Swift - after 50 years still ahead
Swift is the largest in Britain and one of the world's largest manufacturers of caravans, motorhomes and recently even cottages. Although the history of the brand started 50 years ago, son of the founder till these days remains the president of the company.
The history began in 1964, in the city of Hull in the eastern part of the United Kingdom, on the banks of the River Humber. It was where Ken Smith and Ken Day jointly built a caravan, which became a nucleus of the company. They called the caravan The Ten. They managed to sell it for 289 pounds.
Not much later, the partners said goodbye to each other, and Smith and his wife became the sole owners of the little manufacturing plant. Who would have thought that Swift will become the empire, and that its products will be exported to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Germany and New Zealand? And so it is today - Swift has 900 employees and an annual sales of 200 million pounds.
In the 60’s of the 20th century nothing indicated that the company will achieve success. Anyway, the history of the brand lacks of spectacular events. The best position in the UK was developed through constant organic growth, wise management, as well as the successful acquisition of other companies related to the caravanning industry. Today, Swift is a group that associates many brands, once independent and competing with each other.
Three windows to the world
In 1966, Swift had been employing 8 people, who manufactured models Clubman, Valken and successful Alouette and Silhouette caravans. Soon, the number of employees increased to 30, and then to 50. There were also the first orders from abroad - from West Germany and Denmark.
An important thing for Swift happened within the years of 1968-1969, along with the introduction of model Rapide, with a characteristic, triple window in the front of the caravan. Large, glass surfaces quickly appealed to customers. It was such a success that this solution still constitutes to be the Swift’s flagship.
Expansion in the UK
In the late '60s, Swift had been already producing about 400 caravans per year, and the areas occupied by factory halls gradually expanded. Eventually, they had to look for a new place. It was found in a close proximity to the former factory - in the district of Cottingham, in Hull city. Both factories are about 15 minutes drive from each other. The new place had a production center covering an area of 15,000 square feet, which is about 4,5 square km.
In 1971, when the dealer network had grown to 30 outlets, was also created Swift Owners Club, formed by 40 owners of caravans, who were also big fans of the brand. Note that only a few companies can boast of fans that are associating in clubs - the lucky ones may include Harley Davidson and Swift.
Death is not the end
1972 brought an end to an important era for Swift. The day after a very successful caravanning fair, the founder of the company suddenly died. Then, the company passed into the hands of his wife and son. The son - Peter Smith - remains the president of the company till today.
Death of the founder didn’t delay the company’s development. An interesting thing is that Swift’s caravans began to participate in the British Caravan Road Rally - the car racing involving caravans.
In 1976, the brand found a place in its offer for a then-luxurious caravan Corniche. Among other things, it was this caravan that helped to increase the production to 1,500 vehicles per year. The employment in the factory has grown to 140 people.
Romance with computers
In the '80s, the company began to approach the construction of caravans more scientifically, by conducting tests in a wind tunnel, road tests, as well as starting to design using a computer. One of the first effects of the new approach was the creation of the world's first caravan equipped with a roof spoiler.
It is worth noting that already in the years 1984-1985 Swift began to use GRP in his caravans – that is glass fiber reinforced plastic. This became a milestone not only for the brand, but for caravanning in general. At the same time, Swift began to create motorhomes based on vans. Models Kon -Tiki reached the biggest popularity in the UK and, which was a bit surprising, in Scandinavia.
In the years 1986-1988 - new Corniche set new standards in the industry, becoming the first caravan constructed of one-piece GRP profiles (front and rear part, as well as roof were made of a single piece).
Biaxial Challenger, equipped with heating fans, and optionally in air conditioning appeared at the end of the 80’s. Then, such caravan was the epitome of luxury.
Swift is also a takeover of other companies. In 1989 Swift purchased Cotswold Coachcraft company, in 1992 - Abbey, and in the second half of '90 - Bessacarr. Swift had been constantly buying something anyway, thus combining its own experience with others.
Swift became number one in the UK in 1995. It’s worth mentioning that this success is due to a fairly standard and quite affordable motorhomes Sundance, based on Fiat Ducato.
Always two steps ahead
10 years later, Swift spent 8 million pounds to open a modern factory covering an area of 11 square km. Further investments enabled to create new caravans made of polyurethane – a very durable and water resistant material. Currently, all Swift caravans have a structure defined by the manufacturer as SMART HT.
Today, a real differentiator of Swift caravans is also a third category of insulation, which means that these vehicles are safe to use even when the outside temperature reaches -15 degrees.
The company still remains committed to the use of the triple window. And even a quadruple, because since 2011 Swift caravans are equipped in a characteristic sunroof connecting the front wall with the roof. Thanks to this, the caravan of the British brand could be hardly confused with any other.
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