RV History: RVing today in China

By Al Hesselbart
RVing in China is more than 50 years behind the U.S. This article is based on my two trips to China to participate in RV events and concerns the Chinese RV consumer lifestyle. In 2010 I traveled to China for the largest outdoor recreation show in Asia. It was the first time RVs were included. 

The Chinese have a long history as campers and backpackers, but nearly all of their camping is either by tent or in fixed rental park model trailers in campgrounds. They have more than 200 beautiful national parks and many local private campgrounds but, as of 2012, less than 30 had any facilities for RV hookups. As a result, while they have several companies making and selling RVs, they have almost no support structure. Dealerships are rare, and there was only one consumer magazine in 2012. Aftermarket stores were unknown, so RVers were on their own (as was the case in the U.S. in the 1920s and ’30s).

Small Chinese-built travel trailer

Like in the early days of camping in the U.S., most Chinese RV models are either small motorhomes or tent campers, as few families own vehicles capable of pulling trailers. Fifth wheel trailers are unknown since pickups are not used as acceptable family transportation.

A surprise to most American visitors to China is that automatic transmissions are relatively unknown on Chinese vehicles, including automobiles and RVs, and are held in some disdain by most of the people. The only automatic transmissions I saw were on imported American rental vehicles and one American motorhome. The German and Italian imports, both autos and RVs, all had manual transmissions.

Chinese tent trailer

The domestic tent trailers are very stylish and attractive and come in large and small sizes.

Motorhome
King Long Coach

A few type A coaches are present but usually as “business coaches” or traveling meeting facilities. The coach pictured has a conference table in the bedroom area that seats eight on a luxurious round couch, and a comfortable lounge with recliner chairs and a large bar and small kitchen. It would be an excellent way for a company team to travel cross-country to a convention.

Rental firms are importing a few American-brand RVs for use by tourists, but a majority of those imported for resale by dealers are German and Italian models with manual transmissions. Many are built in Chinese RV plants by Mercedes, Isuzu and others.

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