Editor’s Note: The following story appears in the Toronto Star recounting author Daniel Otis’ experience with a “Jucy” rental and its potential in the North American market for Millennials.

The thing looks like Barney on wheels. Pea green, bright purple and plastered in company ads, the “JUCY Champ” is meant to garner attention — and it does.

“Mind if I take a look inside?” a fellow road tripper asks me in a beachside parking lot. In the six days I spend driving along California’s Central Coast, I’ll be asked that question multiple times.

With its fleet of colorful custom-built camper vans, New Zealand-based Jucy is carving a niche for itself in North America.

Marketed as “your personal bed and breakfast,” the company’s retrofitted minivans sleep four: two in a “penthouse,” an airy mattress-equipped tent-like structure that pops out of the roof, and two more inside, where a bench and table setup folds into a bed. Storage compartments are scattered throughout. Pop the rear hatch and there’s even a well-equipped kitchen, complete with a small gas stove, pump sink and a mini-fridge powered by a secondary battery to ensure your beer (or food) stays cold.

Founded in New Zealand in 2001 by a pair of brothers, Jucy expanded into Australia in 2008 and now rents out thousands of vehicles in the two countries. In 2012, the company entered North America with 70 camper vans. Today, it’s renting 300 out of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

While camper vans are ubiquitous in Australia and New Zealand, in North America, big family-sized rigs dominate the RV rental market. Such vehicles are often perceived as unwieldy tour buses for old Middle Americans on cross-country Walmart trips.

For its part, Jucy’s vehicles have moved well beyond the skeezy shadows of airbrushed ’70s “shag wagons.” By marketing its funky compact camper vans directly at millennial road trippers and festival-goers, Jucy is trying to make RVing cool.

“But we don’t want to repeat the RV experience,” says Zoe Macfarlane, Jucy’s U.S. vice-president of marketing and business development. “Vehicle design is our core strength against our competitors.”

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