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Old 02-08-2009, 11:08 AM   #1
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Airstream Quality Control

Sadly Airstream has seemed to level the playing field with other manufacturers in the area of quality control.

I currently own two Airstream trailers. A 1992 25' Excella and a 1975 Trade Wind.

What I have found in the 1992 is a lack of quality control and poor craftsmanship in everything from the plumbing to the wheel well design. (See post poor wheel well design)

I was first drawn to Airstream for the timeless beauty and quality craftsmanship.

What I found was poor workmanship and design failures which were, in my opinion inexcusable. By cutting corners in quality Airstream has leveled the playing field. The Airstream reputation will be easier to maintain than to rebuild.

As customers I feel we need to send a message to Airstream. We love you guys. Don't let us down.

The bitterness of poor craftsmanship can be tasted long after the sweetness of a larger profit wears off.

It will be easier for me to rebuild my trailer than it will for Airstream to rebuild my opinion. Airstream made it. I made it better.
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Old 02-08-2009, 11:31 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pepsi View Post
What I have found in the 1992 is a lack of quality control and poor craftsmanship in everything from the plumbing to the wheel well design.

I was first drawn to Airstream for the timeless beauty and quality craftsmanship.

What I found was poor workmanship and design failures which were, in my opinion inexcusable.

It will be easier for me to rebuild my trailer than it will for Airstream to rebuild my opinion. Airstream made it. I made it better.
It hasn't changed for the better since '92. I agree.

Gene
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Old 02-08-2009, 11:38 AM   #3
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Your "newest" Airstream is 17 to 18 years old. Isn't using it as an example of quality control at Airstream a little bit of a stretch?

It would be fair if you could find an 18 year old SOB and see how it compares to the design and systems of your Airstream.
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Old 02-08-2009, 11:39 AM   #4
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For what it's worth...

I also own a 1975 Tradewind and have found that the manner in which it was assembled left something to be desired. It is also inconsistent in the way some areas are done very well yet others look as though the person doing the work was deliberately sabotaging the Airstream reputation. As for quality control, I don't know what happens there... Aside from all that, I think the overall design of my Airstream is top-notch despite the few shortcomings I have found. As for the craftsmanship, I think it is highly variable. I don't know how many man hours it took them to build my coach but I bet you I have put in more than they have. I am also taking my time and doing it right - I don't have a bottom line to protect... I suppose a compromise must be made between perfect craftsmanship and creating an affordable coach. I am happy with my Airstream and amazed that it has lasted as well as it has over 34 years. When I am finally done with all the repairs I know it will be as good or better than a new one. (and much less expensive)

As far as I know, there is NO coach builder that does not have these same issues. My good friend is on his second Monaco MoHome and neither was built to the standard I would expect for price he paid (about 300k)
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Old 02-08-2009, 11:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redeagle313 View Post
Your "newest" Airstream is 17 to 18 years old. Isn't using it as an example of quality control at Airstream a little bit of a stretch?

It would be fair if you could find an 18 year old SOB and see how it compares to the design and systems of your Airstream.
I agree...we have traded for many SOBs that are less than 10 years old that are falling apart! We bought a 1958 model Airstream in the middle of a rice field, brought it back to the dealership, plugged it in and everything worked...I just don't think you will find that in a SOB!

Even though we all know that Airstream is not perfect...in my opinion they are still head and shoulders above the rest!

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Old 02-08-2009, 12:05 PM   #6
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[quote=Airhog1;664554
Even though we all know that Airstream is not perfect...in my opinion they are still head and shoulders above the rest!
G[/quote]

Point well taken...but a snail ain't very tall.

Without a dealer in NYS it was up to me to install the AS supplied warranty parts. They actually told me they were doing me a favor.
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Old 02-08-2009, 12:22 PM   #7
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I think Pepsi's point got missed—quality dropped between 1975 and 1992.

Gene
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Old 02-08-2009, 12:24 PM   #8
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I think Pepsi's point got missed—quality dropped between 1975 and 1992.

Gene
I agree with you Gene!

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Old 02-08-2009, 12:39 PM   #9
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There is another angle here that most people never thought of. I don't know if the Airstream company has figured this out yet but if they did, they would show more respect for the life and quality of their products, and for those who buy old used Airstreams.

Here is why. We all know the Airstream products are very expensive and appeal to the more experienced RV users.

That means the trade in is an important part of their sales. They sell very few trailers to brand new buyers who do not own an RV already and who can pay cash.

So, the buyer of the new Airstream is thinking not so much of what the price is, but what he has to add to his trade in.

Let's suppose someone could trade in a 5 year old model for a brand new one for only $10,000 difference. Who wouldn't do that? Now suppose the difference is over $50,000 that is enough to back off a lot of buyers.

The point is that the used Airstream buyer supports the sale of new Airstreams. The fact that they hold their value better than other RV's has a lot to with continuing sales success of the new models. Both in terms of being able to afford the payments, and also the psychological factor. How many people have justified stepping up to the Airstream because they hold their value and are therefore cheaper in the long run?

So a few more bucks spent on plywood instead of chip board should pay off in the long run. So would supporting the older trailers with a good supply of parts.

And those of you who buy the old models should know that you are doing your part to keep the Airstream company in business.
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Old 02-08-2009, 01:31 PM   #10
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Ganaraska, I think you've made some thoughtful points. It's made me think about some things.

I'm not sure I agree with "They sell very few trailers to brand new buyers who do not own an RV already and who can pay cash." I don't disagree either, because I just don't know. I do know it doesn't describe us and I believe some of the people who join this Forum report they have never had a TT before. Some buy a new one, some buy a pretty new one, and some buy old ones either to restore or they are already restored. We never had a TT before we bought our Safari. We did buy (and return in a month) a truck camper in 2002 that had awful QC; it took me 5 years to get over that trauma. To further complicate things, we could have paid cash, but by creative financing I could get money cheaper (around 4%; it kept going down) and make more in dividends than I was paying in interest which was deductible. I made money on that deal. So, what classification do we belong in? It's not worth answering that.

But I don't think it really matters to your main point, if I understand it—Some Airstream buyers of older Airstreams support the main mission of the company, to sell new ones. I agree it is in the company's interest to make it easy to restore them by having a ready supply of reasonably priced replacement parts. The impression that Airstreams last forever and are timeless is an important part of marketing. I think the company realizes this, but tries to avoid some of the consequences—most notably, making them bulletproof now.

We didn't buy ours thinking about resale very much, though I was under the impression it was better than other TT's. We thought of buying an older one to save money, but realized that updating things would probably result in spending almost as much plus I just didn't want to restore a trailer. My house remodeling is quite enough of a job. The idea was not only to buy our first trailer, but my last one (I'm the older one). We did think QC would be better than it is. After reading all I could on the Forum before we bought one, I realized QC was a problem, and 2nd, it was not as bad as that ill fated camper we had in 2002. Another factor, and one which can easily override all logic, is the coolness of the basic design, often called "aluminitis".

In the 1.5 years I have been reading threads on the Forum I have the impression that reports on present QC issues have turned off some potential buyers. How many? Beats me. They don't clearly say: "After reading about problems you guys have with your new, very expensive, trailers, I going to buy a cheapo trailer because it'll cost me less in the long run. Besides, I'm old and there is no 'long run' for me. If I survive, I can buy several cheapo units for the cost of an Airstream." These Forum members just disappear, but sometimes doubt starts to creep into their posts before that. And that doesn't take in to account the guests who read a lot, never become members, and then buy SOB's.

So, I guess we can agree QC matters and it used to be better. There was a time when the company so trusted its work that they came with a lifetime warranty.

Gene
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Old 02-08-2009, 01:57 PM   #11
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I think if one believes that quality had dropped from the 70s to the 90s, take a peek at these threads that represent the new millennium...from what I can tell, what you see today may make your 92 look like a well crafted silver palace:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f142...ity-41668.html

As you can see, there are no 2009 takers, but plenty from 04 through 08.

Here are two other extremely sobering threads to take a peek at:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f142...ams-31743.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ion-35237.html

The last one of the two above gets pretty deep as it starts to hit fairly new Airstreams...though I fully admit the first one of the last two linked has been my hot button having shelled out about $40k for what I consider a travesty (after trading an '03 Airstream for it that IMHO was slightly worse).

If these all don't sober you up to new or newer ownership, then go run right out and buy a new or newer Airstream! Misery LOVES company!
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Old 02-08-2009, 02:08 PM   #12
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You would think with as many RV Comp.going out of business that Airstream and others that are left would make QC the #1 priorty.
Look at what happened to the BIG 3 car maker when the comp.and employees let QC become a back burner item.They made junk. Then had to go get our TAX $$ from the Government to stay in buisness.I would bet the Government will not bailout Airstream.They are NOT to big to let die like "they said" the banks and BIG 3 where.
What part of making QUALITY produces do Americans and American comp. not understand? Quality should always be #1.
Employees that work for these comp. should see that they make QUALITY product it might save the comp.and THEIR jobs.
Would you fly on a aircraft that did not have GOOD QC in it manufacture and maintanance?
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Old 02-08-2009, 03:31 PM   #13
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The difference with travel trailers is there's no competition from Japan forcing good QC. Even that hasn't made US auto mfrs. move fast enough and their bad reputation from a generation ago drove (pun alert) many of us to Japanese vehicles. Airplane QC is required by federal regulations. Motor vehicles have few regs and they don't go to quality except in pollution equipment and weak mileage requirements and a few other areas, but nothing like airplanes. Eventually the free market caught up with US auto companies to some extent. It catches up with travel trailer companies, but they have no way to know about all the people who never bought any TT because of quality issues (unless they want to pay for the research).

The excuse now will be "we can't afford quality now", but the companies that change during hard times are the ones poised to increase market share when the good times come back.

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Old 02-08-2009, 04:01 PM   #14
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I suspect that if the MBA's were taught at MBA school that it pencils out better for them to focus on customer satisfaction, by superior quality of their product, most every product would be made with superior quality. (Remember, Quality, by definition, only means "meets specification"). A lot of the MBA's focus on their resume sheet, how many short term dollars they made for X company so they can get their resume into Y company faster, then on to Z company. Doesn't matter that they helped cause X company to go down the drain with the short term bump in profit, they are already over at Z company.
As it is whatever superior quality that is put into the product is usually done by the lowest paid people in the shop, to the point their bosses allow them to put in before they are told "You're taking too long with this, get on to the next, this meets our required "quality" specifications".
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