When Jayco built its first camper trailer in 1975, caravanning was booming in Australia, but the downturn of the 1980s and early 1990s would test the company’s mettle. It would prove equal to the challenge.
More than 35,000 caravans were built in Australia in 1975. Although most RVs these days are for recreational use, in those days the mines often housed their workers in caravans, and Cyclone Tracy, which devastated Darwin at Christmas 1974, created a need for caravans as emergency housing. It was a boom time.
In 1983, Jayco built its first fixed caravan and enjoyed immediate success. In 1985, its 10th anniversary year, Jayco started building the park cabins that have since become a familiar sight around Australia. In 1988, with total industry output well below 10,000, Jayco invented the Outback camper trailer.
Looking back to 1975, Jayco was perfectly attuned to the times. The first oil crisis of 1972 had triggered the downsizing of cars in Australia. That would continue with Australia’s move to world oil parity pricing in 1978 and the second oil crisis of 1979. Big tow tugs were becoming a thing of the past: the Commodore replaced the Kingswood in 1978, and the four-cylinder Camry and Magna were the new family cars of the mid-1980s.
The timing was perfect for a lighter, more compact alternative to traditional caravans. In 1979, the first Jayco Pop Top rolled off the line in Springvale. It was followed in 1983 by the first Jayco Caravan, which was an immediate success, and the innovation continued with the first aluminium frames in 1991 and first Outback campers a few years later.
Of the factors that have influenced Australian caravanning since then, nothing has had more impact than the emergence of ‘grey nomads’ in the 1990s. An economic downturn and a shift in superannuation rules meant we suddenly saw thousands of still-young retirees with the money to hit the road in style. By 1997 Jayco had introduced the big, beautiful Westport to meet the needs of the new generation of RVers.
By then a market leader, Jayco shook things up in 2002 by combining big-van accommodation with small-van towability in the new Expanda, followed by its first motorhomes two years later. The company’s 2005 30th anniversary was celebrated with the launch of a new C Class motorhome. By this time, Jayco service was as legendary as its RVs, with a network of 37 dealers and 65 service agents.
A year later, the RV giant built its 100,000th vehicle and released the luxurious Sterling as its new towable flagship. A couple of years later came its impressive state-of-the-art complex at 1 Jayco Drive, Dandenong South. This is where all Jayco RVs are now made at the rate of one every 10 minutes.
The introduction of new ranges to its line continues: the first toy hauler (2008), the impressive 5th Wheeler (2013), luxurious Silverline and Journey Pop Top (2014), and this year’s mini wonder, the JPod.
Stay tuned. The journey continues …