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Airstream Extends Presence in Foreign Markets

Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler

While his company’s domestic business is in a strong growth mode, Airstream Inc. President and CEO Bob Wheeler has been racking up a lot of frequent flier miles lately with trips to Germany, Australia and China.

”We’ve had an international focus over the last 12 months,” Wheeler said. ”We put a lot of resources growing our international business. (While traveling) I met with a number of current and potential partners and suppliers.”

The result of Wheeler’s hopscotching the globe was that two new Airstream dealerships were signed on in Bejing, China, and he was present for the grand opening of Airstream’s first dealership in Sydney, Australia.

Wheeler also participated in accepting the ”Best Interior Design Award” at Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf, Germany, presented to Italian cabinet manufacturer Technoform, which designed a concept Airstream travel trailer with a marine-style interior.

”It’s extremely yachtlike — sleek with beautiful attention to detail. It’s as unlike an RV as you can imagine,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler reported that an 8 1/2-foot wide version — the European version is 7 1/2-feet wide — will be on display at the National RV Trade Show Nov. 27-30 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville, Ky.

”Our plan is to build a prototype just like it and display it at Louisville,” Wheeler said. ”If dealers like it, it will represent a whole new model line.”

Airstream’s entry into China and Australia has been thoughtfully planned, although the Thor Industries Inc. division has had inquiries from dealers in South Africa, Thailand, Russia, Chile and Brazil.

”We’ve had interest trickle in from various markets for years,” Wheeler said. ”We finally decided to put together a strategy around China and Australia. But we need to get off the ground there before we take on too much more.”

Those foreign-bound units, with some essential adaptions, will be built in Ohio and sent overseas by boat for a shipping cost of $7,000 to $9,000 each.

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