In a completely new twist for the RV industry, former Thor Industries Inc. executive Dicky Riegel in May will launch Airstream 2 Go LLC, a company that plans to rent Airstream travel trailers hitched to GMC Yukon Denali SUV tow vehicles to retail consumers.
”Airstream 2 Go is entirely new for people who never have had the experience of an Airstream,” said Riegel, former president of Airstream Inc. and senior president of Thor, Airstream’s parent company.
Airstream 2 Go initially will make available through facilities in Las Vegas and Los Angeles a fleet of 20 Airstream International Signature travel trailers, offered in 23- and 28-foot lengths, with interiors by noted designer Christopher C. Deam.
Rates for a weeklong rental will range from $5,300 for people who just want to pick up a trailer/tow package and range up to $7,500 for a customized itinerary developed by Airstream 2 Go’s partner Off the Beaten Path, a Montana-based travel planning and outfitting company. Riegel noted that Airstream 2 Go would limit rentals to five days or longer.
”It’s a premium experience,” Riegel said. ”Many in the RV industry will say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money.’ But if you think about how unique Airstream 2 Go is, and the ability we give to visit America’s great venues in a quintessential way, we know there will be demand for the experience at the premium price point.”
Rental customers will be covered by their automobile insurance, Riegel said. ”Insurance coverage will be just like when they rent an automobile,” he said.
Riegel said Airstream 2 Go, in developing its novel business plan, surveyed 60,000 consumers about their interest in renting an Airstream and found a substantial number of positive responses.
”For all those people, Airstream 2 Go presents an exciting opportunity never offered before,” Riegel said.
Also as part of its game plan, Airstream 2 Go has an exclusive arrangement with Airstream Inc. to provide rental travel trailers to the public, which heretofore had not been available.
In California, Airstream 2 Go will offer rentals at the Airstream Los Angeles dealership in San Gabriel. In Nevada, the new company will have a 28,000-square-foot lot in a redevelopment project in downtown Las Vegas.
Riegel said Airstream 2 Go over the next three to five years expects to establish facilities in Florida, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, Illinois and New England, among other locations.
Editor’s Note: The following column is penned by Dutch Mandel, editorial director for Autoweek, chronicling his association with former Airstream and Thor Industries Inc. executive Dicky Riegel over the years and the pending launch of Airstream 2 Go – the only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the U.S.
I met Dicky Riegel about 10 years ago. I’d been wandering the halls of the annual Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) convention in Louisville, Ky., and Dicky was completely blocking the doorway of a bright and shiny Airstream trailer. I wanted in.
At 6 feet 7, Dicky blocks a lot of passages, but opens up many more. As then-president of Airstream Inc., he afforded adventurers a chance to see the world, one iconic aluminum tube at a time.
When we found out what each other did, neither of us could stop asking questions. Dicky is a car fanatic — a nut of the finest order – and from an early age, he consumed car magazines, including Autoweek, like oxygen. As I’ve an interest in design, the open road and a cool, hip life I envision leading someday with an Airstream on my bumper and miles of roads ahead, it was an ideal match. For days, stories and vodka gimlets flowed.
Over the years, I visited Dicky and right-hand-man Bob Wheeler — an unassuming engineer the ladies adore at their Jackson Center, Ohio, headquarters. We did projects together: When Autoweek competed in a human-powered Red Bull Dragster event, we promoted a righteous Airstream SkyDeck motor home. Every successful race team needs hospitality, right?
In time, Dicky moved from Airstream to parent company Thor Industries Inc. (and Bob became Airstream president, a position he still holds today). That was the beginning and the middle of this story … that gets better.
Move forward several years, and Dicky wants to do something on his own. He conjures up a brilliant plan.
Understand that the only way anyone could experience the Airstream lifestyle was if they went all in and bought one. It was a commitment to be part of a life enjoyed by many and envied by more.(Who among us, upon seeing a summer sun glint off that shiny carapace, has not breathed the sigh of a beckoning road?) Until now, there’d been no way to rent an Airstream to live this fantasy.
Dicky started Airstream 2 Go, the first and only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the States. He raised capital, bought a squadron of trailers and a fleet of GMC Yukon Denalis, and created a mobile destination getaway we all can enjoy. (Its soft launch is this month, but he’s booking clients for May already! Go to airstream2go.com to learn more.)
He’s made it simple — a concierge will plan stops, coordinate your adventure, plot your path and, of course, make reservations. Before you go, a full-blown ground school will walk you through how to care for the trailer. Or you can fly in, rent the rig and off you go. The level of engagement is customizable and fits every customer.
Have you dreamed of a roll through America’s purple mountain majesty? A 23-foot Airstream could fill your needs. A family of six can vacation to the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean in a 28-footer. Each model is fitted with air conditioning, power awning, backup camera, lawn chairs, gas grill, available bike rack, generator, bathroom with shower, kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, duvets (!) and flat-panel TV.
You could float down a river, spelunk a cave or lie on a beach, but until you’ve enjoyed the openness this country offers, you’ve not lived. Dicky, like I said, has opened up America to many, and I can’t wait for my Airstream vacation.
What is it about Airstream design that continues to engender such passion more than 80 years after the trailer first appeared? Is it the alluring, streamlined aluminum shell? The cozy interiors? The nostalgia for a simpler era?
“It’s a part of American culture that transcends time,” architect Matthew Hofmann told the Los Angeles Times. “It symbolizes style and adventure. There is something very fundamental about getting in your car and driving across country. It’s in our blood.”
Hofmann opened an Airstream hotel last month consisting of four tricked-out trailers at the Santa Barbara Auto Camp. On a recent afternoon, curious pedestrians repeatedly interrupted Hofmann and business partner Neil Dipaola to ask if they could take a peek inside the trailers. Upon entering, they found renovated interiors with hotel upgrades perfectly suited for “glamping” — mini-bars, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, air conditioning and 1,000-thread-count sheets, all for $150 per night.
According to Airstream, about 70% of all the trailers ever manufactured by the company are still in use, so it is not surprising that Hofmann, as well as other entrepreneurs, would think to use them as lodging. Singer Kate Pierson of the B-52’s opened her second vintage Airstream hotel in November.
But unlike Pierson’s playful kitschy decor (think the B-52′s “Love Shack” video), Hofmann’s Airstreams stand out for their surprising elegance. The modern updates are no different than any home remodel, he said, and he viewed his trailers from the 1950s to 1970s as floor plans for small-space living.
To read the entire article click here.
Airstream Inc. announced it has appointed new dealers in China, South Korea and Australia as part of the company’s global expansion strategy.
According to a press release, Airstream will manufacture and assemble the trailers at the company’s factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, but redesign the units to “fit the unique specifications of each country.” Once completed, the units will be shipped abroad to independent dealers in each market.
Airstream said its three new dealers in China, located in Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, will service a “burgeoning population of consumers that are discovering the RV lifestyle.” As China continues to grow its campground infrastructure, Airstream expects to be a brand in demand by both traditional RVers and collectors because of its iconic American design.
Airstream’s retail expansion into South Korea and Australia allows the brand to “tap into existing RV markets and reach outdoor adventure enthusiasts looking for a well-built RV that represents the highest of quality and design.”
Airstream is already established in the UK, continental Europe and Japan, and is evaluating interest from other markets including South America, South Africa and Russia.
“The addition of these five dealers to Airstream’s global network is a key part of the company’s long-term strategy that we anticipate will generate a new group of passionate Airstreamers abroad,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler. “Advancing Airstream’s international business with the right partners is the key to our success in foreign markets, and through the highly selective process I feel we have found great representatives in these new countries.”
In China, Airstream will operate under the name Flying Cloud by Airstream Inc., USA, and produce units no larger than 23 feet and 2.5 meters wide in accordance with regulations set by China’s department of transportation. By early 2013, each dealer across China, South Korea and Australia will have product inventory available including the Sport, Flying Cloud and International models.
Additional information on the new dealers includes:
• Shanghai, China: Ameritrade Trading Ltd. will represent Airstream in Shanghai. The dealership owner has a deep fondness for the brand, so much so that he named his son Wally after Airstream founder Wally Byam. As former president of the Harley Owners Group in Shanghai, the dealer has a unique understanding of how to market American products to the Chinese.
• Beijing, China: LanDE currently has a network of Jaguar/Land Rover dealerships and has an outstanding reputation for attention to detail and customer service in the luxury automobile sector. The Beijing retailer brings a blend of successful business background with knowledge and passion for Airstream and the lifestyle it represents.
• Xiamen, China: Smart Hero, based in the picturesque city of Xiamen, has a diversified portfolio of unique dealership businesses. They are the authorized Chinese dealer of recreational products such as Cessna aircraft, John Deere utility vehicles, and Sea Ray Yachts. The addition of Airstream travel trailers to their current lineup of these well-known brands is intended to establish Smart Hero as the marquis dealer of high-end recreational products.
• Bateman’s Bay, Australia: A&A Industries will operate Airstream Australia and specializes in providing recreational vehicles to high-end luxury travelers who want to experience long term travel on the open roads. Wheeler recently attended the grand opening of Airstream Australia as the brand’s official launch in the market.
• Seoul, South Korea: Bluebird RV is a full-service RV dealership in Seoul that retains the experience and manpower to make Airstream a key competitor in the market. The dealership’s location provides access to more than 400 commercial campgrounds and national parks.
The first time Ben Jenkins met Billy Gibbons, the guitarist and lead singer for the rock band ZZ Top, they sat in Jenkins’ 1958 Airstream trailer in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Hotel outside Dallas.
“The meeting was supposed to be at the hotel bar, but once he heard I had the trailer in tow, he commandeered a hotel golf cart and we went out to do the meeting at the trailer,” says Jenkins, the 39-year-old owner of the Texas design company OneFastBuffalo, whom Gibbons had hired to help launch an online store. Jenkins bought the renovated trailer four years ago. It serves as a mobile office and, occasionally, his second home.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that for adventurous entrepreneurs, architects, graphic designers, engineers, and salespeople, the office is wherever they choose to park. These professionals are “location independent,” in the words of Airstream owner Sharon Pieniak, a 41-year-old designer and photographer.
Pieniak doubts she’ll ever go back to working in a regular office. “I’m a freedom junkie,” she says, “though I might decide to have a home base to return to every now and then, where I can keep things I collect from traveling.” Pieniak plans to spend the fall working with clients in Napa.
Much of the mobile office buzz stems from the weakened economy. Airstreams cost from $50,000 to $60,000; for an independent contractor on a budget with a demanding travel schedule, that makes them a tantalizing alternative to renting expensive office space by the square foot, says Wally Hofmann, co-owner of Hofmann Architecture in Santa Barbara, which specializes in the renovation of Airstream interiors. With 12 trailers in production, Hofmann says he’s operating at peak capacity and receives more than 50 calls a month.
Sales of brand-new Airstreams are up, too. Over the past 12 to 18 months, says Airstream Chief Executive Officer Bob Wheeler, “we have seen a significant increase in the amount of people who are utilizing their Airstream for both professional and recreational use.”
To read the entire article click here.
An Airstream dealership is returning to Idaho, the first in more than a decade, said Ted Davis, co-owner of Airstream Adventures Northwest. The company, which sells the sleek, silver travel trailers, will open in next to Bish’s RV in Nampa, according to a report by the Idaho Statesman.
Davis said the dealership will start small with five employees ranging from manager to technician, and see how sales go. The leased property vacated by a manufactured home dealer is a good location, and there’ll be little cross-over competition because of the difference in the products sold by Airstream and Bish’s RV, Davis said.
In the past two years, Davis and his partners opened up dealerships in Portland. Ore., and Seattle, Wash., that only sell Airstreams.
“We saw it as an opportunity when the market bottomed out and a lot of dealers went out of business,” he said. “It felt good the last couple years as people laid people off and ran for cover, we generated 30 new jobs.”
The business model of selling only Airstreams has proved profitable for the company, as well, he said. Revenues topped $10 million in 2011, and the company operates in the black.
Davis, a native of Idaho Falls, said it’s good to be back in Idaho, at least for business, and he called the state’s approach with his company business-friendly. “Idaho, so far, has been the easiest to deal with,” he said.
It’s difficult to miss the sleek, silver Airstream trailers lining one side of the freeway at Southwest Coaches’ new dealership in Corona, Calif., one of only a handful that sell the modern metallic homes on wheels.
The dealer first moved from Irvine to a larger and freeway-adjacent space in Corona in December but has begun advertising its arrival only recently, said Dave Delano, the general sales manager. The dealership had been one of 13 recreational vehicle sellers at the 38-acre Traveland U.S.A. auto mall in Irvine until the property’s owner — the Irvine Land Co. — decided not to renew Traveland’s lease.
To read the entire article from the Press Enterprise, Riverside, click here.
Editor’s Note: The following is a blog from Mother Nature Network on Matthew Hofmann, an eco-minded architect who developed a passion for renovating vintage Airstream trailers.
For his latest project, green architect and vintage Airstream trailer renovator extraordinaire Matthew Hofmann transforms a middle-aged aluminum beauty into a tricked-out guesthouse-on-wheels.
Although the 28-year-old Hofmann, a LEED-accredited architect, is responsible for a handful of lovely more “traditional” residential properties, his passion for Airstream renovations began when he himself purchased a shiny, 25-foot long beauty from Craigslist, treated it an eco-friendly makeover, parked it on an oceanfront lot, and moved right on in with his girlfriend for an entire year.
Since then, Hofmann has emerged as a vintage trailer rehabilitation guru of sorts. His full-service architectural design firm, HoffArc, is now offering “a full range of services for restorations of vintage Airstream travel trailers and there’s even a distinct HoffArc blog dedicated to the art of earth-friendly aluminum trailer touch-ups.
Santa Barbara-based Hofmann’s most recent completed Airstream project, his second this year, is a guesthouse for a Rottweiler- and horse-loving avocado rancher who wanted to transform a 27-foot 1972 Tradewind Airstream trailer into a homey place where guests could feel “comfortable and not worry about staining the carpet.”
To read the entire article and view photos of the renovated trailer click here.