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Airstream’s Wheeler: Dealers Key to Success

Posted By RVBusiness On May 20, 2014 @ 11:31 am In Breaking News | No Comments

001Serving as the centerpiece for his address at the May 14-16 Airstream Inc. Dealer Meeting, President and CEO Bob Wheeler applauded the company’s impressive sales growth in the past year while linking that success to the efforts – and loyalty – of its retail partners.

“This is a very select group. We’re very careful about who we choose to partner with,” Wheeler said during the gathering at the Embassy Suites North Charleston Airport/Hotel & Convention Center in Charleston, S.C. “The statement that really drives our business is ‘our success starts with yours.’ It’s not the other way around. There are many companies in this industry, and others, that have gotten that equation backwards.”

Wheeler noted that Airstream’s dealer base was again growing following the attrition that thinned the ranks during the heart of the recession. 

“Slowly, we’ve been building our dealer base since the recession,” he said. “I mean we really got hammered. We lost some great dealers, many of whom didn’t come back. It’s a regret that I have and it’s a shame. That said, we’ve added some fantastic dealerships in great points on the map, again very selectively.”

He added, “We have a commitment not to ‘over-dealer.’ We give strong territories and we will maintain the commitment in the future.”

That commitment paid strong dividends during the past year, as Wheeler reported that the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary’s wholesale shipments increased 64% while retail sales grew 41%.

“With your help, it was another fantastic year,” he said. “It’s been a phenomenal run, well beyond what the market has done. We’ve really been able to outstrip the market with your help. Again, you’re the critical link in this chain.”

Other highlights from Wheeler’s address:

Facilities expansion: “If you haven’t been to Jackson Center (Ohio) in a while, you’re going to see some big changes, including a major renovation of our motorhome facility,” Wheeler said. “The expansion will double Airstream’s production capability for motorhomes and we think we’ll need every bit of that in the next year, year and a half.” The company is also planning a major expansion for its travel trailer plant that will add about 30% more production space. Wheeler said there is also additional office space planned.  

Workforce Strength: “We got down to 181 people five years ago,” Wheeler said. “We’re very proud to say that we’re up to 458 employees, the highest level of employment this company has ever seen.” He also emphasized the number of long-term workers, noting, “We’ve got employees working at our company longer than any other RV company has been in business currently, which is pretty remarkable.”

Partnerships Grow Brand: “We are getting more and more companies calling to ask about partnerships,” Wheeler stated. “We say no a lot more than we say yes, but it’s interesting how when your brand is hot, the phone just continues to ring.” Wheeler said the company’s product was being featured in ads by a wide scope of high-profile companies looking to leverage Airstream’s brand recognition with consumers. “They want to use our product for their purposes because they know our brand is hot,” he said. “We use their marketing power to help get our message out and drive people to your dealerships.” 

Global Presence: Wheeler said that Airstream had dealers represented in the U.K., Germany, Japan, China, Australia, South Korea and Italy while recently gaining a presence in Norway and Thailand. “We’ve got longer-term opportunities as well that we’ll pursue at some point, once it makes sense,” Wheeler said. “Again this is a global brand. There’s as much passion and desire for Airstream in many of those countries that I mentioned as there is here in the U.S.  It’s one of the great pleasures to talk to somebody that may not speak your language, but they’ve got their Airstream tee-shirt on. It’s a lot of fun to know that we cut across these cultures.” 

Airstream Vice President of Marketing Mollie Hansen and Vice President of Sales Justin Humphreys also presented during the meeting along with Thor Industries Inc. President and CEO Bob Martin, RVDA President Phil Ingrassia and RVIA Vice President of Communications and Marketing James Ashurst.  

In addition, Airstream recognized its top dealers, including:

Travel Trailer- Top 10

 COLONIAL AIRSTREAM – LAKEWOOD, N.J.

 BAY AREA AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES – FAIRFIELD, CALIF.

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST – GLADSTONE, ORE.

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST – COVINGTON, CALIF.

 AIRSTREAM LOS ANGELES  - SAN GABRIEL, CALIF.

 CAMPER CLINIC II – BUDA, TEXAS

 WINDISH RV – LAKEWOOD, COLO.

 AIRSTREAM ORANGE COUNTY – WESTMINSTER, CALIF.

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST- NAMPA, CALIF.

 TOSCANO RV – LOS BANOS, CALIF.

 #1 Travel Trailer Dealer- Canada

 CAN-AM TRAILERS- LONDON, ONTARIO

 Touring Coaches

 COLONIAL AIRSTREAM – LAKEWOOD, N.J.

 CAMPER CLINIC II – BUDA, TEXAS

 NORTH TRAIL RV  - FORT MYERS, FLA.

 VOGT RV – FORT WORTH, TEXAS

 BAY AREA AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES – FAIRFIELD, CALIF.

 SCHUMACHER – PHOENIX, ARIZ.

 ARBOGAST RV – TROY, OHIO

 AIRSTREAM LOS ANGELES  - SAN GABRIEL, CALIF.

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST – GLADSTONE, ORE.

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST – COVINGTON, CALIF.

 AIRSTREAM ORANGE COUNTY – WESTMINSTER, CALIF.

 #1 Touring Coach Dealer- Canada

 MIDTOWN RV- PENTICTION, ONTARIO

 #1 Dealer All Products- Single Location

 COLONIAL AIRSTREAM- LAKEWOOD, N.J.

 #1 Dealer Group All Products

 AIRSTREAM ADVENTURES NORTHWEST

 #1 International Dealer

 AIRSTREAM & COMPANY- CUMBRIA, U.K.

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