CARAVAN SALON DUESSELDORFEuropean RV manufacturers are struggling with the same problems that their American counterparts are dealing with — falling sales, a need to reduce fuel emissions and making their units lighter to increase mileage.

That’s the report from Caravaning Industrie Verband (CIVD), Frankfurt, Germany, the European counterpart to our Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

CIVD will sponsor Caravan Salon Dusseldorf 2009 Aug. 29-Sept. 6, which is billed as the world’s largest RV show. Last year, 158,000 people from 38 countries attended Caravan Salon.

”All major motorhome and RV manufacturers have registered as exhibiters — evidence of Caravan Salon’s status as the sector’s leading trade fair,” said Wilhelm Niedergoker, managing director of Messe Dusseldorf (Dusseldorf Fairgrounds). ”Of course, Caravan Salon has also been affected by international financial and market difficulties. These have resulted in smaller booth areas.”

Some 580 companies from 25 countries — 150 that build towable and motorized RVs — will display products and hawk their services in 10 halls and a large outside courtyard encompassing 1.9 million square feet. Registration is roughly the same as it was last year, according to the association.

In total, European RV sales during the first half of the year fell 42% to 32,796 units — 12,101 motorized RVs, a decline of 52.8%; 20,695 towable units, a drop of 33.3% — compared to the first six months of 2008, according to CIVD.

”The low production figures for Germany’s recreational vehicle sector are attributable to more than just the economic crisis,” said CIVD Director General Hans-Karl Sternberg. ”Drastic credit line curtailments by banks forced many dealers throughout Europe to substantially reduce their showroom and warehouse inventories.

”As a result, dealers did not immediately place orders for new vehicles when they sold vehicles from their inventories. This process has now come to an end, for the most part, which means that we can look forward to stabilization of German recreational vehicle production.”

Ralph Binder, CIVD public relations director, told RVBUSINESS.COM that more European motorhome manufacturers are building smaller units weighing less than 7,000 pounds so that consumers can operate them without special licenses. ”They have found some new methods of saving weight to make the interior lighter,” Binder said. ”So we have more units coming in at less than 7,000 pounds.

”Caravan (towable) and motorized manufacturers also are building units that are more aerodynamic to save gasoline. And then, of course, because of the market drop since 2009, they are trying to build more price-worthy caravans and motor caravans to make them more affordable for people to buy.”

At the same time, another 275 exhibitors will present the latest in hiking and trekking gear and provide information about 5,000 European hiking destinations during TourNatur, an outdoor recreation show Sept. 4-6 that will run concurrent with Caravan Salon.