff to manufacture Explorateur vehicles, with plans to produce approximately 300 in 2005 and eventually more than 500 per year