China will soon join the ranks of RV-building nations due to the efforts of 39-year-old entrepreneur Alan Wang.
He is the chairman of Tianjing CenTech Specialty Vehicles Co., a builder of armored trucks that plans to begin producing Class C motorhomes and travel trailers during May.
His goal is to have units completed in time to be exhibited during the Beijing/Shanghai Auto Show in Beijing June 6-13.
Wang, who became aware of RVs while a student at Columbia University in New York City during the 1980s, agreed to be interviewed during a visit to Elkhart, Ind., where he traveled in search of key employees and suppliers.
As a result of contacts he made during previous visits and advertisements printed in the Elkhart Truth newspaper, Wang has hired plant, production and purchasing managers and a mechanical engineer from the Elkhart area.
CenTech, which is not connected with the Chinese government, operates from a 470,000 square foot factory located about 50 miles southeast of Beijing. It also has a 150,000 square foot warehouse and 35,000 square feet of office space.
As the chassis for its Class C’s, CenTech will use a cutaway version of the Ford Transit van, which is built by Ford in Europe and by a Ford joint venture partner in China, Wang said. The Transit comes with a 4-cylinder, 2.6-litre, 110- or 120-horsepower turbo-diesel engine, which is considered under-powered for the North American market.
As tow vehicles for the travel trailers CenTech will build, Wang said there is the Chevrolet Blazer and General Motors Corp. (GM) minivans built by a GM joint venture partner in China, and the Jeep Cherokee built by a DaimlerChrysler joint venture partner.
Stretch limousines, conversion vans and manufactured housing are other sectors that Wang is thinking about entering.
The market for the RVs Wang’s company will build will be car rental firms and tour companies. Currently, very few individuals in China can afford to buy an RV, but he added, “China is developing now, people are becoming richer and they want to enjoy nature.”
Wang believes there is enough demand for RVs in China to justify his firm building 500 units this calendar year. In the next few years, he believes the Chinese market will expand to where his firm could build 2,000 to 4,000 RV units annually.
Beijing also was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics and Wang believes the Olympics will jump-start the development of the RV industry in China, particularly by tour companies.
CenTech will, eventually, produce more RV component parts for its use, but it will continue to rely on many U.S. suppliers in the near to intermediate term, Wang said.
Although the West Coast of the U.S. is about two thousand miles closer to China than Elkhart, Wang believes his best opportunity for finding suppliers will be in the Elkhart area. “Elkhart is so convenient,” he said.
While in Elkhart, Wang worked from office space provided by standards certification firm T.R. Arnold & Associates.
Wang can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]