OVER the past few years there’s been a surge in the number and size of 4WD/ overland shows around the world, with the Sydney, Adelaide and Perth shows reporting an increasing number of attendees and exhibitors every year.
This pattern is not just occurring in the Southern Hemisphere either, with the wellestablished Overland Expo West, held in Arizona, USA, also getting bigger every year – according to its website it claims to be the biggest show of its kind in the world. However, having recently visited the Abenteuer & Allrad 4WD and Overland Expo in Germany, that claim is debatable.
The Abenteuer & Allrad Expo is an annual event now in its 18th year. The 2016 show took place in May and was a huge success, with more than 55,000 visitors from all over the world descending on the small town of Bad Kissingen.
SIMILAR to the American expos – and unlike the Australian shows – the German event provides camping facilities.
However, finding a space to park the Land Rover at the campsite was a bit of a challenge, as it was full of every type of 4WD and overland vehicle imaginable – large trucks, smaller touring Unimogs, Jeeps, Land Rovers, Volkswagens, Toyotas, Suzukis, Fords and some weird-looking rigs that may well have been brewed up in Frankenstein’s laboratory.
With more than 2000 vehicles parked up, the campsite was pretty much a show by itself.
We could have happily spent a couple of days checking out the huge variety of touring vehicles and camping set-ups.
After finding a space and setting up camp, it was time for a cold beer before taking a look around. The campsite had a great atmosphere as the crowds settled in for three days of Overland and 4WD mania. The sun was shining and everyone was smiling (nothing to do with the cheap German beer, of course).
With the barbecues burning, the beers flowing and the hum of banter amongst enthusiasts from all walks of life, we knew it was going to be a great couple of days.
THE show is held in the small town of Bad Kissingen, about 140km east of Frankfurt.
With Italian, Swiss, British, French, Swedish, German, Norwegian, Irish and a few Australian, South African, American, Brazilian and Mexican flags flying, this was a multinational 4WD gathering. Late arrivals set up camp in shopping car parks, on the sides of roads and even in the middle of roundabouts.
The show focuses on all things 4WD, with cross-country vehicles of all shapes and sizes on display in the generous 110,000m² exhibition space. With more than 250 exhibitors showcasing and selling 4WD accessories and camping products, you need a couple of days to see everything on display.
Similar to the Australian shows, this one incorporates custom-made off-road tracks, where visitors can drive a number of vehicles including trucks, quads and the latest 4WDs.
The expo also features organised travel talks from Europe’s well-known globetrotters, while off-road travel companies show off their most popular off-road expeditions.
AUSTRALIAN products and brands were well-represented at the expo, and among the Australian exhibitors present at this year’s event were TJM, Ironman, Terrain Tamer, 3DOG Camping and Oztent.
We spoke with some of the key personalities who were introducing Australian-made 4WD accessories and camp products to Europe. One of these guys was Andreas Bauhofer, operations manager for Style-X, a leading European automobile product provider who recently became the European distributors for Ironman 4x4 products.
Andreas highlighted that Australian aftermarket accessories are wellrespected in Europe for their quality and reliability, and that’s why Style-X decided to become the European distributors. He was also quick to remind me that the founding member of Ironman 4x4 came originally from Germany – he moved to Australia, where the Jacob family started to make springs for horse carriages back in the 1930s.
Andreas explained that since becoming the European distributor, Style-X has been busy working on securing European certification for some of the Ironman 4x4 products as the requirements are different in Europe. He also highlighted that since embracing the Australian brand just over a year ago they have had a lot of interest in Ironman’s suspension, winches and camping products.
He told us that recovery gear isn’t as popular in Europe as it is in Australia, as the sheer volume of accessible off-road tracks in Europe is relatively limited in comparison to what’s available in Australia. The main recovery gear market, he says, would come from the established 4WD clubs and, of course, overlanders.
Andreas also highlighted that Style-X produces conversion kits for various vehicles, including Fords. This includes a complete body kit, leather interior, steering wheel, suspension, wheels and colour dials.
Style-X launched the Ford Ranger M Sport conversion at the expo, right out the front of the Ironman 4x4 stand.
Andreas says he will be launching the Ford Ranger kit in South Africa this summer before it will come to Australia, and they make it available worldwide.
Next, we stopped by the TJM stall to chat to Gernot Tonauer (general manager), Marko Lindheimer (senior executive manager) and Rosmarie Reiss (project manager for off-road components).
Gernot said they were very happy to be the European distributors for TJM and have been developing the business since 2012, and are continuing to build it by seeking retailers for TJM products throughout Europe.
Similar to Ironman 4x4, they are also busy securing approval to sell the full range of TJM products; so far only a handful of products have not met the specific requirements.
European regulations are very different to those in Australia when it comes to bullbars – well, you don’t have kangaroos hopping around the roundabout at the Champs-Elysees.
Gernout highlighted that TJM awnings and roof-top tents are becoming extremely popular across Europe. Other products doing well include space cases, compressors and recovery gear.
Terrain Tamer was represented and had a great selection of Toyotas at their stand, including an FJ45, the BJ40 Series, and the more recent Land Cruisers. The life-sized cardboard cutouts of Allan Gray scattered around the place were also hard to miss.
Terrain Tamer is well established in Europe, having been in Germany since 2008. Retailing under the famous Tom’s Fahrzeugtechnik brand, Terrain Tamer products are also distributed to the Balkan countries and its best-selling products are the gearbox/rebuild kits.
The Australian-designed 3DOG camper trailer and roof-top tents stand also attracted droves of visitors. 3DOG’s marketing manager, Eric, told me 3DOG campers are now also being produced in Hamburg, using the same high-quality materials as those of its sister company in Australia.
Other products on display included the Oztent range of camping gear stocked by European distributors.
THE general feeling among the distributors was that the Australian products entering the European market are well-received, as they have been tested in some of the harshest conditions in the world. Show organiser Thomas Schmidt reckons that three to four per cent of the total 55,000 visitors were Australian, and that there have been increases both in the number of Australian-made products exhibiting at the show and Aussie visitors attending.
The 2017 Abenteuer & Allrad 4WD Expo will take place June 15-18. We reckon all keen tourers, four-wheel drivers and campers should make the pilgrimage to this huge festival at least once in their lifetime. If you do plan to attend, make sure you get in early and stay in the designated campsite!