That’s right: a fiberglass Airstream trailer. The big news was just announced by Airstream, Inc., who will soon be expanding their product offering to the molded fiberglass segment of the RV industry through the acquisition of Nest Caravans.
The 16-foot Nest, built by designer and fiberglass expert Robert Johans, was created in 2013 (and completed just a year ago) to appeal to “adventurous empty nesters” and younger “Dwell magazine readers who have a more sophisticated palette and higher expectations,” Johans explained.
The molded components and interior appointments of the prototype Nest convey a minimalist, European appeal. “Design is everything,” said Johans about his trailer, built in Central Oregon. “Design, innovation and quality. We’re taking the industry forward with clean, contemporary, automotive styling. Nest looks perfectly appropriate behind your nice car.”
“When you look at any other travel trailer other than the Airstream, it’s woeful,” Johans continued. “They haven’t tried to upgrade. Maybe they’ll put new supergraphics on the side, or maybe the R-pod is a new shape or something, but it’s still very poor quality overall. With Nest, we wanted to give our customers an experience they could really be proud of.”
“Nest is a product that conveys sophistication, simplicity, and upscale modernity,” stated Airstream President Bob Wheeler in a press release issued by Airstream, Inc. “It made sense for us to partner and help bring this design to market.”
Airstream leadership personally evaluated the Nest during a trip to the West and had indicated some interest in the fall of 2015. “Evidently they had been looking for awhile, and knew about Nest almost as soon as I posted photos online back in October 2013,” said Johans. “We were already on their radar. Airstream could have pursued Casita, or Scamp, or Eggcamper; there are a few other fiberglass options out there. But in my opinion they’d be buying a business producing a lower-end product. With Nest, they’re buying an all-new concept. One they can build themselves, and it becomes their own. There’s no pre-existing baggage with the Nest.”
“We’ve been imagining a small, well-thought-out fiberglass travel trailer for quite some time and are very confident about its potential,” said Airstream President Bob Wheeler in the official announcement from the factory. Word about the acquisition is spreading fast, and buyers are already showing interest. “I was contacted yesterday from an Airstream dealer in the Bay Area,” said Johans. “He said, ‘we’re already getting calls on the Nest, what can you tell me?’”
As Airstream has acquired the assets of Johans’ startup company, all the plans, CAD files, tooling required to make the fiberglass parts, copyright, trademark, and marketing materials now belong to Airstream, Inc., who will announce timing of the launch (and the final price) in the coming months. The prototype trailer already resides in Jackson Center.
Expect Airstream to make some changes to the original model. “I think it’s their intention to do some in-house redesign,” said Johans, who, after shaking hands with staff in Jackson Center, will jump right into production in Ohio as part of the Airstream team. “We already have a checklist to move on. One of the first things to do will be to understand the customer’s needs and interpreting the marketplace. So that may mean more research from the salespeople, or looking at existing data.”
“Market research will drive any necessary and appropriate design changes,” Johans said. “There’s a progression of steps we have to go through before we can start building. Be assured, Airstream will embrace their own design, production, and sales methodologies for the Nest,” he emphasized.
“I’m super excited to be part of the team,” concluded Johans. “Super excited about the relationship with Airstream. I’ve had nothing but respect for the Airstream product all these years. The validation that the premier travel trailer company in the country chose our product to buy and to promote and embrace…that’s just freakin’ awesome.”
“I think Nest is going to be a big winner for Airstream,” said Johans. “Nest gives them a chance to break out a little bit without competing with or threatening the legacy of the existing brand. And with the Nest, they’re not just embracing some old technology or old design concepts. Ours is completely fresh and forward-thinking—and that says a lot about their company, to be able to embrace that attitude. This is a leap forward.”
“I’ve read many times on the fiberglass RV forum online, ‘Nest is the Airstream of fiberglass trailers’,” laughed Johans. “So Nest may already be the perfect fit for them.”