By now we’re all accustom to news of the Chinese taking over various markets. These are hay making days in this burgeoning country and the Chinese seem to have developed an insatiable appetite for all things automotive. With overall auto sales up more than 70% over last year, it’s little surprise Land Rover has sold more than 65,000 units in China, or that Ferrari can claim 10% of their global sales reside in that country. So it stands to reason the Chinese would also develop a desire to own other forms of unique transportation like––overlanding vehicles.
Last month, a four-day exhibition of RVs and other travel-ready platforms were showcased in Beijing, the outcome of which was the sale of more than 500 vehicles. China is a mind boggling number generator, and that 500 unit sales number is enough to make my head spin. What’s even more astounding is the rate of growth. That same RV exhibition just two years ago only moved 40 units. The thirst for these products cannot be quenched.
Propelling this new market is of course, money. The ever growing middle and upper class ranks in China have an increasing need for possessions that demonstrate their status. RVs and overland vehicles are the more attainable versions of yachts and private jets. With China’s roads choked with traffic, RVs are even being used as bloated limos. Businessmen are dispatching their RVs to the airport to retrieve important clients as a show of financial might, as well as offering a professional courtesy. If you’re going to be stuck in traffic, it might as well be in a $200,000 Winnabego with a flatscreen TV. Most importantly, more Chinese are developing the means and desire to escape the sprawl and venture into the rural expanses of their home country. All of this sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? America circa 1950’s, perhaps.
What this means for the core overlanding industry is yet to be seen. The Chinese lack two things: The ability to make their own RVs, although I’d not expect that to last long, or a practical place to park them. RV parks are hardly dotting the Chinese countryside. With that in mind, the first sprouts of self supported overland inspired vehicles are starting to make their way into the Chinese backcountry. Industry research firm, 21RV.com estimates that by 2020, Chinese RV sales will tip 800,000 and with relative ease. It’s not a stretch to think a small number of those will be Earth Roamers, Earth Cruisers, Unicats, and other overlanding staples. This demand for sales in China could be a positive push for those of us on other continents. This demand could solidify sales for current overlanding suppliers ensuring companies we love stay afloat. It could also open up new overlanding enterprises. If nothing else, maybe it’s just good to see more people around the globe getting out to travel.