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Old 02-09-2009, 05:53 AM   #21
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Wonder what effect Wally's many trips had on Airstream QC? I bet he learned plenty from his own experience and his travel mates. This should have got back to the factory and resulted in many improvements.

Look at all the publicity, in prestige publications like National Geographic magazine, plus the advertising mileage they got out out of them, plus the quality effect on the product, could those trips be the reason Airstream is still in business when so many competitors have fallen by the wayside?

On the other hand, I don't think he cared what happened after 20 or 30 years. He wanted us to run the wheels off them when they were still new LOL.
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Old 02-09-2009, 08:08 AM   #22
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Oddly, I think you're right the trips proved or disproved design. Today, I know a number of Airstream employees that either still currently own or have owned an Airstream. Though I am not sure how many caravan like back in the old Wally days, if any, I am fairly sure they too have seen issues we see as well. Clearly though, that has not translated into better builds. I still subscribe to read the threads I linked in post #11 of this thread.

I think what we are all forgetting here is that it was a WAY different time when Wally owned and ran the company. Wally was an individual. Thor is a conglomerate of companies and though they may have a better pulse of the industry, they completely lack any micro management of the companies they run. Having read the articles on Thor during the RV boom Thompson and Orrington (I think that's the other guy's name) could care less what RV builder build or how they build it, as long as it sells, which is what I recall from a Fortune mag.

The issue has happened to many companies, Harley is the most popular folks recall. Then Apple Computer, now Apple Inc, is another. History is full of stories like these, some have made it out of it, some haven't. Failure to heed the warning signs could wind you up on a list like this:

15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009 - Yahoo! Finance

Now again, I don't expect perfection, but I do expect a certain level of quality. If I pay for a premium product, I expect premium build quality. I know Andy from Inland and folks at Airstream get all riled up when I say, we paid Mercedes dollars for what in reality was literally Chrysler build quality, but it's true. Read the threads I posted and I challenge anyone to say otherwise having read each of the linked thread found in post #11 of this thread.

The mindset of the workers was never driven home harder than it was the day I installed a subwoofer under my front sofa. When I removed the front box cover I found McDonald's food wrappers balled up and stuffed into the routed out hole that connected the batteries and umbilical to the internal power grid of the trailer. Ignorant? Sure. Lazy? Without question.

Then, later on, I, like many of the rest of us, clean out metal shavings and sawdust for months after taking delivery...just a normal part of the process as some things work out as the unit moves right? Well, I found at least 10lbs or more of routed out sheetmetal, entire looms of unused wire balled up and other stuff left behind in areas they thought the average person would never see...and they were right, except I'm not the average person, I found a lot of the things they didn't think one would see. But one doesn't even have to dig, as Bob said, just look up on your roof or in your fridge exterior venting door for starters and you start to see it. Dig a bit and it becomes clearly apparent and don't even get started looking at the exterior finish as early as 6 months off the factory floor for white spider type lines......
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Old 02-09-2009, 09:17 AM   #23
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I think the modern Airstreams represent good design and suboptimal execution. As noted, if I'm going to write a check for $50,000 or $60,000 for a 25' travel trailer... it had better be "tight." If I had an experience like "Silver" finding food wrappers and junk stuffed into hidden nooks, I would have been seriously annoyed. C'mon, folks. A $50k+ trailer is not a trash can for assembly workers. This indicates to me that at least a few Airstream workers have a lousy attitude.

I don't own a Mercedes; my father in law does. If he had found food wrappers on the inside of his car, he would have had an out-of-body experience. The only thing I want to find wadded up inside the of frame of a Mercedes are Detsch Marks.

All of the great design in the world does not matter much if you don't have craftsmanship in the execution. Great design does not compensate for inferior materials and slipshod assembly. The "genius" of an Airstream travel trailer deserves quality manufacturing. QC should be a religion in the Airstream plant. Oh, and there's no excuse for filiform corrosion, folks. There's no excuse for craptacular materials. If I were the operations manager for Airstream, I'd bring together all of the amazing renovation experts on these forums like TomW and Utee (and others), buy them lunch, and get them to tell me how to build a better Airstream... every month or two. I would crack the whip on QC... hard. I would go heavily in sustainable practices and materials... and work with marketing to make the Airstream the best engineered, best built and most sustainable travel trailer on the planet.
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Old 02-09-2009, 11:04 AM   #24
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Has there been any formal contact with the President of Airstream or VP of Engineering or QC Manager in regards to the concerns that are mentioned above? There has been alot of great information provided in this thread,but not sharing it with the people that can affect change probably is not going to help.Convincing people to not purchase an Airstream may get their attention at some point,but will not address your concerns. If we want to continue the tradition Wally started in 1931 it has to be through feedback from the people that use the product,but needs to be to the people that can make changes (MBA's, bean counters,line workers or whatever ).
I have a 1968 Caravel and I am proud to have an Airstream product.
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Old 02-09-2009, 12:30 PM   #25
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"It will be easier for me to rebuild my trailer than it will for Airstream to rebuild my opinion."

Interesting observation, Pepsi.

For me, however, it was wiser to get rid of my 2004 Piece of Crap and not have to deal with that arrogant group of Airstream management, and buy an RV from a company that respects its customers and builds a quality product. I tried for several years to give Airsteam's management a chance to rebuild my opinion, and all they did was tear it down, piece by piece.

So, I purchased a Newmar Kountry Aire, and couldn't be happier.

I expect there will always be some ongoing fixes needed in every RV, but this pretty much summarized it for me:

After buying my new Airstream, and seeing the 100 or so examples of shoddy workmanship in it (which should never have left the factory it was so bad), I was told by Airstream's management "you bring it back to the factory at your expense and we'll fix it to our satisfaction."

"We don't have any quality control function at the factory. (implied - we've been building them for over 70 years so who knows better than us what is required.)"

After finding several items that needed fixed on my Newmar Kountry Aire, I was told by Newmar's management "you can take it to your dealer, one of our authorized service center's, or bring it back to the factory for repair. If none of these are convenient with you, we'll work with you to find another RV dealer of your choice to do the repairs. We want your RV to be fixed to your satisfaction."

Don't tell me there are no other RVs out there that are better quality than Airstream. I know better!

Style points doesn't necessarily equate with quality.
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Old 02-09-2009, 12:49 PM   #26
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Has there been any formal contact with the President of Airstream or VP of Engineering or QC Manager in regards to the concerns that are mentioned above?
Silvertwinkie, you wanna handle this one?
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Old 02-09-2009, 12:58 PM   #27
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Airstream suffers from the Harley Davidson problem. You can ride iconic status for awhile, but eventually a lack of quality will kick you in the backside. I'm sure the H-D guys thought, hey, we're Harley. And yet a lack of quality nearly ended the company. Airstream is a fraction of the size of Harley and, frankly, the brand is not nearly as strong. When Airstream can pull half a million people to a place like Sturgis, SD....

I don't want to fan the flames of an Airstream versus "box" trailer debate. My wife and I chose a vintage Airstream... not to fulfill a lifelong dream of running a Magic Chef oven, but because it was a well built and stylish foundation upon which we could build something of impeccable quality. And frankly, the "same old box" styling (including interiors) was just not something we could "do."

I will, however, take your suggestion, Clipper and drop an email to the Airstream company president. If I were running, Airstream, however, I would be a frequent visitor to these forums. If I have to bring this thread to his attention, the problem is far greater than any one might resolve via a friendly email.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:07 PM   #28
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Quality?

I bet that the president of Airstream and all his managment read the Airforums with their afternoon Martinis, their ass off at us for talking about QC and tell stories about all the bad things they got away with that day.Isn't that your job when your a MBA and run a corp.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:29 PM   #29
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I have an MPA, not an MBA so I'm not an expert about the afternoon drinking habits of the private sector guys. In the current economic climate, however, I don't think anyone is laughing. If they are, they need a sanity check. Airstream aka Thor Industries is taking a beating. The February 3 news release reported a 62 percent drop in sales for the 2nd quarter. For those of you keeping score, that's a 73.3 percent drop in RV sales. That looks particularly ugly when compared to the industry at large.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:54 PM   #30
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I bet that the president of Airstream and all his managment read the Airforums with their afternoon Martinis, their ass off at us for talking about QC and tell stories about all the bad things they got away with that day.Isn't that your job when your a MBA and run a corp.
Don't kid yourself....there have been and continue to be several Airstream folks out there at nearly every level of the company reading these forums. This is a fact. I can't tell you how I know, just know that they are here and, some of them actively participate in the forums.....and you can see how well this free info has been taken to heart......."and that's all I have to say about that." Owning an Airstream for me has been like a box of chocolates...you never know what you are going to get (and as I said, I've owned two new ones now).

As for contacting the company, Bob is right, I made attempts and about as far as I got was support and supports idea for my corrosion issue was to sand the effected areas ever so slightly and apply clear nail polish to my exterior. Those who have seen this issue or have it know that it's everywhere...which makes the fix suggested somewhat ridiculous. So yes, I have tried to contact the company as have other folks with issues...the standard answer for corrosion is that it's a maint issue and outside of the clever nail polish fix, you are told you are basically out of warranty. I even tried to contact Dave Schumann, all to no avail. They don't really care....they have your money and you can't force them to do anything, so until something changes, no new Airstreams for me and for every person at the campgrounds that exclaim how they love the trailer and might be interested in one, I simply show them the exterior and they then say "how much was this trailer?" The usually walk away looking like deer in headlights....and we all also know how many folks stop by at campgrounds to see our trailers....in an average campground I'd be hard pressed to not have 4-5 couples come to see it.

Thor sells bus lines too, so they may be hit softer than say Fleetwood, but still, I agree, any loss of such a percentage of the RV business will be felt...at this point, it's too little too late...kind of like trying to diffuse a bomb that has already gone off....the QC issues are just gravy at this point.
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:02 PM   #31
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I bet that the president of Airstream and all his managment read the Airforums with their afternoon Martinis.
Jimmini,
I am not sure who at Airstream reads the forums or if they do it over afternoon libations, but I am sure that somebody there is reading the forums.

Last year when a brake line on my '06 went south (see http://www.airforums.com/forums/f439...end-45278.html) I sent a thank you e-mail to Airstream thanking them for helping me get back on the road. Part of the response I received from a customer relations representative was "...I saw your post on the Airforums group this weekend talking about this occurrence..."

Hopefully somebody at the mothership is forwarding these concerns up the chain of command.

Maybe Airstream needs something like a customer advisory board?

I will say that it is disheartening that nobody from Airstream is letting us know they hear us and are taking steps to address our concerns.
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:09 PM   #32
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Jimmini,
."

Hopefully somebody somebody at the mothership is forwarding these concerns up the chain of command.

Maybe Airstream needs something like a customer advisory board?

I will say that it is disheartening that nobody from Airstream is letting us know they hear us and are taking steps to address our concerns.
Well, this is a great idea, however looking at post #11 on this thread, you can see the QC links. The folks I know that are on the forum from the factory told me they've seen these threads. There are clear issues that come year after year. Any info received from these forums clearly hadn't made it to engineering or production, some for several years. The bottom line is that I am afraid to say, it's all boils down to money. It's easier for them to collectively put their heads in the sand and loose customers than it is for them to not follow the old paradigms and pay workers based on number of units built and subtracting warranty work from the pay that is based of units they churn out. My 2003 had about a half dozen to a dozen issues. I only had it for about a year. My 2004 had 19 issues reported on warranty and still about a half dozen have either returned or have come up new.

It really is sad because I really love the trailer and the folks I've had the priv of interacting with at the factory are really a great bunch of folks...I don't blame those folks at all, I blame Thor, Airstream upper mgmt and some of the workers on the line (read not all the workers).

The QC issues right now are well known by both current and future customers. There is really only one solution, but I remain doubtful that any real attention will be made to address the root cause properly. I mean seriously...roof lockers falling down, leaks, no caulk, extreme caulk, wrappers inside, etc....just no pride in work anymore, even at these price levels. I think an advisory board would be taken as seriously as the president of Airstream reading these threads (and don't think for a second he hasn't, cause I know for a fact he has).
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:14 PM   #33
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Good to hear

GOOD To hear some of you say they read the Air Forums.
Hope they heed some of what they read here.
Sure would hate to see them go under.Set your sights on tomorrow's business by taking a closer look at today.
Then where would I get parts for my good old 1989 Squarestream?
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:15 PM   #34
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GOOD To hear some of you say they read the Air Forums.
Hope they heed some of what they read here.
Sure would hate to see them go under.
Then where would I get parts for my good old 1989 Squarestream?
I'll continue to hold my breath and let you know if I make it to the time that they take any positive or meaningful action.
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Old 02-09-2009, 02:30 PM   #35
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I too have contacted the company over warranty issues, though not corrosion. The common complaints about corrosion and leaks have not been my experience, though I have had a number of other complaints. The dealer refused to fix some things and after writing Thor, I did get a great deal of cooperation from Dave Schumann. So, start with the Thor president. I don't know whether it was my letterhead that made a difference though I have found when I have a problem with a company I usually get what I want. As for the dealer, I have lots of problems with them, but that's another issue.

I don't know whether Airstream management reads the Forums though I am sure they are aware of them. Since they have jobs, I expect they have little time for this. I think it would help for them to monitor the Forum, but they might think of us as a bunch of complainers.

Unless I spent a lot of time with Airstream management (I've not been invited), it would be hard for me to understand their motivations. Are they so wrapped up in the Airstream mystique that they think whatever they do is fine? Are they using Airstream to generate lots of cash to get through the inevitable downturns? Do they think they can get away with weak QC because they have an American design original? Or, are they incompetent? Long ago GM (you could insert others depending on your brand perference—Hudson, Packard, Ford, Chrysler, Willys, etc.) made the best cars and trucks in the US and maybe the world. They got wrapped up in themselves, stopped innovating, QC disappeared, and the rest of the world passed them by. They are so insular they still haven't figured it out. Maybe Airstream is the same, although on a much smaller scale.

Would I buy another new one? Hard for me to say. I've got one. I feel ripped off. Every friend who has seen our Safari loves it. They don't ask me about quality. Sometimes I volunteer something, sometimes not.

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Old 02-09-2009, 02:39 PM   #36
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And let's not kid ourselves. Thor didn't buy Airstream because it's a huge cash cow. In 2007, RV manufacturers shipped over 350,000 RVs to dealers. In 2006, around 390,000 were shipped. Airstream produces what? About 2,000 trailer a year? Even with very good margins, this is not going to make or break a company with Thor's market cap.

The primary motivation for Thor is the ownership of an iconic brand. Traditionally, high end products have larger profit margins... but only if the manufacturer retains the brand cachet. This is hard for a larger company to do with a smaller prestige brand. There are different organizational cultures (and imperatives) for a big "mass market" manufacturer. A brand like Airstream has to be a labor of love for a manufacturer because they just aren't going to turn enough units to justify huge overhead. On the other hand, the entire organization can reap benefits if the brand is properly managed and the "cult of quality" of fostered.
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Old 02-09-2009, 03:02 PM   #37
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Thumbs up It can be done right!!

As some here know we started our Airstream experience with a 63 Safari.
Back in the mid 90's we needed a new fridge. We had a trip planed anyway and we really wanted to see where our old girl was made, the price was right, so we decided to have it done at the Mother-ship. It was a very satisfying experience. Spent most of the afternoon watching the whole operation. Now I can't say for sure, but I think the tech was a real "old timer", took pride in his work and spent valuable time explaining things to us. My guess is he probably started on the line and graduated to the refurb shop. When the trailer was delivered back to it's parking area it was cleaner and in better shape than when the repair started. Right down to the boomerang panel being re-fitted to the door of the new fridge.

One other thing to note, they were very busy at the time doing a huge amount of very expensive repairs. They called them "Bismark's". Hail damage panel repairs from a National Rally in N.D. No problem, we got the same treatment as the big buck's.

Wish it were so...
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Old 02-09-2009, 03:16 PM   #38
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As always, I think Gene has some thoughtful comments. I really don't know what Airstream execs are thinking. I do know that if I were working there and found out someone had put a McDonald's wrapper inside a space, there would be someone's head on a plate (metaphorically speaking).

I don't care what good you make or service you provide. You never want a customer to feel "ripped off," particularly if you are selling a high end, discretionary luxury good. In the Internet era, word-of-mouth is more critical than ever before. Customer discontent moves much faster and further than it ever has.

Airstream is missing a key opportunity by not providing high end customer care using these forums. This is a great venue for applying the oil of quality to some squeaky wheels. For the record, I'm not one. Based on our preferences, we bought a vintage coach. Thus far, I am very pleased. I would rather spend $50,000 chasing my own RV-engineering tail than spend $50,000 and have a dealer or manufacturer tell me... it's your problem, not ours. Hey, buying a '67 Overlander... it's all my problem.

Frankly, if Airstream QC was really working right, they would be here and visible.
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Old 02-09-2009, 03:34 PM   #39
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And let's not kid ourselves. Thor didn't buy Airstream because it's a huge cash cow. In 2007, RV manufacturers shipped over 350,000 RVs to dealers. In 2006, around 390,000 were shipped. Airstream produces what? About 2,000 trailer a year? Even with very good margins, this is not going to make or break a company with Thor's market cap.

The primary motivation for Thor is the ownership of an iconic brand. Traditionally, high end products have larger profit margins... but only if the manufacturer retains the brand cachet. This is hard for a larger company to do with a smaller prestige brand. There are different organizational cultures (and imperatives) for a big "mass market" manufacturer. A brand like Airstream has to be a labor of love for a manufacturer because they just aren't going to turn enough units to justify huge overhead. On the other hand, the entire organization can reap benefits if the brand is properly managed and the "cult of quality" of fostered.
Hampstead38,

Your history is a little confused. Thor did not buy Airstream after they owned many RV manufacturers, Thor started in 1979 with the purchase of Airstream from Beatrice Foods. It was the income from Airstream which allowed them to purchase many other brands and become the largest manufacturer of towables in the US.

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Old 02-09-2009, 03:59 PM   #40
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I stand corrected... but regardless of who bought whom, the issue at hand is quality issues concerning Airstream. Perhaps the acquisition of all these "other brands" diluted the attention Thor was giving Airstream. As Gene aptly noted, unless there's someone with "inside baseball" knowledge, we are all just freewheeling as to why Airstream is having QC issues. I won't speak for anyone else, but threads like those on the filiform corrosion influenced me to think "vintage" rather than new. My wife and I have been blessed enough to where we could have gone either way. Our decision was one that put $0 in Thor Industries pocket.

By the way, the "wiki" on Thor Industries.
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