View Poll Results: Ownership
2005 and newer 44 48.89%
1985 - 2004 21 23.33%
Vintage restored by owner 22 24.44%
Vintage purchased restored 3 3.33%
Voters: 90. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 10-07-2014, 09:10 AM   #1
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Ownership Poll

Many of the threads here relating to AS quality (or lack thereof) have their defenders as well as their detractors. In looking at the responses and then checking the poster's profile, it seems that a lot of the pro AS people have older units as well as vintage trailers. While it might seem rather harsh, I think that those people that have done a frame off restoration or have had the same AS for 15 or 20 years and worked out the kinks over time do not understand the QC concern of owners with newer units.

Looking forward to some interesting posts on this subject.
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Old 10-07-2014, 09:51 AM   #2
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Our new 2007 Airstream sat on the lot for two years when we bought it new in 2009, we inspected and found a number of issues related to tire-kickers, dealer fixed them all and it was a good trailer.

Our new 2012 Airstream was new fresh from the factory, we inspected thoroughly including a leak check and did not find a single issue. In three (over 20 months traveling in it) issues have arisen due to use and we have fixed them as they occurred, most through warranty.

We converted the living space for comfortable reclining seating, installed a ProPride hitch for towing comfort and safety, and Michelin 16" tires/Sendel wheels for reliability. It has factory solar and full awnings for convenience and comfort.

From the purchase of the 2012 we started a quarterly inspection and systems check, leak test, and corrosion treatment program. It has kept our Airstream in excellent condition and us very happy with it.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:05 AM   #3
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Nothing is perfect, not even an Airstream. They're built by people; young people who are still on their way up the learning curve, older people who have crested the learning curve and are if full swing, and real old-timers who have been "doing this since before you were born, sonny, so don't tell me how to do my job."

It may come as a surprise to people who expect an American institution like Airstream to have an institutional memory going all the way back to Wally Byam his own self, but the institutional memory of the workforce is only as old as the guy who was hired before anybody else. And as each old-timer retires, the institutional memory gets truncated.

Back in the days when the vintage trailers were built, the workforce still included people who were born and raised in the Great Depression, and everyone, from the CEO to the consumer, expected that anything built should last a lifetime or beyond.

These days, those Depression-era workers are long gone. Everyone, from the CEO to the consumer, has been born and raised in an affluent society that is perfectly willing to discard stuff that still has useable life left to it so they can buy newer and flashier stuff. Most companies quit building things that last, because it was wasted money and wasted effort to build something that will last 50 years if it's going to be discarded in 10.

In that regard, even the newer Airstreams have a longevity that far exceeds the norm. Even an Airstream bought brand-new today should be able to last long enough to eventually become vintage. It might take more upkeep to reach that point, but still…

If you buy a new Airstream today, you can expect someone to still be camping in in in 25 years. You can't say that about many other recreational vehicles, where a ten-year life is pushing the limit, as evidenced by the number of campgrounds that forbid trailers more than 10 years old due to their general decrepitude.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:12 AM   #4
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Protagonist, excellent and thoughtful post. We have also noted that old Airstreams well-kept are exempted from the 10 year-old-rule.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:41 AM   #5
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My time in the rv/moble home mfg. (early 70's), new hires went to the production line for OJT. This is where the small errors in mfg. are made and hopefully caught by QC. These new hires usually replaced a senior assembler who is now stuck in rework full time fixing the issues found in QC. The senior guys get cross trained from fixing all aspects in the assembly, (plumbing, elect., walls, trim, leaks). This is why an owner gets excellent repairs when they return to the mothership. These guys have the reputation on getting 'r done, management isn't watching them as close as the production line, (speed first, then try to attain quality). These guys get the sense of accomplishment of a complex job done right, and the direct feedback from a happy customer.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:55 AM   #6
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I started our AS quest looking to restore a vintage, and I researched the subject for a year more or less. Ultimately we purchased a 2 year old new AS (and have since traded up to brand new). I have more money than time and wanted to start camping with our kids sooner than later. Because of my research I purchased new "eyes wide open" about the various issues. I was willing to accept those potential issues, and we have been very happy with our AS and the AS community.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Protagonist View Post
In that regard, even the newer Airstreams have a longevity that far exceeds the norm. Even an Airstream bought brand-new today should be able to last long enough to eventually become vintage. It might take more upkeep to reach that point, but still…
I'm curious....are you saying/thinking the new ones will take more upkeep than vintage AS?

I listend to the VAP, and on more than one occasion Tim and Collin have implied newer AS have a "planned obsolescence" (their words) in their design/construction. They have even stated than since the newer AS shells are assembled in sections they are inferior to vintage which were assembled one rib at a time. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't agree.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:58 AM   #7
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I can say, I wish I had got my hands on my camper when it was only 8 years old, instead of 38. I'd have preferred to do the preventive maintenance on it, rather than the remedial.

As a vintage (if you can call 1974 vintage) owner, I understand your QC concerns. As an Airstream fanboy, I hope the mothership is taking steps to correct their problems. I am glad to see the expansion of the facility. Maybe with more production capability, they'll be able to slow down a snudge on each trailer and do it right the first time.

However, I agree with what others have said here. As an owner of quite a few other campers, Airstream does seem to put out a pretty good product. But, just being better than the other guys shouldn't be your benchmark.

I worry for them, that they're doing as Mercedes and BMW are doing, resting on their reputation, while allowing their quality to slide. And, for all you Mercedes/BMW fanatics, sorry, but you know it's true. They aren't the cars they were...

Decrepitude... I like that word. Will have to work that into conversation somewhere.

-Red
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:59 AM   #8
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Mine is a 2007....first AS, 3rd trailer. I keep my trailers a long time and see how they age, etc. AS is superior in many materials, the same in many component choices, and the same in workmanship as both of my others.

I am neither an advocate of AS quality, nor a detractor. I am realistic of the RV industry.
The industry could learn a lot, before foreign companies teach it to them the hard way...like the auto industry of the 70s and 80s.
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:01 AM   #9
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^^^^ This right here ^^^^^
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:09 AM   #10
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This is my second AS.

Number one had quite a few issues, and I now know the difference.

I bought number two from Colonial AS, and in the back and forth process, I asked what made Colonial (aside from price) competitive. They answered with "QC" (quality control). The salesperson (Colonial) said they actually QC'd each trailer multiple times.

Initially, I took that statement with a grain of salt, but as time has passed, I've become a believer. Some dealers (like Colonial) ACTUALLY go over the units before the sale. Others just take delivery from Airstream, and don't touch them.

The dealer makes the difference.
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:18 AM   #11
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The point I continually try to make with folks considering buying a vintage trailer is that all you are really buying is the shell. In many cases the entire interior, including floor, insulation, and axles can go to the landfill.

The same is essentially true of brand new trailers. The shell and interior skins are the really unique, interesting, covet-worthy, labor-intensive, and EXPENSIVE part of the trailer. Much of the interior furnishing is composed of third-party pieces that you might find in any other "high end" RV. You can hold AS responsible for selecting a poor supplier, but it isn't necessarily an "Airstream specific" problem if an appliance goes out.

I understand completely when someone pays $60-100k for an Airstream, that they have every right to expect "the best." But, as Protagonist illuminates above, AS is a business, and they have to find a balance between the various costs of the product, the time it takes to turn one out, what the market will bear, and what the company's owners expect for returns. I would compare AS to a high end automobile like a Mercedes, but Mercedes are built with much the same assembly line mass-production techniques that Toyotas are, so you can expect at least less "workmanship" type issues. It may be more appropriate to compare AS to a handbuilt vehicle like a Bentley or Lamborghini--but look at the cost of those little gems!

Guess I am saying "manage your expectations." High price sometimes just means "labor intensive."

I spent a few years as a Quality Engineer. One way we measured quality was in defects per opportunity. So thinking about just the Airstream shell, there are hundreds of rivets, hand cut parts, and hand drilled holes, and hand sealed seems. Every one of these is an opportunity for a defect. To improve quality, either you eliminate the opportunity (change the design to a rectangular box with six seams), or you figure out a way to standardize processes to eliminate variability (hire robots to do all the work).
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:36 AM   #12
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Ownership Poll

A LOT of the complaints about modern Airstreams stem from simple things made complex because buyers want fancy gadgets.

I mean really, how many fancy gadgets does a person need in a trailer with a 30' footprint?

I made my 72 MORE SIMPLE than it was when it came off the line...

Twenty years ago I would have gone gadgetitis.... I might not be older and wiser, but maybe I am.

(Notable exceptions utilized in my build;, tankless hot water heater, 5,000 watt inverter, on board DC generator)
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Old 10-07-2014, 12:03 PM   #13
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I had lots of quality control issues. None of them kept me from camping. They are all fixed now. I love my trailer regardless. It is better than my sob- tows better, better mpg, better quality. It's the retro, art deco, nostalgia thing along with a tad bit more quality than the industry average.
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Old 10-07-2014, 12:05 PM   #14
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Our experience was mixed. However our Airstream being our third travel trailer, our expectations were low. I believe that when Airstream stopped being a family owned business and when it was bought out by a large RV manufacturer, the quality gradually sank to the industry standard, while the hype remains high. The most discouraging to me were the things that needed repairing on our factory ordered (it did not sit on a lot) trailer. Several of them were glaringly visible on out acceptance inspection. I asked why they had not been repaired by the dealer before we were told it was ready. We were informed by the dealer that Airstream would not pay him for the repair, until the customer reported it and requested it be repaired. That does not sound like a company proud of their quality. There were large scratches on our corian counters that were obviously caused by installation of the sinks and stove. There were huge very visible gouges in the main door trim obviously caused by poorly trained gorillas try to get the couch through the door. There were a more issues of this type. All of these things were fixed in a few weeks, but it required time and expense on our part taking the trailer back to the dealer. I did not wish to leave it the cramped lot and chance more drastic damage. For a couple years we were finding unused screws and rivets, wood and metal shavings, and various other construction waste products in all the little nooks and crannies behind doors an drawers. It is obvious they never vacuumed a space before covering it from view.

Our first two trailers were a Casita and a Bigfoot. Both had minor issues on delivery, but they were so minor I fixed them myself. So I very disappointed in the condition of the Airstream.

Ken
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