Airstream Inc., a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc., reported continued strong growth for 2013. According to a press release, increasing demand for Airstream’s design-driven products has led to a 21-week backlog at the factory for travel trailers and the popular Interstate Class B motorhome.
Through August 2013, Airstream’s Class B Motorhome retail registrations were up 38.2%, outperforming the industry which reported 16.5% growth for the same period, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. The retail success for Interstate follows record sales in 2012, Airstream said.
During the same time frame, Airstream travel trailers have seen a 35.7% increase in retail registrations, outperforming the travel trailer industry which has seen a 15.2% increase, resulting in sharply improved market share.
“We are encouraged by the market response to our offerings. The demand for our trailers and touring coaches has never been greater,” said Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler. “The increase in retail registrations is driving our backlog for all products. This growth is great for Airstream and an excellent sign for our economy, as RV sales generally act as leading economic indicator.”
“The growth we are seeing this year is even more impressive considering the fact we have fewer travel trailer dealers than we did three years ago” said Justin Humphreys, Airstream vice president of sales. “Sales per outlet is up significantly which is a testament to the strength of the dealer network we have today.”
Airstream, based in Jackson Center, Ohio, will unveil its new 2014 Interstate at the Los Angeles Auto Show Nov. 20-21 and the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 3-5.
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.
To read the entire article click here.
Editor’s Note: The following is a review by Wired Magazine on the Christopher Deam-inspired Sterling travel trailer from Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc.
A gorgeous new trailer from Airstream Inc. features aluminum inside and out — a nod to the lightweight material that made the sleek campers an icon on American roads.
The Sterling, designed by Christopher Deam and available in 25- and 28-foot lengths, looks like any other Airstream: riveted aluminum, rounded edges.
Open the door, and that theme continues. Almost every interior surface is covered in aluminum, and this thing is nicer than every apartment we’ve ever lived in. With the exception of the violet- or mustard-colored woven carpets (which look far better than that sounds), some cushions, a porcelain toilet, and a white laminate countertop, the living space gleams like a hospital kitchen. The appliances are stainless, the sinks are stainless, and even the counters are trimmed in aluminum.
You might think that’s overkill, and Deam says it was difficult using the same material on both the exterior and interior of the trailer. That’s why he opted to use anodized aluminum and a matte finish inside.
“It would be overwhelming, too much of a good thing,” he said of an all-gloss approach. “It was a very methodical process to make it work and look right.”
To read the entire article and view additional photos click here.
Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc. has launched a new social-media driven campaign, “Live Riveted,” according to a press release. The campaign, which launches today (June 3) with a 90-second video, consumer manifesto and “live riveted challenge,” will be anchored by a new microsite, http://www.airstream.com/live-riveted/.
On the heels of Airstream’s most successful year in the company’s 82-year history, “Live Riveted” is a platform that encompasses the excitement the brand was founded upon, the release stated.
“Airstream founder Wally Byam not only created a timeless product, but he also inspired a lifestyle and dream for millions of people,” said Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler. “Wally challenged us to ‘strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit,’ and we believe the ‘Live Riveted’ campaign captures this spirit and encourages everyone, whether or not they own an Airstream, to create their own adventures.”
Features on the microsite include:
• “Live Riveted” Stories: Airstream’s editorial team will post interviews with people who embody the “Live Riveted” lifestyle. The stories will range from people who travel the U.S. in their Airstreams to celebrities using their notoriety to help change the world. Designers, collectors and enthusiasts and sports storied will be featured from a variety of the world’s most riveting past-times.
• “Live Riveted” manifesto: Based on Wally Byam’s original Airstream creed, the manifesto defines what it means to “Live Riveted” and invites everyone to sign and share it.
• “Live Riveted” TV: A video introduces the initiative. Many more videos will be posted on the microsite as the campaign rolls out.
The site is expected to evolve into a thriving community where users will share their own stories, create their own challenges and support others in their quests to “Live Riveted.”
“Every day I meet people who are doing great things in this world and are inspiring others to do more,” said Mollie Hansen, Airstream vice president of marketing. “We believe this group will motivate others to share their stories and help grow the ‘Live Riveted’ community.”
The “Live Riveted” campaign was created by Sausalito, Calif.-based Skadaddle Media, Airstream’s creative agency of record.
Airstream Inc. announced its top performing dealers based on retail units sold between May 2012 and May 2013 in the travel trailer and touring coach classes during its dealer meeting held in Reno, Nev.
According to a press release, Airstream’s overall retail sales are up 33% through April, evidence of “the strong dealer network the company has in North America.”
Colonial Airstream, based in Lakewood, N.J., claimed the top sales award for travel trailers, along with honors as “Top Dealer Overall- Single Location” and “Top Touring Coach Dealership.”
Airstream Adventures Northwest, with locations in Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Boise, Idaho, came away with the “No.1 Dealer Group” award recognizing the top dealer with multiple locations.
“This year’s sales are significantly ahead of last year’s record pace,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler. “In addition to the economy and RV industry improving, we feel well positioned for additional growth due to the outstanding Airstream dealer partners we have.”
Top 10 Airstream Dealers ranked by travel trailer retail units sold:
• Colonial Airstream – Lakewood, N.J.
• Airstream Adventures Northwest – Covington, Wash.
• Airstream Adventures Northwest – Milwaukie, Ore.
• Airstream Los Angeles- San Gabriel, Calif.
• Windish RV Center – Lakewood, Colo.
• Toscano Recreation – Los Banos, Calif.
• Camper Clinic II – Buda, Texas
• Bates RV – Dover, Fla.
• George M Sutton RV – Eugene, Ore.
• Airstream Adventures Northwest- Nampa, Idaho
Top 10 Airstream Dealers ranked by Touring Coach retail units sold:
• Colonial Airstream – Lakewood, N.J.
• Camper Clinic II – Buda, Texas
• Bates RV — Dover, Fla.
• Tied 4th – Arbogast RV, Troy, Ohio, and Vogt RV, Fort Worth, Texas
• Schumacher European Ltd – Phoenix, Ariz.
• Tied 7th- Airstream Adventures Northwest, Covington, Wash.; Crain RV, Little Rock, Ark.; Airstream of Chicago, Joliet, Ill.; Wagon Trail, Las Vegas
In addition to the recognition of the top selling dealerships, Airstream also honored dealers for service and parts excellence.
“In our experience over the years, we have found that often the best sales people a dealership can have is a competent and award winning service and parts department,” said Justin Humphreys, vice president of sales for Airstream. “Although the sales teams at a dealership certainly get the credit for the first sale, the service and parts departments regularly deliver repeat business with retail customers, ultimately make the ownership experience a great one.”
Service Excellence: Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, N.J.; Woodland Travel Center, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Top Parts Dealer: Out of Doors Mart, Colfax, N.C.
Airstream Inc.’s senior management presented a solid picture of business growth over the past year for the Jackson Center, Ohio-based division of Thor Industries Inc. during last week’s 2013 National Dealer Meeting in Reno, Nev. The company reported positive trends in terms of sales, inventories, retail turns, production hikes, dealer body growth, international sales and first-time buyer ratios along with a key new model debut on tap for later this year of the company’s highly publicized, high-end Land Yacht travel trailer.
First shown to dealers as a concept vehicle at last winter’s Louisville Show, the 28-foot Land Yacht, retailing for “just north of $140,000,” will go into production in August with most of the same interior touches originally developed by Airstream in conjunction with Italian yacht designer Mauro Micheli, best known for his work with Riva Yachts and Italian cabinet maker Technoform S.p.A.
“We’re very pleased with the results of the meeting – both the dealer council, which is more of a roundtable dialogue about a broad range of issues, and the general dealer meeting, which is an overall presentation of what’s happened in the last 12 months and what we expect to have in the next 12,” reported Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler of the May 15-17 event at Reno’s Peppermill Casino & Resort.
“We were very grateful to have our special guests – Phil Ingrassia from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and Craig Kirby from the Recreation vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) – and to hear their perspectives about the industry,” Wheeler told RVBUSINESS.com after the meeting. “All in all, I think our dealers got a lot out of it. We received many compliments about the quality of the meeting and the takeaways that the dealers had from what we presented. It was a great chance to reconnect with our dealers and to talk about different issues and maintain those partnerships that are so essential to our success.”
The meeting also included remarks from Bob Martin, president and COO of Elkhart-based Thor Industries Inc., plus presentations by Airstream’s Justin Humphreys, vice president of sales; Bruce Bannister, vice president of product development and engineering; Mollie Hansen, vice president of marketing; and Tim Garner, general manager of Touring Coaches.
Other highlights included:
• Airstream’s total dealer count is back to 78 globally – 68 in North America — for its travel trailer and Interstate Class B “Touring Coach” lines combined compared to a peak of about 90 in 2004-2006 and a recessionary low of about 50.
• Airstream’s retail turns today substantially exceed industry OEM averages, according to information provided to the company by floorplan lender GE Capital Solutions and presented at the meeting.
• Field inventories currently stand at fewer than 1,000 units, whereas, back in the benchmark years of 2006 and 2007, Airstream had almost 1,400 pieces in dealers’ showrooms. Given the current retail climate, however, Wheeler views that as a good thing. “Today, we’re under 1,000 (units) with greater velocity, greater turns, and we’re satisfied with that,” he said.
• In 2006, Wheeler noted, 18% of Airstream’s buyers were new to RVing. Today, nearly 50% of their buyers are first-time buyers.
• Corporate employment rosters today are at close to 335 workers versus 425 at the company’s modern peak and 160 in the pit of the global downturn. Airstream is currently in the process of hiring 50 to 60 people to keep pace with growing demand. “We can build more with 335 than we could with more than 400 previously because of process efficiencies that we’ve put in place,” said Wheeler. “I don’t expect to get back to 425 because we don’t need to. We can build a lot more with fewer people.”
• Among those employees, Airstream has experienced less than 1% turnover with 30% of its workers logging 20 years experience or greater.
According to Airstream management, the company has been on somewhat of a roll lately when looking at 2012’s pace of business versus 2011 as well as the first quarter of 2013. “We’ve had a fantastic run,” Wheeler told the crowd on Thursday (May 16) morning. “Overall, wholesale sales were up 21%, as were retails. So, on a year-over-year basis, it’s just been phenomenal for us. We’ve been rebuilding our dealer base very slowly and selectively. We lost a lot of really good dealers, so we’ve been very carefully and selectively adding the right dealers in the right markets.
“I think we’re approaching the (pre-recessionary) dealer count, and we’re very happy to see most of those faces here today,” said Wheeler. “By acclimating to the new normal, we’ve been able to survive and thrive and position ourselves for future growth. Today, we’re a leaner and more nimble company than we were before the recession. And, internally, we’ve made a lot quality and process improvements. We’ve really streamlined our operations to support the growth that we’ve seen and that we expect to see in the future.”
Airstream, Thor’s first acquisition back in 1980 when the late Wade Thompson and current Chairman Peter Orthwein first formed the company, also continues to expand into foreign markets like China, South Korea and Australia.
“So, why does it matter to you folks in North America?,” Wheeler asked the dealers. “Our strength globally helps make us a stronger company. It helps us offset downturns in the economy and production here in the U.S. and also helps with seasonal fluctuations. The more we can maintain our work force, the more we can maintain steady production across the year. So, we’re very proud of the fact that this little brand called Airstream from near Dayton, Ohio, has power in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Sydney. It’s a global brand and we’re just starting now to take advantage of that.”
“The future is very bright,” said Wheeler. “I’m so happy to be able to stand up here and say that the best years of this company are ahead of it, and that creates a tremendous sense of optimism among everyone who works at Airstream. I hope you get that same sense here today.”
In addition to honoring 25-year Airstream sales exec Tom Parnell upon his retirement, the following travel trailer sales volume leaders (in order) were recognized in Reno: Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, N.J.; Airstream Adventures Northwest, Covington, Wash.; Airstream Adventures Northwest, Gladstone, Ore., Airstream Los Angeles, San Gabriel, Calif.; Windish RV Center, Lakewood, Colo.; Toscano Recreation, Los Bano, Calif.; Camper Clinic II, Buda, Texas; Bates RV, Dover, Fla.; George M Sutton RV, Eugene, Ore.; Airstream Adventures Northwest, Nampa, Idaho. Touring Coach (Interstate Class B) sales leaders were Colonial Airstream; Camper Clinic II; Bates RV; Dave Arbogast RV, Troy, Ohio; Vogt Motor Home Center, Fort Worth, Texas; Schumacher European, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Airstream Adventures Northwest; Crain RV Supercenter, Little Rock, Ark.; Airstream of Chicago, Joliet, Ill.; Wagon Trail RV, Las Vegas. (There was a tie for 4th and a 4-way tie for 7th).
The “Top Service Dealerships” were Colonial Airstream and Woodland Travel Center, Grand Rapids, Mich., and the “Top Parts Dealer” was Out of Doors Mart in Colfax, N.C.
Two weeks ago in China, a country with almost no commercial campgrounds and limited cross-country highways, Shane Ott opened a third Airstream RV dealership. The Beijing dealer, Xing Liu, sold two RVs on opening weekend, according to a report in the Montana Standard.
“I think, maybe in some cases, these ultra-wealthy people are parking the RV on their property just to make their equally wealthy neighbors jealous,” said Ott, who previously worked for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and now directs international business development for Airstream Inc.
In recent years, China has been on a tear to build modern infrastructure from subways to railroads to highways.
“They may not have many miles of highways, but the ones they have are brand new,” he said.
In the first three months of this year, he has been racking up the frequent-flyer miles, trying to start RV dealerships mainly in China, Europe and Australia. In the past two years, Ott has flown to China seven times and logged an around-the-globe jaunt lasting 17 days. At the end of April, he jets off to Frankfurt, Germany; Naples, Italy; and Paris.
China is virtually commercial campground-free now, but that is changing, Ott said, and his company based in Jackson Center, Ohio, wants a cut of this future business. The mostly pull-behind trailers known for their shiny exteriors sell for an average retail price of $70,000.
Ott said sales have risen 16% since August, the start of Airstream’s fiscal year, over the same period for its previous fiscal year.
Bob Wheeler, Airstream Inc. president and CEO, has been selected to serve as co-chairman of the Go RVing Coalition, the RV industry’s national advertising and market expansion initiative. According to a press release, Wheeler joins RV dealer Tom Stinnett of Tom Stinnett Derby City RV as co-chair of the industrywide coalition, replacing Bob Olson, who retired from Winnebago Industries Inc. in 2012.
The officers of Go RVing, Inc. – Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon and Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia – released a joint statement praising Wheeler as an excellent choice to serve as co-chairman: “Bob is a proven industry leader who understands the importance of branding and strategic promotion. He brings valuable experience, insight and influence to the Go RVing Coalition, and partnered with Tom, they will make a strong team to help guide Go RVing forward as we seek to build on the growth of the past few years.”
Wheeler, 46, began his professional career as a manufacturing engineer at General Motors Co. He became president and CEO of Airstream in 2005 after serving in several other positions with Thor Industries Inc., Airstream’s parent company.
“The Go RVing program plays a vital role in our industry’s effort to raise consumer awareness about the benefits of RVing and the RV lifestyle,” said Wheeler. “I’m honored to work with the talented members of the Go RVing Coalition, who have for years helped position RVs as a fun and affordable way to build lasting memories. As we look to furthering industry growth and expansion, I’m excited to be part of the team’s move towards more creative, impactful and innovative campaign executions.”
Stinnett, who has been involved in Go RVing since it began in 1994 and has served as a co-chair since 2004, will continue to play a leadership role as a key consensus-builder among dealers and manufacturers. “With his experience with Thor and Airstream, and his passion for the RV lifestyle, Bob Wheeler will be a great addition as Go RVing co-chair,” Stinnett said. “I look forward to working with him as the 2013 ad campaign gets underway.”
Wheeler is a resident of Sidney, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, Kelly, and their three boys, Grant, Harvey and Finn.
The Go RVing campaign is widely credited for boosting the image and popularity of RV travel and helping to maintain RV awareness and demand through the recent economic downturn. The Go RVing Coalition consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers and campgrounds that work to provide the public and media with information about the benefits of RV travel and to foster satisfaction with the RV experience through its Committee on Excellence. For more information, visit www.GoRVing.com.
Airstream Inc. was named as the winner of the 2013 Readers’ Choice Award by About.com in the RV or camper category.
According to About.com’s website, the Jackson Center, Ohio-based trailer and motorhome builder rated as the readers’ top choice followed by Keystone RV Co. and Forest River Inc. Runners-up included Leisure Travel Vans, a division of Triple E RV Ltd., and Cruiser RV LLC.
Starting in mid-January, About.com began accepting reader nominations for hundreds of award categories. Based on those nominations, About.com experts chose up to five finalists per award category for readers to vote on.
To view other winners in the camping category click here.
Editor’s Note: The following is a story published by the Wall Street Journal on Airstream Inc.’s Land Yacht prototype, designed by Mauro Micheli, and the use of luxury, cutting-edge appointments in the travel trailer segment.
Mauro Micheli has earned international renown over the last two decades as a designer of multimillion-dollar superyachts. His elegant designs for the Italian Riva line have reinvigorated a brand that has catered to celebrities such as George Clooney and Sean Connery.
One of his latest projects applies his spare, modernist aesthetic and taste for luxurious materials to a more prosaic pleasure craft: the camper trailer.
The U.S. recreational vehicle industry is bouncing back after being hammered by the recession, in part due to a bump in demand for live-aboard vehicles with high-design interiors.
As in many industries, it’s the luxury end of the RV world that is driving the recovery, industry executives and analysts say. But beyond the rarefied realm of six- and seven-figure bus-like motor coaches, the high-design strategy has also begun to infiltrate the market for more moderately priced tow-along trailers. Micheli’s design for the posh, 28-foot “Land Yacht” trailer, unveiled at the end of 2012, was commissioned by Airstream, one of the oldest names in the RV business, which is aggressively repositioning its line of signature aluminum trailers to appeal to affluent, style-conscious adventurers.
The Land Yacht’s floors are covered in contrasting bands of teak and white wood, an understated pattern seen in some Riva yachts. Expanses of blond-wood cabinetry, with a bare minimum of hardware and accented by dots of LED lighting, create a spare, elegant look.
Many interior elements can be elegantly hidden away: The sink and stove can be covered by a folding counter, a two-way mirror hides the television and a table in the front of the trailer rests on a telescoping pedestal that drops down to allow for more seating or sleeping space.
Bruce Bannister, Airstream’s vice president for product development, says the Land Yacht concept grew out of discussions with dealers about a new, top-of-the line model. “References to yachts kept coming up,” he says.
Airstream won’t say if it is ready to build the new Land Yacht. But in 2011, the company started showing a prototype design for a model called the Sterling, the latest in a series of Airstreams with interiors designed by Sausalito, Calif., industrial designer and architect Christopher C. Deam, a design-industry luminary who has worked with companies such as furniture maker Herman Miller and retailers Design Within Reach and Target.
The Sterling went into production last year with bright aluminum walls on the inside (traditional Airstreams have floor-to-ceiling paneling), stainless-steel appliances and brightly colored flooring in either “Arctic Dijon” green or “obsidian violet.” Big windows in the front offer a wide view of the outdoors, a feature seen in Deam’s house designs.
To read the entire article and view photos click here.