- 600 employees
- 275 in La Limouzinière
- 175 in the two plants near Angers
- 150 in Germany
The ranges were split into three equipment classes: Aventura, Reference and Explorateur.
Aventura : the affordable dream, a first step into the world of Pilote
Reference, the Pilote motorhome for long journeys, which is worthy of its name
Explorateur, the exclusive Pilote motorhome for those who value comfort and high-end equipment
Fire at the FRANKIA plant
On Saturday 3 December 2005, a fire broke out at the Frankia Grundmühle plant in Marktschorgast which produced panels and furniture for Frankia motorhomes. While the panels workshop was spared by the fire, the joinery workshop was completely destroyed. All efforts were made to provide alternative solutions for procuring premium quality components. Six months after the fire, work began on the construction of a new plant. The company invested €3 million in a new 4,800 m² plant near head office.
2006 : LAUNCH OF MOOVEO
Pilote launched Mooveo, the all-inclusive motorhome.
Mooveo motorhomes were manufactured in the same way as Bavaria vehicles: internal walls with no framework (furniture could be attached to the styrofoam insulation using aluminium inserts) with an aluminium skin, assembled using an aluminium edge and then topped with a polyester roof. Bedrooms in the coachbuilt motorhomes were single polyester units.
Mooveo motorhomes were aimed at young families with a tight budget who were not prepared to compromise on equipment.
2007 : PILOTE CELEBRATES ITS 45TH ANNIVERSARY
Second biggest manufacturer in France, Pilote celebrated its 45th anniversary. It had not lost its desire to innovate which had been a chief feature of the company ever since it was set up. Following the success of Mooveo launched in 2006, Pilote created a new brand christened City Van.
The Pilote Group produced 4,500 motorhomes a year and employed 800 staff, 320 of whom worked at the La Limouzinière plant alone. The Group was the second biggest manufacturer in France behind Trigano and ahead of Rapido. The network comprised 250 sales outlets in 18 European countries.
Launch of City Van, the group’s new brand
In August 2007, Pilote continued its development with the launch of the Group’s new brand, City Van. This urban-sounding name was given to the first series of ultra-compact vehicles (under 6 metres) with a complete body section. City Vans were mounted on Fiat Ducato chassis. Their aim was to meet the requirements of experienced leisure vehicle users who were looking for a discreet yet comfortable medium/high-end ultra-compact. Although a number of German manufacturers had rejected the design, Pilote took it further by taking the bold step of making it a coloured integral vehicle (grey) combining the front facing of the Ducato with the benefits of a bodied motorhome in terms of insulation, floor space and comfort.
Advent of central bed layouts in the Reference and Explorateur ranges providing improved comfort.
To celebrate its 45th anniversary, Pilote organized a meeting of 500 motorhome enthusiasts from across Europe
From Friday 6 to Sunday 8 July, Pilote celebrated its 45th anniversary by throwing a party. Priority was given to those owning a Pilote motorhome who received an exclusive invitation to attend the festivities. No fewer than 500 motorhome owners from around Europe attended the event. In the spirit of the first American pioneers in the Far West, they met on the grounds of the Petit-Port race course in Nantes. Three days of celebrations were interspersed with large meetings and numerous activities introducing participants to Nantes and the surrounding region.
2008 : PILOTE RESTRUCTURES
Due to company expansion, Pilote needed to structure its operations while the motorhomes market was undergoing a dramatic slowdown in the wake of the economic and financial crisis following years of growth.
Pilote had grown significantly in 45 years. To continue its growth, the Group needed to structure its operations at all levels: finance, production, marketing etc. Information systems provided an effective lever for improving governance. Therefore Pilote decided to take an important step by implementing an ERP system (an integrated management software package). Two goals were set for the new tool: to improve company management and implement an effective system for ensuring traceability of production processes from orders right through to supplies, manufacturing, management and deliveries.
The project was a large investment both in financial and human terms. Its deployment began in November 2007 and ended in August 2008 at the Group’s two main sites in La Limouzinière and Angers.
The integrated ERP system enabled new working methods to be implemented with interactive accounts, management auditing and a switchover to production-to-order. This was a majorSAP-enabled industrial flexibility project.
All departments were structured and adapted to SAP which was installed on 1 September 2008.
The scale of this rapidly-made investment was a first for the implementation of an SAP project. Pilote was furthermore awarded the 2008 trophy for best ERP project of the year of which it was very proud.
On completion of these projects, Pilote had a full and structured vision of the company which would allow it to make even further progress.
Pilote tackles the crisis
After years of growth, the motorhomes market lost momentum and underwent a dramatic slowdown. In the first six months of 2008, 13,596 vehicles were registered compared to14,107 inthe same period of 2007. Several factors led to this reversal. Firstly, motorhome customers proved relatively sensitive to any loss of purchasing power. Secondly, dramatic increases in petrol prices were beginning to affect French people’s travelling habits. Finally, the financial crisis made it more difficult to access credit.
This impacted on Pilote’s business. It shrank by 30% in 2008. 2008/2009 was the biggest period of uncertainty during which the Group had to adjust production to demand.
AN UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS
September 2008, the 2009 trade show at Le Bourget took place in a very negative media environment. The Paris stock exchange had seen one of the biggest crashes in its history that week. Business at the trade fair suffered due to the poor economic climate. Entry level products were hardest hit, in particular the Mooveo brand. In the high-end sector, a slowdown in the second hand vehicles market prompted dealers to implement more restrictive policies on part exchanges, thus creating tension in this market segment.
Customers put off purchases of leisure vehicles regarding them as non-essential items. The number of registrations fell in all European Union countries. In 2008, 880,000 units were sold and this figure was expected to fall by 15% in 2009. Production was cut by 30%. High-end products were affected slightly less than other segments. However, this trend belies variations in different countries. Hardest hit were Spain, which was facing a particularly severe slump,Great Britainwhere households were experiencing problems obtaining credit andItalywhere purchasers of leisure vehicles were younger than elsewhere and therefore more sensitive to financial concerns.France and Germany came out best. Nevertheless, the unprecedented nature of this crisis in a sector which had hitherto shown exceptional economic dynamism was clear from the dramatic fall in the production of leisure vehicles throughout Europe, staff cuts and a slump in business for parts manufacturers. No comparisons could be drawn with previous crises. This one was unique in terms of its sheer scale and severity.
In mid 2008, Pilote noticed that dealers were buying fewer vehicles and holding too much stock for the market to absorb. As a result, they began to tighten their credit conditions and cut orders to clear stock. However, the Group had a number of solutions to deal with this difficult situation. The company had just undergone a period of investment which had enabled it to optimise its industrial facilities. Although customers were putting off purchases of new vehicles, the need was still there. Demographic trends worked in favour of leisure vehicles.Francewas home to increasing numbers of elderly people with a high level of purchasing power. They saw retirement as a time which should be shared with others and which offered abundant opportunities including the chance for unlimited travel courtesy of leisure vehicles.
2009 : Closer relations between teams in La Limouzinière and La Membrolle
Extensive changes to the organisation and working methods prompted by SAP and the crisis gave rise to increased cooperation between teams at La Limouzinière and La Membrolle. The teams were merged successfully which led naturally into the next step which was a legal merger under the name of GP SAS where GP stands for ‘Groupe Pilote’ (Pilote Group).
New look for Pilote
The PILOTE logo was changed with new colours which are still used today.