Back in the mid 1980’s I was editing the biggest motorhome, caravan, and camping magazine in the world and also writing a column for the US publication RV Business.
I received a telephone call from an American marketing firm. They had heard I was the leading expert on the motorhome market in the UK (Wonder who told them that?). “Would I come to Canada for a few days consultancy, all expenses paid, first class travel of course, and a small consultancy fee”.
They had a Canadian client called Prévost who wanted to pick my brain about the British and European Recreational Vehicle market. I checked my diary and set a date. When I arrived I was taken around the Prévost plant.
The company make huge shiny three axle coaches. Half of their production goes for posh American school buses (below).
The other half go to top-of-market yacht fitters who build them into remarkable motorhomes. Country and Western stars like Dolly Parton have them fitted with Jacuzzis and grand pianos.
Most have a small car and a gulf buggy in the lockers underneath. They sell for about a million dollars plus.
My hosts took me around old Quebec to see the amazing sight of the Montmorency Falls (83 meters high-30 meters higher than Niagara Falls) frozen solid. I wined and dined like a lord and that isn’t hard in Old Quebec.
On my last day I at last met André Normand, then President of Prévost. At last I found out what I was there for. They wanted my advice on what sort of market there was for their half million pound motor caravans in Britain and Europe. I told them not much if any, perhaps a pop star or two, and maybe the odd racing-car driver.
Prévost President Andre didn’t like this answer and glowered at his American Marketing gurus. They in turn attacked me. “We are really disappointed in your supposed knowledge of the British market.
We have been monitoring the British Press and we hear stories of hundreds of people taking to the roads in large luxury motor homes.” “Sorry” I said “but I just don’t know what you are talking about.”
They were obviously very annoyed at this. “We have sophisticated monitoring of the British Media. Your papers are full of stories of people using these big motor homes. We have even spotted that some of the biggest are coach conversions just like Prévost build. Yet you know anything about it.”
I still looked puzzled. “God, they said just this summer there was a huge rally of them in England. Suddenly I got a glimmer of what they might be talking about. “Where was this rally?” I asked. “At a place called Stonehenge” they replied.
They had got the wrong end of the stick with the news reports of the new age travellers. I almost wet myself laughing. I explained to the boss that whereas his RVs sold for about £500.000 the most expensive bus at Stonehenge had cost about £500. I told him about the travellers and to his credit he laughed too.
He paid me my fee, ordered his chauffeur to run me to the airport and wished me bon voyage. In the next issue of RV Business I saw Prévost were advertising for a new marketing agency. Today Prévost are owned by the Volvo Bus Company. New age travellers still take their buses to Stonehenge.