France's 'Grandpa Boom' Fuels A Surge In RV Sales

France is also seeing its baby-boomer generation reach retirement age. And many new French retirees, with the time and money to spare, are opting to take the RV route. Still, they could still have trouble down the road finding places to park.

RVs in Saumur, France
RVs in Saumur, France
Denis Fainsilber

PARISAs France's baby boomers reach retirement age, many are using their newfound free time to hit the open road – often behind the wheel of a brand-new recreational vehicle (RV). Overall, some 65,000 people, many of them early retirees, cough up the cash each year for a new or used RV.

Over the past 15 years, RV sales have risen steadily in France – from 5,000 units per year to approximately 20,000 currently. In addition, French customers buy approximately 47,000 used RVs per year. For much of that time France was the European leader when it comes to RV sales, although last year Germany reclaimed the top spot.

France saw a sales peak in 2007, when customers snatched up a record 23,600 new RVs. The market dipped quite a bit as a result of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, but is now back on the upswing. "Between January and August, sales of new vehicles rose by 5% and second-hand sales by 3%," says Caroline Nagiel, secretary general of France's Leisure Vehicles Union. Nagiel expects 2011 sales to end up in the 18,500-19,000 range, depending on how many orders are secured during this week's Leisure Vehicles Trade Show, which is being held outside of Paris.

An estimated 600,000 RVs are already travelling Europe's roads. France alone has about 230,000 such vehicles. Industry professionals are confident the market will continue to grow in the coming years thanks to the aging population of baby boomers – or "papy-boomers' (grandpa-boomers), as they've been dubbed in France.

"The market will keep growing, just like the number of seniors," says Francois Feuillet, the head of Trigano, the country's leading RV brand. Trigano accounts for 25%-30% of RV sales in France. In Europe as a whole, the company enjoys a 20% market share, ahead of rival brands Pilot and Rapido.

Most RV customers are men in their mid-50s who travel with their wives and use their RVs "intensively," according to Feuillet. On average, they take 17 trips per year and spend 77 nights in their RVs. "For them, vacation no longer means anything, because very few of our costumers still work. Those who do, tend to rent RVs rather than buy them," says Feuillet.

Deep pockets

Besides having enough free time to really take advantage of their vehicles, RV customers must also have a fair amount of money to spend. A fully equipped RV (with a kitchen, bed and bathroom) can easily run in the 50,000-euro range. "With an RV, you usually spend 23 hours a day parked, so the inside is more important than its driving qualities," says Feuillet.

RV makers, which tend to be family-owned businesses, buy the frames and engines from carmakers (Trigano buys from Fiat and Ford) and then assemble the end product in their factories. Although Trigano only has three sizes of frames, it still offers 11 different brands. Examples include Chausson, Karmann, Challenger and Autostar. "It's a bit like building individual houses," says Feuillet. "There are multiple and very different needs, that's why I keep them."

The industry is facing one major problem: not happy with seeing their public parking spaces filled with these bulky vehicles, some towns are trying to prohibit RVs from their lots. "These local decisions are illegal. The industry won several court cases against the cities of Nice, Cannes, La Baule and Arcachon," says Feuillet. In the court of popular opinion, however, the jury is still out.

Read the original article in French

Photo - udn

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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