Who is… Bailey?
Bailey has been manufacturing caravans for decades at its Bristol factory and yet only launched its first motorhomes in 2011/12.
Since then, it has continually expanded and improved these coachbuilts – as yet there are no Bailey campervans – culminating in this month’s launch of the all-new Adamo range.
It has used the knowledge gained since 2011, as well as its decades of leisure vehicle design and manufacturing experience, to create the Adamo – a coachbuilt range that brings something new not only to Bailey’s portfolio, but also to the choice available to those looking for a British-built motorhome.
“To date our motorhomes have been much like our caravans – very ‘British’ in appeal and we have become very aware that we do not currently have anything in our line-up to compete with products from the European manufacturers, which currently account for approximately half of the UK retail sales,” explains Simon Howard, Bailey’s Marketing Director.
“We feel that Adamo offers the best of both worlds in that it combines a continental design execution, most notably in terms of layout, with UK specification features such as the heating system and kitchen appliances.
Add to this the new-to-us Ford Transit platform with an automatic gearbox and our crash-tested Alu-Tech bodyshell and we feel you have something distinctly different that will open up the prospect of a Bailey motorhome to a wider audience.”
That move to the use of the Ford Transit chassis as the base for the Adamo is significant as, up until now, Bailey has always used the Peugeot Boxer as its default base vehicle.
“We were looking to develop a motorhome that was easy to drive, easy to use and easy to own,” reveals Simon. “Consequently, an automatic gearbox was considered essential, which led us to the Ford Transit.
“As with the other Bailey motorhome ranges, there is a single cab specification, based on the Ford 160bhp engine, which includes a host of standard features – with no optional packs – to enhance on-the-road comfort.”
The new Adamo range adds more diversity to Bailey’s motorhome range and, as a result, will reduce its dependence on sales of the universally popular Autograph range.
“Adamo is likely to appeal to people who have not considered a Bailey or indeed a British-made motorhome before, thus expanding our potential audience,” explains Simon. “We also feel it has great potential in the hire market and will be looking to use it to increase our presence on loan fleets.”
With the arrival of the new Adamo, Bailey will drop its Advance range.
Consequently, the coachbuilt motorhome line-up will be Alliance SE, Adamo (a model from the range is pictured below) and Autograph (Series III), although we understand the Alliance entry-level range is due to be revised.
What is missing from the line-up is a campervan and Bailey is well aware of this. “We are mindful that, in Europe at least, this [the campervan sector] is the fastest growing part of the market, appealing as they do to the large number of new entrants considering a motorhome purchase for the first time,” confirms Simon.
As a result, Bailey is developing a campervan, but it is doing so at a pace that ensures when it does come to market it will offer something unique.
“This is a very competitive sector with plenty of choice already available,” says Simon. “Consequently, the Bailey van conversion will need to offer something different to what is already available and, as a result, we’re spending additional time on the development process.”
The motorhome and campervan market
What the lockdown appears to have done is not only delay sales that were going to happen anyway, but also to have driven a lot of additional sales to newcomers who want to try motorhoming and caravanning.
“Obviously, the sales of both caravans and motorhomes are very strong post-lockdown as many people look to take their holidays in a different, safe and secure way but, once the market settles down again, we expect to see a continuation in the steady growth in popularity of our motorised vehicles,” says Simon.
“Our retail sales year to date are now back on track with the pre-Covid forecasts, which anticipated steady motorhome market growth for 2020.
If we see a continuation of the demand we experienced over this summer, we can look forward to another positive year in 2021, subject, of course, to any new potential restrictions imposed as the result of a further Covid outbreak.”
This chaotic spell in the market – rarely, if ever, have so many newcomers arrived at exactly the same time as pent-up demand from regular buyers has been released – has made predicting future trends and demands more difficult.
Buyers are currently snapping up whatever they can get and, of course, these newcomers are not trading in models, reducing availability even further.
“People are buying whatever is available on the retailer forecourts to use immediately,” confirms Simon.
“This autumn – when customers have the opportunity to preorder – we should get a better feel for what they are looking for, particularly after the arrival of the new Adamo models and their potential appeal to a new audience.”
With the large number of new younger buyers entering the market this year, Simon does envisage that the licence restrictions on vehicles with a gross weight over 3,500kg will be a key consideration for many.
The motorhome buyers
So, who is a typical Bailey motorhome customer? “An extremely astute person!” says Simon. “Initially, when we started manufacturing motorhomes, there was a fair amount of crossover from caravan owners wanting to remain with us, so heritage was important.
“In both markets, Bailey has always been considered a great-value brand by providing more vehicle for your money and that is still an important part of our proposition today.
As we have become more established as motorhome manufacturers, our designs are becoming more refined, meaning our products are increasingly finding more favour with existing motorhome owners.”
To find out more about Bailey’s models, go to baileyofbristol.co.uk where there is a virtual showroom, which includes 360-degree tours and individual walkthrough videos for each of its models.
Bailey motorhome and caravan production
Motorhomes and caravans are built at Bailey’s South Liberty Lane production facility and headquarters in Bristol, which has undergone some significant changes in recent years.
Most recently the lockdown, of course, forced Covid-safe protocols to be introduced, but also gave the manufacturer the opportunity to streamline its operations to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of its production facility by amalgamating the two production lines into one.
“As a result, we have all of our most experienced and skilled operatives in one place working on assembling both caravans and motorhomes rather diluting them across two plants,” explains Simon.
“In order to do this, we have taken a larger proportion of the sub-assembly work offline and have completely overhauled our materials handling operation to ensure we now feed the right components in the right quantity at the right time to the assembly line. The introduction of these automotive processes will mean we will be more responsive to the changing nature of the marketplace in future.”
Indeed, Bailey has always adopted the best of automotive manufacturing techniques, such as crash-testing its new motorhomes at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
Both motorhomes and caravans are given the same equal priority. “They are designed by the same team and built by the same people on the same production line,” explains Simon.
“Emphasis will shift between the two depending upon the nature of the markets. The 2020 season was a big one for caravans, increasing the number of ranges from three to five to increase the diversity in our portfolio. Conversely, 2021 is really all about motorhomes with the Adamo being our ‘flagship’ launch this year.
“Covid-19 has meant our plans have been disrupted somewhat, but we have exciting new developments in both product sectors scheduled for 2020.”
As is reflected in the market, while all are built on the same line, the ratio of caravans to motorhomes is currently four to one.
“When we first started manufacturing motorhomes in 2011, it was closer to six to one,” says Simon.
“This is a reflection of the growth in popularity of motorhomes as a whole and is following the trend already seen in many of the European markets.”