Lifestyle Camper: how the Ukrainian campers, which are valued at 14,000 Euros in Europe, are assembled
Pavel Volkov and Andrey Pilyavskiy are enthusiasts, who have left their boring administrative positions in order to pursue the job of their dream – to create customized camping trailers that would combine style, ergonomics, functionality and innovation. At first Lifestyle Camper was located in the garage, and Pavel and Andrey cut out details manually. Today the founders of Lifestyle Camper have 16 employees, their own production, the investor and sales are made all over the world.
AIN.UA Editor tells how the Ukrainian campers are produced and why they adequately compete with Western counterparts.
Lifestyle Camper currently employs 16 people: 9 assemblers, operators, designers, logistics specialists. Pavel Volkov supervises the technical part, Andrey Pilyavskiy – the logistics: this is a very huge bulk of work; more than 400 items of component parts, which have to be ordered from abroad, are used in campers production.
Lifestyle Camper has also a new CEO Anatoliy Burbeza. Anatoliy learned about the company by chance – he was fond of camping for a long time, and once a friend, Dima Yurinov, asked him to give an assessment of Ukrainian mirror campers. “I looked and realized that guys are doing the right product, they work very hard, but they do not have enough resources. I decided to help,” recalls Anatoliy. Today he leads Lifestyle Camper, deals with the administrative part and marketing.
Production works 6 days a week, the schedule is not standardized. However, employees, according to Volkov, have no objections.
“We do not force people to stay at work late – they just like to work here. We built a system of result-driven motivation, but money is far from being at first place in their value system. These guys are just eager to do the job to achieve great results”.
According to Volkov, no one has left Lifestyle Camper since the foundation of the company.
They tried to create all the conditions for the employees: they made showers, locker rooms, Lifestyle Camper branded boilersuits and hoodies. The guys visit exhibitions, where they present the results of their work – for them this is another motivation. “Some have changed the professions of sellers, managers and came to us, because they wanted to create something by their own hands. They were like me and Andrey used to be.” Pavel says.
Earlier trailers were assembled in the Volkov’s garage. Now Lifestyle Camper has its own production on the territory of the former plant at Beresteyskaya.
The room in 400 square meters was repaired: we poured new floors, made ceilings, reconstructed overhead-track hoists, installed economical heating with smart on-off system and temperature support. “We spend UAH 6,000 per month on heating. We invested about UAH 200,000 in the system, but it’s worth it”, says the entrepreneur.
Music is constantly playing in the shop, mostly rock’n’roll. “We are cheerful guys, we like to make parties. In the evenings, the room turns into a disco in 5 minutes – we have 2.4 kW of music, there are light chaser and amplifiers. We like both working and relaxation.”
First of all we get into the design room. Here, the details of future campers are cut out from plywood. All drawings are made electronically. The operator starts the program and the CNC machine starts sawing.
Today, the French plywood delivered from Paris is used. This special lightweight plywood is a third lighter than Russian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian counterparts are. But in truth, it is 3-4 times more expensive than the one we used previously. “In return, the camper has become much easier and more environmentally friendly. There is practically no waste,” says Volkov.
Constructor constantly improves something in terms of the assembly speed. As of today, the team manages to assemble 6 trailers per month, but in half a year plans to reach 10.
Constructive change, which accelerates the assembly by 15 minutes, gives 4 working days for a year.
The Company does not have a separate salon where campers are exhibited. “There were proposals to exhibit in TSUM, but we did not have a free trailer for installation at that time,” told Volkov.
Today, campers are sometimes exhibited in car dealerships. It is free: “We have such a product that draws attention to the very car dealership. Therefore, the accommodation is free of charge.”
Model range, equipment and characteristics
In addition to the “drop” or SteelDrop that the Company started with, today they also produce a model for X-Line off-road vehicles. It has a higher clearance, a slightly more powerful frame and wheels, roof rails, additional lockers (luggage compartments) for hunting, fishing, sports and camping equipment. There are marquises stretching into the canopy in three minutes: you get a ready camp with a full kitchen (gas stove, washbasin with a water reserve of 50 liters, refrigerator).
Unlike its mirror “sister”, it has a more wear-resistant polyurea coating: it is a two-component polymer applied by a hot method. “This is an anti-vandal coating. It cannot be scratched, it cannot be broken. The trailer is poured into it without seams and joints – there is no access to moisture, dirt, there is no corrosion. It is produced to be almost everlasting”.
Coating is carried out using outsourcing. We have just ordered the delivery of the finished case, which was personally meticulously inspected for the coating quality by Volkov.
In campers there is a heater working on diesel or gasoline. Consumption – 100 g per hour. “2 kW of power is enough to allow you to stay in a camper overnight at -30 °С. The 100 Ah battery can work for 2-3 days, when using electrical appliances economically – 4-5 days,” says Pavel.
There is also a possibility of devices recharging from solar panels: the trailer has a controller of solar power from the panels, which can be set out in sunny weather. In long journeys to the wild places, a portable generator is useful, and in journeys to Europe you won’t have to worry – camping sites are usually equipped with 220V charging stations.
Batteries are German-made. They are light-weight (battery short weight is 2.4 kg) and at the same time powerful enough (100 W, 6A voltage). “We have a Kvazar plant, but such a compact solution from Ukrainian developers does not exist yet,” says Volkov.
A sleeper is with lamellas and foam mattress. The size is 140 * 200 cm. Inside there are: music, light, TV, audio system, sunroof with fan with temperature sensors, 5 USB outlets, 3 sockets for 220 volts, so you can use any electric appliances (hair dryer, electric shaver, etc.).
Inside the camper, there is a 296 meters wire. It is installed using automotive method: firstly, the correct length to a centimeter is measured on a special scheme, only then it is cut off and tighten into a protective corrugation. Each device has its own color of wire.
As explained by Pavel, component parts in Ukrainian campers have been changed by 80% within a year – previously, many of the details, including door handles, sunroofs, drawbars, were produced by themselves. Now they are bought in Europe (Italy, Germany, and France). Accordingly, the camper price went up. “And still, our products are two times cheaper than European counterparts,” the founder says. Also, whereas previously they cut out the stainless steel body of a mirror camper by themselves, now it is done using outsourcing with a laser. Due to this, the fitting of parts is highly precise and correspondingly the quality is higher.
Before applying the outer coating, the plywood case is covered with a varnish in a separate room. This gives it water-proof properties and protects from the negative effects of the environment.
Trailers have a rubber braided torsion-bar suspension of AL-KO production, a critical suspension travel is up to
80 mm. There is an alternative reinforced suspension manufactured by Knott company and designed for movement on the off-road – an independent, spring-loaded one on the A-shaped levers.
Technical and maneuvering qualities have been improved since our first material: we optimized the weight distribution, added the possibility of shock absorbers installing – according to Pavel, trailers are always ready to overcome any impassability.
Sales & Certification
The main market of Lifestyle Camper is Europe. Firstly, because the purchasing power in the West is several times higher. Secondly, in Ukraine the culture of camping is almost not developed, as well as the infrastructure for it.
In Europe, people have spent decades traveling with children. Children grow up and go with their children. In Ukraine, campers are interesting for hunters, fishermen, and people driving to festivals in Europe.
Lifestyle Camper has sent about 30 exhibition trailers to different countries in Europe: Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, and the Netherlands. Two Ukrainian campers left for New Zealand.
Ukrainian campers are appreciated abroad not only because they are cheaper than Western analogues, but also for the high quality.
We are proud of our product. Dealers from Western countries, who sell trailers from other manufacturers, come to us and say that our trailers are better in quality than the western ones. Some expressed an opinion that “this trailer could not be done better.”
The delivery costs about 500 euros, the buyer pays. Sometimes, of course, it takes a lot of time. For example, the trailers were sailing to New Zealand for two months.
“Nowadays we send campers to Kazakhstan, and considering our relations with Russia, they will be delivered there across the Black Sea to Turkey, then over the Caspian Sea – in general, they will make a good detour,” Pavel .
In 2017, “drops” were more popular, at the moment X-Line is the leader. “Now we are assembling four trailers simultaneously – they have already been ordered. Perhaps because in Ukraine, in principle, the purchasing power of people is higher on larger cars and maybe because of our roads,” Volkov comments.
The Europeans, in their turn, order SteelDrop – people there change their vehicles to mini-cars, and the Ukrainian “drops” are very competitive for these vehicles, because it fits by the weight and size even into the strict rules of operation of the Volkswagen Polo (up to 35 kg).
We’ve brought our trailer to such a level that it could be carried by the smallest cars.
Ukrainian campers abroad are sold via European dealers with a good markup at a price of 12,000-14,000 Euros. “Of course, VAT is included here, and we do not return it, and there are lots of nuances, but we are pleased that this price is set by a European seller who sees the product and values it more than some European counterparts,” Volkov says.
Basically, the orders are brought by the Internet: advertising on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. The company continues to participate in all kinds of exhibitions: hunting, fishing, tourism, cars and motorcycles, bike shows, etc. throughout Ukraine. This does not bring much orders – more likely recognition of the brand and understanding of the product.
When I drive with a trailer, people see me and still ask what it is?
Warranty and maintenance
In Ukraine, maintenance is carried out on schedule in the workshop of the company. In Europe, Lifestyle Camper, together with dealers, is building a spare parts warehouse and is developing a remote service system – so that clients do not have to go to Kyiv for this purpose.
Warranty lasts one year. “Most manufacturers give warranty only for their product, and the component parts are warranted by their manufacturer. We take care absolutely of everything: our warrantee extends both to the plates and to the TVs. Considering that the product is technologically complex, there are a lot of component parts, and we bear the cost – as long as such a guarantee exists. Perhaps in the future we will expand it,” says Pavel.
Investments and plans for the future
Pavel and Andrey produced the first “drops” for their own money, further they were developing partly on the means of pre-sales: the client paid for the trailer, thereby financing the assembly. This led to the creation of the first X-Line – there was a buyer who came to the guys and wanted to get a model for an off-road car and agreed to finance it.
Soon the lineup of Lifestyle Camper will be replenished with another model – this time by a winter-warmed camper, which can be used in the harshest conditions. It is slightly larger and wider, with an expanded set of functions. Once again, it is newly custom made.
In the spring, the company managed to attract an investor who helped Lifestyle Camper to move from the garage and reach a new level.
“With this money, we were able to settle down fully, consolidate the technological base, focus on the warehouse, hire people and go deeper into the development, because we no longer needed to struggle to transfer the manufactured campers to customers as soon as possible,” Volkov shares his thoughts.
The only constraint is the international certification of Ukrainian Lifestyle Camper trailers, this certification will fully open the doors to the rich Western market for the company. Now the team is already at the final stage of its obtaining – according to Volkov, the process was slightly delayed because of the constructive changes in the campers, which had to be re-written in the already prepared documents. “I think it will be a 30 cm stack of paper,” Anatoliy says.
The only authority – the Ukrainian State Enterprise “State Road Transport Research Institute” – carries out a certification. The process is rather complicated: the company works out technical documentation in accordance with the UN regulations, then trailers are tested at the Institute, following with the direct certification of production.
We are the first company in Ukraine, which passes the official certification of the vehicle under the 6th amendment for obtaining the EU certificate.
Despite the fact that it is customary in Ukraine to complaint about such organizations, the impression of Lifestyle Camper team from the cooperation with the Institute is the most positive. “I did not feel any obstacles, extortion or corruption. On the contrary, they cooperate with us, help, even suggest something we did not know,” Pavel says. The cost of passing the entire process in Ukraine is also within the bound of reason. The founders estimate the official payments for the entire certification to be up to UAH 30,000.