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More Information from the Northland Rally


Tehnical session notes.

Sandy Dougherty very kindly recorded, in note form, some of the technical sessions and the Club meeting held at our recent rally in Waipu, Northland. They complement what has already been presented in the last two newsletters. If the detail is all a bit much for you, then don’t read on!


Dave Thomas Managing Director, Auto-trail UK.

Auto-trail is part of a large European group called Trigano 2002 that owns many motorhome brands.

Trigano recently purchased the Adria and Chausson companies and owns many other varied companies supporting the motorhome industry. It has a 1.4b Euro turnover.

Auto-tail started in Grimsby. Long ago there was an oversupply of Scandinavian wood in the area and ? started making small homes eventually becoming mobile!  ? had travelled round North America and came back wanting to make his own RV. Brought back the Indian names we have today. The company went into receivership after founder sold.

 Auto-trail has always been an innovative company and various models and styles were tried out. Buy out by Trigano meant they were able to purchase a new factory in 2002.  

Main points about the factory:

16000 sq m factory today.   U shaped production line.  Nearly everything made on site. Pushing the green envelope - harvest rainwater and use. LED lights throughout. 

Waste from the routers and other machines are chipped and burnt which heats the building.  Used to doing variations on vehicles whilst having a great deal of standardisation, products are interchanged throughout the ranges.

Body built completely away from the chassis - idea from original owner - this helped with paying the bills! Body can be built completely square, lowered onto chassis, chassis brought up to body thus keeping the body’s structure square.

Design work all done in house.  Designers control the cutting out of pieces as well.


More information about the factory and a factory tour can be watched on YouTube:


Scott Stevens - Director Sales and Marketing, Auto-trail UK

Scott gave us a run down on the 2018 models and some of the new design features. All this information is available on the Auto-trail website:


Dave Thomas answering pre-prepared questions – (these questions and his prepared answers were in my last newsletter, 2 November 2017, however a few new comments were given at the rally:


Comformatic gearbox - robotised manual not strictly speaking an automatic - vitally important that you engage the handbrake - holding the vehicle on the accelerator is like slipping the clutch. 

Door hinges etc pulling out – constantly chasing lighter weight is always the end goal. Using a balsa wood core with a harder surface finish - really only have one shot at fixing into it. Improved screw technology is being investigated.

 Solar panels – the Sargent controller in vehicles this year will be able to take 200w  panels. With more than that,  must fit own regulator

Battery charging – you can use a bigger charger to charge battery? Governed by the battery manufacturers. In danger of cooking battery if putting more in than battery designed for.

Grey water plumbing – when we fitted smell traps to sinks and showers, flow was greatly reduced. We now have removed smell traps, this is a choice in the UK but weaastes need to be plugged to prevent smell coming up pipe.

Parts supply - build vehicles for NZ specification, ADR approved water heaters, refrigeration, appliances - vehicles are supplied to Auckland Motorhomes with no warranty. AMH supplies the warranty and warranty claims for vehicles sold by them must go to them. It costs too much to ship parts back and forwards to UK - (not the Fiat Warranty) AMH keeps a core number of parts .

Water ingress in the engine department - an answer for Fiat maybe – next speaker.  The latest  X290 chassis is much improved product over previous models. Water over injectors still a problem. Please email your dealer if you're still having issues. Fiat is a listening company. Ducato is designed for motorhomes 

Vehicle overhangs - 70% allowed in NZ - 60% is max used by Auto-trail.

Vent in toilet - looking at venting this to outside of the vehicle in the future.

Reliable repair services - contact the selling dealer if you have a problem.  If you have bought from a UK dealer then have to go back to them.

Warranty – a 5 year warranty on both the chassis and motorhome body is now on all vehicles bought from AMH or Ashburton RV.    


Fiat Servicing – a talk from Kevin Schroder, General Manager After Sales Service, Andrew Simms Ltd, Auckland supported by Joao Marques, ATECO NZ Ltd, Fiat Technical Specialist.


There are two Andrew Simms Ltd facilities in Auckland - Newmarket (quite limited by space) and Botany (much larger)

If the Botany business is well supported they can purchase more equipment so they can run a better service for motorhomes.

Don't charge for loan vehicles - coffee facilities and comfortable waiting room available.

Warranty - 5 year on Ducato if bought in NZ through Auckland Motorhomes or Ashburton RV;  if purchased from UK and brought back privately they only have 2 year warranty with Fiat and whatever the UK dealer offers. There is an insurance company which insures Auto-trails for 3 more years but only in UK. From 2018 this could be a little different.


Questions and answers:

Servicing - how often? Every 12 months or 40 000 kms - what constitutes a service? As per recommended by local Fiat dealer – if vehicle not used much, oil still deteriorates.

What does a campaign mean - a safety recall or optional fix.

If a vehicle is outside campaign, can update be done?  Only if vehicle is compatible to have it done.

If a vehicle is imported privately, do owners need to register with Fiat dealer? Usually registration overseas will be enough. If vehicle is brand new needs to be registered with a dealer.

Can we take our vans to other Fiat dealers  if out of town. Yes, any Fiat dealer can be used. The Christchurch dealer has a problem with larger vehicles and will now not service large motorhomes.

Service under warranty, does it have to be done by a Fiat dealer? Preferably to claim warranty, but it is your own choice. Warranty claim may cause issues if Fiat dealer not used.


General Session and Club Meeeting


TomToms given away have European maps - David Smith going to Andrew Simms to ask questions.


Tribute owners joining our group? In the UK this same issue has occurred. Initially they said no but once the Tributes had Auto-trail badges put on they said yes. Tends to bring in younger owners and hasn’t increased their numbers by many.

About 120 tributes been sold in NZ in the last 3 years so looking at 150-ish in the country.

Thoughts from our group:

 -when combining groups often get splits and factions

-bigger membership means bigger venues that may be harder to find

-may mean we have to formalise the club

-non Auto-trailers  can use our website/forum anyway

-younger people want rallies to be on holidays

- we need to try to encourage families to join - but comment was made “set a date they will come”

 Voted on this issue - 75% agree to let them join.


 Next Rally - John Smith volunteered Tauranga. He has talked to other Tauranga motorhomers at this rally - most said they would be prepared to help.  They’re ready to start the process. 

Sandy suggested that we arrange other informal get-togethers. A  Christchurch member agreed.  Could we just put on the Facebook page that we meet on a date… Russell talked about how it is done in UK, often on each weekend.  Chris Gaelic mentioned that many members go south in the off -summer season, good timing in between the formal rally which has traditionally been in October.


Should we formalise the club? - at this stage members are happy to keep it informal.


David said it was time for a new co-ordinator.

Marion made a beautiful thank you speech to both David and Lyn. She asked that David be involved in the selection process for a new person. David acknowledged the wonderful help from Peter Robieson, Chris Gaelic, Les Gibson and Russell Lowther for keeping the ‘club glued together’.

Miles suggested that he would rather see the group get smaller than bigger. Said a bigger group would need professional management

Suggestion was made that maybe this club could be helped by a MX-5 Club member – he was keen to spend some time helping source some assistance for our group.


John Smith kindly volunteered to take over David’s role as Club leader.  David and members were most grateful.


Website - Chris Gaelic reminded us to update details - please do it yourself — once logged in, click on ‘update your details’.

Forum - search facility can be used in any subject.

Subscribe - can click on a link at the top of each subject to receive emails telling you there has been new addition

In update your details you can put 2 email addresses in if you wish 2 receive 2 newsletters.

Chris said he would put a Facebook  link in the forum for members to go straight to this page.


Facebook Group - Russell Lowther – 130 or so members - interactive and lively - does not in any way compete with or do anything contra to the forum which is a world class library of information.

Search for Auto-trail owners NZ within Facebook, not google

Has useful ideas and tips, mostly it has a social purpose.

Great if you are travelling for tips or answer to problems on the road - join a group and find out lots!


Far North Fuels 


Margaret Ware, General Manager, FNF.


Rebranding as Kiwi Fuel Cards - nothing changes for the clients. New website is launching bright yellow with a big Kiwi.

a new App is avaiable– select the one with locator on it. New app is launching with the rebranding.

BP card just for convenience- national price only, not pump price - not going to make savings except possibly in a remote location like South Westland.

Caltex card good for truck stops;  can get a list of truck stops from FNF

Mobil card - pump price is probably the best way to go except in out of the way prices. Pump price is generally the best way to go.  App show prices on the day

Fuel prices can be provided by email. Need to provide your email address to FnF and ask to be subscribed.

Allied Fuels will accept FNF cards at some places.

Waitomo – some will take some take Mobil cards and some don’t. 




There was an informal technical session in the afternoon however this session was not recorded to put in this newsletter.  Thank you Sandy for recoding all the information above. David.







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