Westfalia

Westfalia is the designation of various specially converted Volkswagen camper vans. It is named after Westfalia-Werke, the contractor that built the vans, which is headquartered in the town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, located in the Westphalia region of Germany.

Westfalia-Werke also converted non-Volkswagen vans, and produced trailers and other products, but they were best known for their Volkswagen camper conversions. Westfalia began converting Volkswagen buses in 1951. Their famous "pop-top" package was added later, and became very popular on the second-generation VW Bus from 1968 to 1979, its successor the Vanagon, and then the T4 EuroVan, which was discontinued in 2003. This design also inspired many imitators, with dozens of other companies worldwide offering pop-top van conversions. Therefore, not all pop-top Volkswagens are Westfalia conversions, although in the United States, the Westfalia conversion was by far the most common. Conversely, not all Volkswagen Westfalia conversions had pop-tops or cooking facilities. Volkswagen offered a "Weekender" package in the 1970s with a Westfalia interior, but no pop-top. Later, some Vanagon conversions were offered with a pop-top and interior table, but lacked cooking facilities and instead included a luggable 12 volt refrigerator.

In 1999, DaimlerChrysler purchased a 49% stake in Westfalia-Werke's van conversion division, and in 2001 absorbed the remaining 51%. Of course, since DaimlerChrysler is a Volkswagen competitor, this spelled the end of the Volkswagen-Westfalia partnership. While Volkswagen still offers pop-top camper conversions in Europe, they now do have another supplier to do the conversions. Meanwhile, Westfalia now makes high-roof — rather than pop-top — factory camper conversions for Mercedes vans, distributed in the United States by Airstream and badged as Dodge Sprinters. They also provide automotive accessories to BMW, including trailer hitches.

In 2008, a management buyout occurred and Westfalia Van Conversion is now an independent entity. It still converts some vehicles for major car manufacturers to sell through their own networks, such as the Ford Nugget, but also markets conversions through its own network of recreational vehicle dealers. These models include the Ford-based Big Nugget, Volkswagen-based Sven Hedin and the Michelangelo. The Michelangelo vehicle uses a Fiat Scudo chassis and is designed to be a major competitor to the Volkswagen California.

On January 28, 2010, Westfalia-Werke filed for bankruptcy, citing a 40 percent drop in sales. According to the filing, they would like to keep doing business while they restructure.

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