About KEA > The KEA story
The Story of KEA Campers
Fifteen years ago, KEA Campers was an idea shared over a beer. Today, it’s a multinational tourism operation with more than 1,200 luxury campervans and motorhomes across Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa.
It all began in 1995 when builder Grant Brady met Michael Becker, who had moved to Auckland from Hamburg, Germany, through their children’s playcentre. Michael realized that the campervans and motorhomes available in New Zealand at the time did not appeal to the sophisticated German tourist market, and Grant was able to design and build a product that would. It soon became apparent that their vision of a superior product and excellent service would set the standard for upmarket campervan travel in New Zealand and beyond.
Grant and Ros Brady, Michael Becker and Barbara Hampe thus became the founding partners of KEA Campers, named after New Zealand’s cheeky South Island alpine parrot. KEA was very much a family business, with members of both families organizing staff, making curtains, doing the accounting and washing – and even building – the vehicles.
KEA’s market-leading innovation was quickly apparent with the introduction of the first 2-berth shower and toilet camper in a high-roof transit. European clients loved the vehicle and it started a long tradition of KEA delivering outstanding, unique and industry-leading products.
The challenge of running a rental operation from the vehicle manufacturing facility was solved in 1998, when KEA established a separate campervan construction company, KEA Manufacturing Company (KMC). This allowed KEA the flexibility to rapidly introduce new features across the fleet, enabling industry leadership in vehicle innovation and design, and allowing it to become the first company to provide well-designed and well-built rental campervans with all the features of a retail model.
An unreliable supply chain and KEA’s own high expectations led to further expansion in 2000, with the design and manufacture of 4-berth motorhomes. These vehicles had many new and innovative features that led KEA to become the new market leader in 4-berth design. Since then, KEA’s original motorhome has morphed into a vehicle that offers both six and four berth options for the rental market, whilst incorporating every feature and multiple configuration that the eventual retail customer expects.
The year 2000 also saw fellow directors Rudi Fuhrmann and Michael Horn join KEA to establish the brand in Australia. Rudi had been CEO of one of the largest rental operations in the southern hemisphere, and Michael had over twenty years’ experience in the Australian tourism industry. Between them they had the experience and skills to fully develop the KEA’s local and international reputation as the country’s most prestigious campervan rental operation.
The establishment of KEA Manufacturing Australia soon followed, with the company to-date having produced more than 1,000 vehicles – including 2-berth campervans, 2+2-berth flip-top campervans and the ground-breaking 4WD offroad campers – since it began in 2001.
In 2003, KEA was recognised at the New Zealand Tourism Awards with the dual honours of Innovation and Technology Award for its fleet management and booking system, and the Transportation and Services Provider award. Further NZ Tourism awards followed, with KEA becoming the only company to win the Supreme Award two years running, in 2004 and 2005. KEA also earned the coveted Distinction Award, entering the New Zealand Tourism Hall of Fame.
KEA entered the Southern African market in 2005, in partnership with one of South Africa’s largest car rental operators. KEA Campers Southern Africa has since established itself as a leading campervan, motorhome and 4WD rental operator in the region, with depots in Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa and Windhoek in Namibia.
KEA added to its long list of industry breakthroughs in 2006 when it became the first New Zealand-based campervan and motorhome manufacturer to satisfy both CER (Closer Economic Relations) and ADR (Australian Design Rules) requirements to export completed vehicles across the Tasman duty free. This has allowed KEA to expand its Australian operation more rapidly and allowed for further expansion of KMC in Auckland.
2007 saw a KEA 6 berth sitting underneath the Eiffel tower - as a feature of Tourism NZ's Rugby World Cup display in Paris. Further expansion included the opening of a retail centre in Albany offering customers a new experience in buying campervan and motorhome accessories.
KEA's support for environmental sustainability lead to the company becoming the first campervan and motorhome company in New Zealand to achieve the Qualmark EnviroGold certification - the highest level possible - in 2008, as well as continuing to be the only campervan and motorhome company to have vehicles certified as self-contained through the New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan Association.
2010 brought the grand opening of the brand new KEA Lifestyle centre - all aspects of KEA rentals, sales and manufacturing are now located at a state of the art premises in Bush Road, Albany, offering customers a one-stop, first class experience. This was a proud moment for KEA with Prime Minister John Key officially opening the premises.
KEA continues to scour the world for ideas and improvements for future models, and is currently developing new systems and ideas that will continue to ensure KEA is at the forefront of vehicle design well into the future.