By Russ and Tiña De Maris
An Australian RV manufacturer, Gidget Retro Teardrop Campers Pty Ltd. has left its customers in the United States and Australia holding the bag for more than 1.2 million U.S. dollars. The company has announced it has placed itself under “Voluntary Administration,” roughly equivalent to a bankruptcy proceeding.
The company produced a modern remake of the 1960’s style teardrop camper on a made-to-order basis to customers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. A slick internet site touted a classic unit “Designed to be everything you need to hit the road for a weekend or an extended vacation. Every model is self-sufficient, environmentally friendly, lightweight and aerodynamic, economical on fuel and easily towed by a standard car – yet built robust to stand up to rugged Australian conditions.”
While it was last week when Gidget’s management took the legal action, some would-be customers could tell you things were not looking good much earlier than that. ABC News Australia reported on one customer who ordered a new Gidget in 2015. In early 2017 the company contacted him to tout an upgraded model – for which he plunked down an additional $10,000 deposit. He spent money to upgrade his car to pull his new teardrop – but it never arrived, and now he’s out all his money.
That customer is not alone: Company records indicate nearly 90 customers in both Australia and the U.S. have not received their RVs, nor have they received a cent back of their deposits of over a million U.S. dollars. Altogether, Gidget indicates it owes some $2.8 million (U.S.) to customers and investors. Evidently the investors spotted the warning signs and pulled out, prompting the Voluntary Administration filing.
This week, a banner floats across Gidget’s U.S. website that reads: “We are devastated to report that we have received official notice that Gidget Retro Teardrop Campers Pty Ltd (Australia) is under Voluntary Administration. We are a separate company that handles imports and sales for North America and do not have any involvement in production. Therefore until we receive further notice all operations have been suspended. We will not be responding to phone calls or emails as we do not have any further information to share. We will update this notice as we learn more. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time.”
It’s apparent that company managers knew trouble was brewing long before customers were left out in the rain. According to documents filed with the Australian government that oversees securities and investments, Gidget’s management had hired a consultant in mid-2016. For what? To inquire about “general insolvency options and risks for insolvent trading”.
Just how many potential customers were soaked for deposits on undelivered teardrop campers after that time isn’t clear, but the Australian government has charged a company director with 11 counts of “accepting payment and failure to supply.”
Where does all of this leave those who’ve put down what appears to be fairly hefty deposits – on average more than $13,000 each? Under Australia law, going into Voluntary Administration can lead to different outcomes. An external administrator has been appointed by Gidget. Their job is to find out whether there’s anything that can be done to prevent the company from folding up completely, or if an arrangement can be made with creditors to manage the company assets to give better returns to those creditors. A representative of the external administrator says he’s hopeful that the company will be able to be sold as a “going concern.”
Meanwhile, ABC News Australia reports the company posted this comment on its Facebook page, presumably speaking to those who had put down deposits on rigs that they never received: “If you are persistent you will get it. If you are consistent you will receive it.” This maxim produced a response concerning the company, “Persistent in getting full payments an [sic] consistent in keeping it”.