At Airstream Inc., rivets symbolize a certain way of doing things.
As reported by the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, each travel trailer made at the Shelby County plant has hundreds of the metal fasteners, installed one at a time across the bullet-shaped exterior.
The handmade tradition is part of a look and feel that have made Airstream a unique brand in the recreational-vehicle industry, one that can command a premium price and maintain a devoted customer base. And, after tough times during the economic downturn, the brand had record sales last year.
Founded in California in 1931, Airstream moved to the rural village of Jackson Center in 1952 and has been there since. It has about 340 employees.
Almost everything in the trailer is made at the factory, including the furniture, bathroom fixtures and flooring. In a typical week, the plant ships about 50 trailers.
The executive offices occupy a mezzanine that looks out on the floor. Bob Wheeler, the president and CEO, needs to take only a few steps from his desk to see the production line below.
“The brand’s power overrides any fear of imitation,” he said.
Competitors have tried to imitate aspects of the Airstream design, from the aluminum siding to the rivets, but they didn’t last, he said. Among the casualties have been the Silver Streak and Avian brands.
In this way, he thinks Airstream is similar to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, with both names having dedicated and demanding fans.
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