What’s the word from Airstream, Inc.?
We’ve got the straight skinny—and it’s good news.
First, the financials. Economists look to RV sales as an early indicator of the overall US economy, and Airstream’s numbers bode well for the nation. “We’ve been on a nice roll,” said Humphreys. “The travel trailer industry is back, close to where we were prior to the recession. Motorhomes, not so much.”
Two years ago Airstream employed 300 people. Today, 478 staff “families” hand-build our coaches. “We’ve had growing pains,” said Humphreys. “New hires means taking someone off their job about three months to get new people up to speed. It’s been a challenge, but we love it. It helps the local community.”
But the big news is always model innovation, and during Alumapalooza 5 Airstream revealed…drum roll, please….ducted AC. “That’s a significant change,” explained Humphreys. “Ducted air reduces noise and dramatically improves air quality, but it’s difficult to install HVAC on our curved roofs.” The new air conditioners are only available on Airstreams 25 feet or longer, as the wider bodies allow for the ducting to be hidden, preserving the sleek lines of the trailer.
In model and decor news, the Classic (also launched at Alumapalooza 5) has been completely redesigned—“nothing was untouched,” said Humphreys. The Interstate continues to be the number one selling B-van. “It’s a home run that the top class-B seller is also the most expensive one,” said Humphreys.
Airstream introduced a new category with the Interstate-like Autobahn. A conversion van, not an RV—it has no kitchen—the Autobahn is sold only at Mercedes dealers and is postioned as an executive hauler, with power blinds and multiplex wiring that allows its functions to be controlled by iPad. “It’s a a big deal for Airstream, a whole new product segment and distribution channel,” said Humphreys. Speaking of a home run: the first Autobahn off the line was sold to the Cincinnati Reds to use as their VIP vehicle.
Customer demographics are changing, and the average age of the buyers has been dropping. “The 50-59 age group is fastest growing, and 40-49 is the second fastest,” said Humphreys. More and more buyers are first time owners, and Airstream pays attention to their preferences. “We look at what TV shows they watch. We ask them how they like the product. We reach out to every customer after they buy,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s all about the customers.”
“We’re just back here trying to support you and help you enjoy your Airstream,” said Humphreys. “Like Wally Byam said, we just want to keep making improvements.”