The wild and the wacky at the 2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon | CAR Magazine

The wild and the wacky at the 2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon

Published: 30 August 2023 Updated: 30 August 2023

► Flying visit to 2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon
► Biggest camper van show in the world
► From the latest EVs to extreme off-roaders

As an add-on for the Volkswagen California Concept launch event, we were able to spend a few hours at the 2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon – by attendance the largest camper van, motorhome and recreational vehicle (RV) show in the world.

From tiny retro caravans to enormous off-road trucks, it was eye-opening, to say the least. Here are the 10 things that caught our attention the most.

1) The mid-size camper van market is hotting up

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - VW California Concept debut

A bit of useful consumer advice to start things off (don’t worry, we’ll get to the wild stuff in a moment). The Covid pandemic caused a huge surge in camper van sales – in the region of 45% – and there seems to be signs of this slackening off. As a result, we’re now much more aware of camping options from other carmakers besides the Volkswagen California. So alongside the new VW California Concept there were a lot of other mid-size campers to look at.

Ford, for example, used the Dusseldorf show to launch its brand-new Transit Custom Nugget, which features a hot water shower system and seating for five people. On a nearby stand, a revised version of the Mercedes-Benz V-Class Marco Polo also made its public debut – notable for the introduction of self-levelling air suspension, a sleep-easing trick usually the reserve of much larger and more expensive motorhomes.

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Ford Transit Custom Nugget camper van debut

Elsewhere Nissan- and Renault-based models also made their presence felt in this category as well as the one below, where the latest Kangoo campers compete against the VW Caddy California and upgrades available for the Mercedes Citan. The larger camper class remains dominated by the Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer family, though Mercedes, Ford and MAN are making in-roads here, too.

2) You can already go camping in an ID. Buzz

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - VW ID. Buzz with camping box

Volkswagen will bring an ID. California to market based on the ID. Buzz electric MPV in the next couple of years. But it seems there are plenty of people who aren’t prepared to wait that long, as in addition to the Love Campers ID. Buzz we’ve already tested there were several conversions on display already at various levels of commitment.

VW itself offers a camping box that slides into the boot of the ID. Buzz without any further modification, complete with kitchen facilities and mattress that goes over the back of the folded seats. Other firms had fully converted examples, however, some of which topped £100k.

3) If you’re worried about Armageddon, start with a big truck

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Bimobile Iveco off-road RV, front

Ordinary camper van not enough for your survivalist instincts? Then you want one of these incredibly massive off-road machines based on all-terrain truck chassis, Unimogs, and more. The biggest of them require ladders akin to aircraft steps to access and look like they could run down an insurrection while offering private jet levels of luxury comfort.

All of which begs the question: where are people going when they buy one of these? Whatever the location, you need in the region of half a million quid to get moving. And probably about the same to top up the tank.

There are more pictures of these in the gallery at the top of the page.

4) The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a master of disguise

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Kabe Travel Master Imperial i860 LQB front

Most motorhomes are based on large vans – and the Mercedes Sprinter is hardly the only choice for conversion; the sector is traditionally dominated by the Fiat Ducato, but as buyers demand more features so more modern large vans have grown in popularity.

As such, Mercedes had four different aftermarket Sprinter conversions on its stand from kitted out 4×4 vans that were instantly recognisable to this ‘fully integrated’ triple-axle Travel Master Imperial i860 LQB from Swedish company Kabe, which doesn’t look like a van at all.

Yours for around £200,000.

5) ‘Premium’ motorhomes need a more impressive word

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - premium RV with Mazda MX-5 in garage

Like most modern motorshows, the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon is spread across several halls, one of which is dedicated to ‘Premium’ vehicles. This is rather underselling them a bit – the free copies of Land Yacht magazine available throughout the exhibition space get rather more to the point.

Most of these are huge luxury RVs akin to National Express coaches or rebodied lorries in size. Obviously not practical for nipping out to the shops once you’re at your destination, many incorporate space in the back – or underneath – for a car.

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - premium RV with bubble car

Popular options include Smart ForTwos but manufacturers will find you room for an MX-5 or even a classic Corvette if you want it.

6) If you really want to go camping in a modern Citroen H Van, you can

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Citroen Type Holiday camper van with people

This ‘Type H’ bodykit for the Citroen SpaceTourer MPV has been around for a few years, but this is the first time we’ve seen it as a camper van, which Citroen has dubbed the Type Holiday.

It’s a bit plastic fantastic to us, but we’re sure there are plenty of potential buyers out there to appreciate its retro charms. It will apparently be available across the Citroen network soon.

7) Going camping with a pickup truck is probably noisy

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Ford Ranger pickup with roof tent

Plenty of camping options if you want a pickup instead of a van, with the current popularity for roof tents finding a sturdy ally among this category of lifestyle vehicle. The latest Ford Ranger ably demonstrated this, though the equivalent VW Amarok that was supposed to appear somehow hasn’t made it to the show.

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Ford Ranger pickup with camper back, side view

If a tent doesn’t seem weather-resistant enough to you, you could always go for a camper back that either replaces or slots into the load bed. Whether tent or miniature mobile home, you might want to pack some earplugs – the gaps and general lack of streamlining suggest there’s going to be plenty of wind noise when you’re driving around with one of these.

8) The greatest pickup currently on sale is an Iveco van

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Iveco Daily 4x4 Tigrotto retro pickup, front

Iveco couldn’t resist turning up with its Daily 4×4 Tigrotto demo vehicle – which is a pickup truck rather than a camper van or mobile home. We’ve covered this retro-spectacular 7.2t beast previously, but the detailing is even better in the metal, not to mention huge.

Available as a chassis cab, we suppose you could use it for the basis of a camper van conversion, too.

9) Caravans aren’t dead – they’re just getting weirder?

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Jaggervan caravans and camping trailers

There were halls and halls of tow-your-own caravans at the IAA, with some manufacturers putting on the kind of plush presence we’ve come to expect from the more premium carmakers – which just goes to show how much money is involved in the caravanning industry.

But scattered around the edges were a number of brands with anything but conventional beige boxes. Jaggervan and Camppass, for example, seem to favour a sort of post-apocalyptic chic, with lots of sharp angles, rivets and raised suspension. Eriba, on the other hand, specialise in compact, retro-looking caravans in bright two-tone colours.

10) People really do want to buy roof tents for Porsches

2023 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon - Porsche 911 with roof tent

And other cars, it seems, as there were plenty on display. Porsche even does its own roof tent these days, but we can’t help thinking that the £6000 it costs would pay for a lot of hotels.

The 2023 Dusseldorf caravan show is on until 3 September, and you can get tickets online via the official Caravan Salon website. We’d have mentioned it’s only a short hop away on a aeroplane, but we all know how well air travel is going this week.

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first