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FORMER Queensland luxury car dealer Martin Roller is putting the cart before the horse in a new venture that he believes may outrun the returns of his previous ventures while satisfying the leisure needs of a new community of customers.

Mr Roller and long-time business partner Marvin Burke will next month open their Caravana Queensland caravan dealership in the Brisbane suburb of Redcliffe after securing the Queensland state distributorship for the Melbourne-made caravan manufacturer, Roadstar.

Taking a clue from the Ferrari sales model, Caravana Queensland will stock up to 15 display caravans which will then be built to order.

It will be located at the previous Torque Ford dealership site, giving the new venture a readymade showroom for up to five caravans, a forecourt for 40 new, used and potentially rental vans; a rear yard for up to 20 used vans and SUVs; a service centre and customer lounge; and space for its own F&I operation that Mr Roller said was important for the new wave of younger caravan owners.

Speaking exclusively to GoAutoNews Premium, Mr Roller, who was an owner of BMW Brisbane for two decades and once held senior sales and marketing roles at BMW Australia, said it was a “very different” venture to dealing with cars but said it was an exciting sector of the industry and one that was increasing in demand.

“The caravan industry went through an important change with COVID,” he said.

“Now it isn’t just about selling to retirees. It has opened up a huge leisure market with younger people, predominantly with families, who want the holiday but can no longer go overseas.

“Caravans offer the freedom and flexibility for families to travel wherever they want in Australia – COVID restrictions aside – at a time when interest rates are at historic lows and hospitality businesses around the country are working hard to attract visitors.

“Our appointment as exclusive Roadstar distributors in Queensland means we supply high-quality caravans to a premium market.

“That’s the same ethos as we had with owning Brisbane BMW and I know that it plays to our strengths dealing with high-quality products.

“We put value on our reputation and we see Roadstar as being a perfect fit.”

Mr Roller admitted  the shift from cars to caravans meant a change of mindset.

“It is a specialised business that means we have recruited people who are experts in caravans and camping and the recreational vehicle industry,” he said.

Marvin Burke (left) and Martin Roller

“We have employed Brendan Saggers as general manager. He has a wealth of experience in the industry. We have also taken on F&I staff to help with customer finance needs, which is common in car retailing but very unusual in caravans.

“With cars, pretty much 100 per cent are sold from a dealership’s showroom. With caravans, it’s 50 per cent – the rest is from caravan and camping shows, so it’s a different sales environment.”

Mr Roller said Caravana Queensland – named so it sells caravans and cars – will allow Mr Burke and himself to “bring new skills to the industry and focus on customers.”

“Roadstar is supplying us with up to 15 caravans for display which we will use to show potential customers the variety in the range,” he said.

“These are display caravans – they are not sold off the floor. In this way, the business is similar to how we sold Ferraris because customers ordered off the showroom display car.

“We plan to do the same with Roadstar caravans. We will have a configurator, like Ferrari, which will allow customers to sit in our lounge and look at all the floorplan designs, choose materials and fabrics, kitchen appliances, accessories and so on.

“It’s about personalising the caravan so the buyer gets exactly what suits them and their families.”

Mr Roller said he has formed a relationship with an Australian soft furnishings and linen specialists to supply starter kits for each caravan, ensuring customers get high-quality sheets, towels and other linen.

But it’s not just about caravans. Mr Roller hinted that the business would become agents for a brand of large SUV that would complement the task of towing the Roadstar caravans.

“It’s important that the customer comes to our dealership and has access to as many items and advice needed for owning and enjoying a caravan,” he said.

“We are now looking at local suppliers and camping retailers to join us in having a display to show their products.”

Caravana Queensland opens its doors on February 1.

Roadstar has also appointed Caravana, part of the Regents Group, as its distributors for Western Australia.

By Neil Dowling

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