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Airstream Ushers in ‘Golden Age’ in San Antonio

No one company may better exemplify the current upbeat state of the recreational vehicle marketplace than Airstream Inc., a high-profile Jackson Center, Ohio, RV manufacturer that presented an incredibly positive state-of-the-company report during last week’s (May 16-18) 2017 Airstream Dealer Meeting at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Employment at the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary in west-central Ohio has reached a high water mark of 800 workers – up from 269 employees only five years ago — while plans are in the works to expand production from an all-time high of 75 to 90 units a week, which explains, in part, why President & CEO Bob Wheeler is calling this the “golden age” of Airstream.

“It’s been a fantastic year,” said Wheeler in his opening remarks. “The last 12 months have been dizzying, really, the run we’ve been on – not just in the industry, but at Airstream. So, through the end of April, overall our wholesale sales were up 23% over the last 12 months. And that’s coming on years of record growth. So, it’s been a wild ride. It’s been all we can do to hold on.

“But more importantly, retails are up 28%, and that’s what we really focus on as a company. And even without Basecamp (a small innovative trailer reintroduced last year), which has provided a lot of retails in the last quarter, it’s been up 23%. So, we’re going at a clip significantly higher than the rest of the industry. That’s a real sign of good things that are happening and good things to come.”

Bob Wheeler

Accompanying that growth, said Wheeler, is the continued expansion of Airstream’s Dayton-area facilities, including a greatly enhanced R&D center that has boosted Airstream’s product development capabilities. Related to that, as attendees are well aware, two significant new products — one motorized, the other towable — were on display in San Antonio on a preview-only basis. Airstream, however, is limiting media coverage of those two models until they – along with a revised version of the Nest, a small towable that Airstream acquired last year – officially debut later this year.

The thrust of the San Antonio meetings had as much to do with marketing, sales and service programs as it did with new products – a fact underscored by the presentations of several Airstream officials including Wheeler, Vice President of Sales Justin Humphreys, Vice President of Marketing Mollie Hansen and Vice President of Product Design & Engineering McKay Featherstone.

“Look, we understand that Airstream may not be the biggest partner that you can have in your business, but we always want to be thought of as the best – whether it’s training, tools, support, marketing, service, parts and warranty, we always want to be No. 1 in terms of your OEM partners,” said Wheeler, whose opening comments were followed by those of Thor President & CEO Bob Martin, Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing James Ashurst.

 Toward that end, attendees focused on:

  • A dealer council meeting at which the retailers engaged in some “deep dialogue” about the company’s future plans and some of the things the Thor division is doing “right and wrong” today.
  • Marketing programs, including a three-year licensing agreement with Tommy Bahama that resulted in last fall’s introduction of a collaborative line of Airstream Tommy Bahama Special Edition travel trailers and Interstate touring coaches.
  • New dealer services like Airstream University, an online learning tool, and the Five Rivet Dealer Standard Program that focuses on customer experience. “We’re trying to get dealers incentivized and motivated to help improve the customer experience,” Wheeler said of the Five Rivet program first introduced last year. “That’s the driver in a way that makes them more profitable and successful, and we think that we’ve crafted a program that will do just that.”

At the same time, Airstream continues to move in the direction of more Airstream-exclusive dealerships, with 16 of its 62 dealers – and soon 18 – dedicated exclusively to the Airstream brand. “It’s a huge deal,” Wheeler told RVBUSINESS.com. “It’s been maybe the most transformative element of our business model over the last five years. It started with Airstream Adventures Northwest, car guys who have a different approach to a lot of the ways we do business, and now Don Strollo at RV One Superstores is building a stunning store in Tampa that’s going to be a premier destination. Architecturally, it’s phenomenal. So that phenomenon has driven our growth.”

During the meeting, Airstream also honored its top dealers, including:

Service Awards

Airstream of Dallas Ft. Worth – Fort Worth, Texas

Colonial Airstream – Lakewood, N.J.

Bay Area Airstream Adventures – Fairfield, Calif.

Top Parts Dealer

Airstream Adventures Northwest – Portland, Ore.

Top Touring Coach Dealers

Canada 

(Tie) Can Am RV Centre – London, Ontario

(Tie) Traveland RV – Langley, British Columbia

U.S. – Top 10

1 – Arbogast RV- Troy, Ohio

(Tie) 2 – Colonial Airstream-Lakewood, N.J.

(Tie) 2 – Airstream Adventures Northwest, Portland, Ore.

4 – Airstream Adventures Northwest – Seattle, Wash.

5 – Bay Area Airstream Adventures – Fairfield, Calif.

6 – Airstream of South Florida – Ft. Myers, Fla.

7 – Airstream Orange County – West Minster, Calif.

(Tie) 8 – Holiday World of Houston – Katy, Texas

(Tie) 8 – Windish RV – Lakewood, Colo.

(Tie) 10 – Airstream Dallas Ft. Worth – Fort Worth, Texas

(Tie) 10 – Airstream of Los Angeles – San Gabriel, Calif.

Top Travel Trailer Dealers

Canada

Can Am RV Centre-London, Ontario

US – Top 10 

1 –  Bay Area Airstream Adventures – Fairfield, Calif.

2 – Colonial Airstream – Lakewood, N.J.

3 – Airstream Adventures Northwest Portland – Gladstone, Ore.

4 – Airstream Adventures Northwest Seattle – Covington, Wash.

5 – Airstream Orange County – West Minster, Calif.

6 – Airstream of Dallas Ft. Worth – Fort Worth, Texas

(Tie) 7 – Airstream Los Angeles – San Gabriel, Calif.

(Tie) 7 –Windish RV – Lakewood, Calif.

9 – Camper Clinic II- Buda, Texas

10  – Tampa RV – Dover, Fla.

Top Basecamp Dealers

Canada

Can Am RV Centre – London, Ontario

US – Top 10

1 – Airstream Adventures Northwest Seattle – Covington, Wash.

2 –  Airstream of Dallas Ft. Worth – Fort Worth, Texas

(Tie) 3 – Colonial Airstream – Lakewood, N.J.

(Tie) 3 – Airstream Orange County – West Minster, Calif.

(Tie) 3 – Windish RV – Lakewood, Colo.

(Tie) 6 – Airstream Adventures Northwest Portland – Gladstone, Ore.

(Tie) 6 – Camper Clinic II – Buda, Texas

8 – Airstream Adventures Northwest Boise – Caldwell, Idaho

(Tie) 9 – Bay Area Airstream Adventures – Fairfield, Calif.

(Tie) 9 – Airstream of Virginia – Thornburg, Va.

(Tie) 9 – Airstream Los Angeles – San Gabriel, Calif.

Top Dealer Group

Airstream Adventures Northwest

Overall Top Dealer (Basecamp, Travel Trailers & Touring Coach)

Bay Area Airstream Adventures

Top International Dealer

Roka Airstream

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