Swift Group, the UK’s largest caravan, motorhome and holiday home manufacturer are celebrating their 50th Anniversary with a series of special events and innovative product launches in 2014. The company, which has grown from small beginnings in 1964, now ranks among the largest companies of its type worldwide, is UK market leader in touring caravans and motorhomes and the third largest holiday home manufacturer.
Innovation has been key to the Swift success story from the day Ken Smith founded the company to the present day where his son Peter is Chairman of the Group. Throughout the majority of this time the company has been owned by the Smith family. The first major launch in the Anniversary year sees the new flagship Swift Elegance and Sterling Continental touring caravan ranges using new SMART HT technology, launched at the Caravan and Motorhome Show at the NEC on the 18th February 2014.
Over the years, Swift has chalked up a number of industry firsts in all three product areas. In touring caravans the company was the first to feature see through vision from the late 1960’s. The 1970’s saw the introduction of the first affordable luxury tourer with the iconic Corniche. The 80’s saw the introduction of wind tunnel testing leading to the launch of the Cottingham Range, the first tourer to have an aerofoil built in to the roof.
The Corniche also became the first touring caravan to have full GRP (Glass reinforced Plastic) one piece mouldings for the front locker, roof and rear panel. This was made possible by the fact that Swift had developed their own in-house GRP manufacturing facility. This remains the only in-house GRP plant of any UK manufacturer today.
The 80’s also saw the launch of the twin axle Conqueror Range which was the largest and most luxurious product of its type when introduced. The late 80’s and 90’s saw major growth in the touring caravan business with a series of key acquisitions. Cotswold Coachcraft was acquired in 1989 followed by Abbey Caravans in 1992, Bessacarr in 1996, the Sprite Leisure Group in 1994 and finally the ABI tourer brands in 2001.
These purchases pushed Swift into the number one slot with more brands and more dealers than any other manufacturer. The company moved into the motorhome market in 1985 with the launch of the trend setting Kon-tiki coachbuilt range. The Group’s motorhome business has also grown rapidly over the years through product innovation and acquisition. Shortly after the purchase of Bessacarr a motorhome range was developed under this brand umbrella, and the company took over the number one slot in the van conversion market with the purchase of Autocruise in 2007. Product standards have always been key to the Swift success story and in 2012 it became the first company to gain ECWVTA on all ranges of touring caravans and motorhomes, well ahead of the mandatory requirement.
Holiday Homes joined the Group line up in 2004 when the Swift reputation for modern design flair saw the launch of the Debut and Vendee holiday homes. These products introduced a new and modern appeal to the holiday home market and were quickly followed by more trend setting designs that established a niche market for Swift products and quickly gained the company the number three slot in the market. Swift has also gained a reputation for innovative marketing. It was the first company to have a comprehensive web site when www.swiftgroup.co.uk was launched in 1998 with over 1 million people visiting the site in the first year. In 2010 it was the first, and remains the only caravan company to have its own social networking site, Swift Talk. In 2012 Swift TV was launched, giving the company its own internet based TV channel.
Today the company is almost unrecognisable from the end of the 60’s when it produced 400 units, had a workforce of 30 and just under 10,000 sq ft of factory space. The Group operates from three sites in Cottingham, Hedon Road, Hull and Mexborough. It has 645,000 sq ft of factories and occupies 118 acres of land. At the start of 2014 it produces 59 touring caravan products in the Sprite, Sterling and Swift ranges, 44 motorhome products in the Swift, Escape, Bessacarr and Autocruise ranges and 29 holiday homes in the Swift range. Group turnover is just under £200 million with nearly 900 employees, 166 of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years. Total visits to the company’s web sites in 2013 were 1,268,354. It has established export markets in Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Australia and New Zealand.
The company has produced a special commemorative website – www.swiftgroup.co.uk/golden. It gives all the key points of development over the last 50 years and will also detail events and competitions happening throughout the year.