No longer just popular among college students and retirees, the RV road trip we believe is set for a big comeback with the introduction of the 2011 Eddie Bauer Airstream, the international magazine NileGuide reported.
While more popular with all age groups in countries like Australia, RVing hasn’t quite caught on with younger travelers in America. “However, with this partnership of two legendary brands,”the writer states, “we’re hoping for a resurgence of the great American RV road trip.
This has the making of the perfect marriage, with Airstream, as one of the top RV manufacturers, and Eddie Bauer, as one of the top outdoor apparel and lifestyle brands. As Camping Life reported back in December, this brings together two of the most iconic brands. Looking at photos of the new Eddie Bauer Airstream, they had the young traveler in mind.
Since Eddie Bauer is one of the most recognized outdoor and outerwear brands, it’s only appropriate that the design of this new RV would be geared toward the outdoor traveler. Easily the coolest part of the Airstream is the backdoor hatch, which is rare among RVs. Instead of hauling your surfboards or kayaks on the top of your SUV, you can now much more easily put them in the back of the airstream.
The 25-foot trailer comes equipped with more contemporary decor than you may be used to with Airstream. Included for the queen-sized bed is an Eddie Bauer Goose Down Duvet, pillows, and throw. They’ve also thrown in a couple day packs.
The recreational vehicle industry, a gauge of Americans’ ability to splurge on adult toys, has been stuck in the slow lane of the road to recovery. Now, RV makers are trying to move things along with more fuel-efficient trailers aimed at frugal travelers tired of airports and motels, the Wall Street Journal reported.
U.S. sales of RVs — ranging from towable campers costing as little as $4,000 to bus-like behemoths with two bathrooms and king-size beds for $300,000 or more — boomed from 2000 through 2007 as Americans tapped their swelling home equity to buy shelter on wheels. The industry built bigger and fancier models, catering to those whose idea of getting away from it all involves taking a lot of it with them.
But RV sales began plunging in 2008 and last year were about 46% below the peak level in 2005, to around $6.2 billion, according to market researcher Statistical Surveys Inc. Several big manufacturers have gone through bankruptcy, and at least 200 dealers in new RVs, or 8% of the total, have left the business.
The industry is fighting back by offering lighter vehicles aimed at a broader range of buyers, while expanding advertising that touts the affordability of RV travel. It is also hoping that people put off by security pat-downs and other air-travel nuisances will turn to RVs.
“We have survived tough times in the past,” Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), said in a pep talk to members of the trade group at its annual convention last month.
One priority is to make more converts like Tim and Jennifer Tracy of Pennington, N.J., both lawyers. They bought their first RV — a 27-foot Airstream, with a list price of about $70,000 — last January. “We wanted to make memories for our boys,” ages 2 and 6, says Mr. Tracy. His idea of a vacation is backpacking; his wife prefers resort hotels. The RV was “a sort of compromise,” Tim Tracy says, and has proved a hit with the family.
Manufacturers are cutting the weight of RVs by as much as 25%, partly by using plastic composite materials instead of wood, to improve fuel economy and help counter fears of rising gasoline prices.
They also are trying to make RVs look less like white boxes. EverGreen Recreational Vehicle LLC recently introduced a sleek new trailer called the Element, which starts at $38,000 and is light enough to be pulled by a minivan. The RV industry gets a large share of its sales from buyers over age 50, but EverGreen’s 37-year-old engineering director, Dan Rodabaugh, hopes the Element, with its simple and uncluttered interior, will appeal to younger buyers like himself.
Airstream Inc., a unit of Thor Industries Inc., recently teamed up with the retailer Eddie Bauer LLC to design and market a model aimed at younger and more active people who want to haul kayaks or mountain bikes inside their trailers.
The industry association spent about $8.25 million in 2010 to buy TV and other ads using talking animals to tout the economy and family-friendliness of RV trips. It plans to increase that budget to about $11 million in 2011 and run the ads in movie theaters as well as on cable TV, online and in print.
“Our best commercial for our industry is the airlines,” Robert J. Olson, CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., told analysts recently. “If you haven’t gone on an airline lately, it’s a real hassle.” Meanwhile, the recent bed-bug scare helped make people warier of motels, says John Lenzo, an owner of Colonial Airstream, a dealer in Lakewood, N.J.
The industry’s biggest manufacturer, Thor, was founded in 1980 when Wade Thompson and Peter Orthwein acquired an ailing Airstream. Since then, Thor has made a series of acquisitions that, along with organic growth, have given it about a third of the RV market in terms of sales. In 2009, Thor also shored up the industry’s largest retailer, Camping World Inc., by lending $30 million to the owners of that chain so they could put more capital into the company.
Camping World, which has 78 stores, accounts for around 15% of Thor’s total RV sales. “It would have been pretty messy if they had gone under,” says Richard Riegel, senior group president of Thor. Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, says his company could have survived without the loans but wanted a “more flexible and comfortable balance sheet.”
In the first nine months of 2010, U.S. retail sales of new RVs totaled about 152,000, up 5.5% from the depressed year-earlier level, according to Statistical Surveys. Manufacturers’ shipments of RVs in 2011 are projected to rise 4%, to about 246,000 units, the RVIA trade group says. Thor’s Riegel says shipments will grow to 300,000 annually by 2013, which would still leave them 23% below the market peak in 2006.
RVs have never appealed much to urban hipsters, and sales tend to be concentrated in smaller cities, towns and rural areas. The RVIA estimates that 8.3 million American households, or about 7%, own RVs. At this point, it remains largely a domestic industry. It’s too costly to ship the big products around the world. Some of the manufacturers do have vague hopes of implanting themselves in China at some point in the future, but that’s just talk for now. They say China lacks the infrastructure of places to park RVs.
Makers of RVs say the 76 million Baby Boomers remain a very promising market, though many have lost their home equity and savings and aren’t in a position to buy now. As a result of those financial pressures, many boomers are likely to rent or share RVs rather than buy them, says John W. Martin, CEO of Boomer Project LLC, a market-research firm.
Airstream Inc., the most recognized RV manufacturer in North America, has partnered with Eddie Bauer to produce the Eddie Bauer Airstream travel trailer, the companies announced in a joint press release.
It was unveiled on Nov. 30 at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
Because of the specific needs of outdoor adventure travel, the Eddie Bauer Airstream includes a unique rear sport hatch that allows for easy loading/unloading of oversized equipment such as bikes and kayaks, which can then be secured in the fold-away dinette/lounge area. The unit is also equipped with premium oversized Michelin tires to provide greater ground clearance and rugged wheel-well cladding to protect against off-road debris. A handheld exterior shower makes for easy cleanup for the traveler, their equipment or pets. Extra clotheslines and racks are intended for hanging wet clothing while durable exterior tie hooks are ideal for securing equipment or making sure Fido stays close by.
The interior features an Eddie Bauer-inspired décor , including maple and soapstone laminates, fossilized leaf pattern roof locker doors, quilted fabrics with contrast piping, as well as extremely durable and stain-resistant Sunbrella upholstery. The 25-foot trailer can sleep four people, and its queen-size bed comes with an Eddie Bauer Goose Down duvet, pillows and throw. And the rear sport hatch, with its roll-down screen, creates the ultimate portal for bringing the outdoors in.
The Eddie Bauer Airstream also comes with a co-branded duffle bag and two daypacks.
“Airstream customers have always been passionate in their pursuit of outdoor adventure, and now we’ve created the ultimate tool to support their needs,” says Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler, “And we’ve done so by perfectly melding the inimitable style of two great American brands.”
“Eddie Bauer has been outfitting fishermen, hunters, mountaineers and other outdoor adventurers for 90 years,” said Neil Fiske, president and CEO of Eddie Bauer. “Partnering with Airstream gives us the opportunity to build something special for those who enjoy comfort and style yet want the flexibility to take all of their gear and equipment on their family adventures.”
The partnership between Airstream and Eddie Bauer will be supported by coordinated marketing campaigns by both brands, including its feature on the cover of Eddie Bauer’s 2010 Ultimate Gift Guide and a consumer unveiling at January’s Sundance Film Festival. A line of co-branded merchandise will also launch this spring. The Eddie Bauer Airstream has an MSRP of $73,702 and will be available at dealers nationwide in February.