Jucy vans instant attention-grabber

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2012

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Jucy chief executive Tim Alpe has officially begun "jucyfying" the United States and said the Kiwi business phenomenon had drawn immediate attention from local law enforcement.

Kiwi start-up business Jucy, with its distinctive green-and-purple rental campervans, has started invading America's Pacific Coast Highway in a process company founder Alpe previously coined as "jucyfying".

But Alpe said a recent "directors' road trip" from Los Angeles to San Francisco had resulted in a Jucy staff member being pulled over by police to investigate what kind of contraption they were driving.

Alpe said it was the company's priority to grab attention, and though Jucy had only eight campervans in the US, that number would climb to 100 by the beginning of June. In addition to the two coastal Californian cities, the company also had a base in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jucy already has significant campervan rental operations in New Zealand and Australia based on a compact, four-berth interior design built from fibreglass, and a sassy brand led by mascot Jucy Lucy.

Alpe, named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, said the company went into Australia with 100 vans in 2010 and now had over 450.

The group manufactures the fibreglass interiors at its Jucy by Design factory in Helensville, then ships them to Los Angeles, where they are fitted to vehicles in-market. The process meant the factory could now run year-round, Alpe said.

Apollo, a close partner of Jucy's with an existing presence in the US, was also helping Jucy with its back-end operations.

"It's never really been done in the United States in a rental programme – having a smaller, compact, four-berth vehicle. Everything tends to be the large RV-type vehicles," Alpe said.

"We have done a bit of research, but we're probably not the best company in the world in terms of research; we tend to hit the ground running and get our market research that way.

"The goal is really to get ourselves operational and, if it takes off, to have the ability to really ramp up our manufacturing."

He said a half-million dollar prize from the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge last year had enabled the company to move more quickly into the US market and try to nail its niche.

Jucy was also relying on the same European wholesale travel contacts that had enabled its Southern Hemisphere markets to grow.

For instance, German travel wholesalers sent at least ten times as many target market tourists to America's West Coast as they did to New Zealand, Alpe said.

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Americans, Australians and Kiwis were also filling out Jucy USA's forward booking roster.

Other American destinations such as Arizona or Southern California could be next in line for "jucyfying", but at the moment it was a case of "suck it and see how it goes at the moment".

- BusinessDay

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