Journalist Andrew Ditton meets two of Adria’s key players: Mr. Matjaž Grm (Executive sales and marketing director) and Mr. Anton Kastrevc (Executive research and development director).
In a world where one leisure vehicle can look almost the same as every other, the Adria portfolio stands out thanks to its unique design, elegant style, and superior quality. Renowned journalist Andrew Ditton travels to Slovenia from the UK to meet two of the key players in Adria’s Product Development and Innovation: Mr. Matjaž Grm (Executive Director for Product, Sales, and Marketing) and Mr. Anton Kastrevc (Executive Director for Research and Development).
To the casual observer, Adria breaks all the rules. One thing I can never quite wrap my head around is that its products are massively popular and the brand is respected across the world, yet Adria is anything but ‘mainstream’. Few companies can match Adria’s flair for design, quality, and innovation.
How does Adria get it so right, year on year?
Matjaž Grm is a man simply bursting with enthusiasm; he is infused with the Adria DNA. He explains: ‘In many industries, Product, Sales, and Marketing are all separate. Here at Adria, we bring them all together into one department.’
Why is that a good thing?
‘In a word - communication,’ continues Matjaž. ‘Adria has a wonderful network of importers and dealers, and they enjoy close relationships with the people who buy our products. By including ‘product’ in our sales and marketing team, it means we can bond with our consumers, combining their invaluable feedback and input with cutting edge market trends and innovation.’
Keeping his feet firmly on the ground is Head of R&D, Anton Kastrevc. He agrees that communication and feedback are crucial in the processes of research and design. However, innovation doesn’t stop there.
‘Nobody asked for a panoramic window in a van such as the Twin,’ comments Anton. ‘Yet now we’ve introduced it, it’s been incredibly popular.’
Ideas and innovations such as this are popped into an ‘incubator’ for anything from a few days to a few years, to allow exhaustive tests to be performed, and extensive research to be carried out.When not innovating at Adria HQ or chatting to people at trade fairs and dealer meetings, Matjaž and Anton are both away on holiday with their families trying out the latest Adria innovations in the real world. ‘I will always take something from the ‘incubator’ away with me on holiday to see if it works,’ says Anton with a smile.Once an innovation has been rolled out, how does Adria introduce it to the marketplace? After all, a dealer will only commit to something that he or she knows will sell, but that strategy only works by looking backwards. How does Adria prevent stagnation and keep the industry moving forward?
‘We have to earn the trust of our dealers and of our customers,’ comments Matjaž. ‘We earn that trust through maintaining Adria’s core values of quality, design, and innovation. If our dealers and our customers trust us, they will try something new.’
‘Quality is part of our culture,’ agrees Anton. ‘Adria developed from the automotive industry, not from carpentry, so quality is in our DNA. We measure quality relentlessly at every stage of every process.’
‘We also use our knowledge of diverse markets to our advantage, too,’ Anton continues. ‘For example, our products need to withstand temperatures down to -40 degrees centigrade in Scandinavia, and +40 degrees in Australia. That breadth of experience and depth of knowledge allows us to develop very tough products.’
‘As well as this strength and durability, it is crucial to us that we maintain a bright, open, inviting living area with stacks of feel-good factor that will appeal to a worldwide audience,’ says Matjaž.
To ensure continued success, Adria relaunched the competitively priced ‘Sun Living’ brand three years ago. Says Matjaž: ‘We are encouraging new consumers into the market by offering quality and style at an appealing price point. One of the key qualities of Sun Living is its simplicity. Rather than bamboozle people with complicated systems, we make the vehicles as simple, bright, and easy-to-operate as possible.’ It’s a strategy that is obviously working, as the Sun Living Brand has tripled in size since its relaunch.
Could all this growth be a dangerous thing? Is Adria able to maintain its core values while maintaining growth?
‘We don’t want to let things get too complex even as the company continues to grow. Simplicity and transparency are key.’ affirms Matjaž.
How does the company continue to innovate?
‘Our Geographical location here in Slovenia also contributes to our culture’ adds Matjaz. ‘It’s often said that we have German discipline, Italian Creativity, and Balkan flexibility.’
‘We have amazing people working for us’ says Anton. ‘In Adria, there is a creative restlessness. It is relentless. Our people live, eat, sleep, and breathe Adria.’
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? - WE ASKED MATJAŽ AND ANTON WHAT THE FUTURE MAY HOLD FOR THE LEISURE VEHICLE BUSINESS. THEY IDENTIFIED TWO OF SEVERAL MAJOR TRENDS AFFECTING THE INDUSTRY.
Matjaž Grm: “The digitalization trends in the car business and in daily life are big drivers of change. With our new Adria MACH application, you can have control of your Sonic, Alpina or new Astella in your phone or tablet. Really convenient and easy, it also helps you plan your journeys and future possibilities are endless”.
Anton Kastrevc: “Everyone in the leisure vehicle business is monitoring the auto makers and scenario planning what will happen to the driving force of all vehicles – the energy source – and when these changes become game changing. Adria is no different and certainly the future, not today but in the medium term, will see exciting new possibilities in this area”.