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Old 10-01-2002, 07:53 AM   #1
John
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Is Thor/AS pricing themselves out of the TT business?

I noticed that there are more 80's & older AS out there than newer. During my travels this summer I saw only 5 90's or newer. My question is: Is Airstream pricing themself out of the travel trailer market? There are so many good travel trailers out there for under $15,000 new & 5th wheels around $30,000 new.
People would stop by and talk about my AS and many said that they would love to have one, but the cost of a new one is out of their price range. Most would rather spend $50,000 on a new 5th wheel with double slide-outs than pay $55,000 for a new 28' AS. Also, 5th wheels are the most popular RV out there, Class A being second.
Since most folks use their TT on week-ends, holidays and vacation, they can't justify the cost of a new AS.
I'd like to hear your thoughts!!
John
P.S. This is probably why the WBCCI offered 1st yr free membership, because not many are buying the new AS TT, hence not many new members.
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Old 10-01-2002, 01:15 PM   #2
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Hi John,

I agree with you on the pricing issue, but perhaps for different reasons.
Many people would like a Mercedes or a Cadillac, but can not afford it. There are Chevys and Chryslers out there for much less money that do a similar thing - take you from point A to point B.
Same with travel trailers. Many white ones out there, very few Airstreams. Most of the white ones cost less, which is great. I don't think Airstreams need to be cheaper because of affordability to a wider audience. I do have issues with their quality, which in my humble opinion should be much better for how much they are asking for their trailers. This goes only for the new ones that I have seen in Irvine, CA.
MY 1971 Tradewind, on the other hand, has very few quality issues. Even the cheap looking brown veneer inside is holding up like it was new. All the hinges and locks still work great, and overall it's a very enjoyable package. I am not sure if the new ones will be as tight as ours in 30years from now.
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Old 10-01-2002, 03:03 PM   #3
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I bought my AS because of the quality. I knew that only an AS would hold up to day-to-day living. I quess my point is that older RV'ers are going with either a 5th wheel or Class A. AS base customer was someone in their early 50's with the income and/or savings to be able to afford a Excella or Limited. With this change to 5th wheels, the luxury quality travel trailer may be too expensive for the 25-45 group.
If AS installed the same type of windows, door steps and black water flush on the Safari, then you would have a quality travel trailer in the price range for the new buyers!
John
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Old 10-01-2002, 03:57 PM   #4
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There are higher-quality, technically superior, smoother, quieter motorcycles that cost much less than a Harley. I know... I rode them for over 35 years, but have ridden Harleys since. They may be "better" in some respects, but they AREN'T a Harley! The saying goes, "if I have to explain, you wouldn't understand." Obviously, there's something there that caught the wave of nostalgia.

I'll be the first to admit that without AMF, there might not be a Motor Company today, just as Thor probably saved Airstream. But without the rescue of the company from the soulless corporate giant by passionate stakeholders, the Harley boom would've never happened.

Airstream has every bit the nostalgia of Harley! (not to mention the aging ownership) It and Harley are probably tied for the most widely recognized symbols of America around the world! But it takes more than that to command premium Harley-like prices and have empty showrooms and waiting lists while you're increasing production every year.

It takes passion! It takes selling "the image." It DOESN'T take perfection in quality... just reasonable quality.

Everyone in the Harley world knows who Willie G Davidson is. He's at every major bike event, listening to owners, seeing what they're doing with their bikes, and selling Harley. Been doing that for years.

I'm an Airstream newbie, but I have no idea who's leading the Airstream charge. I think I read it's some relative of some Thor big-shot. Is he out talking to owners at major rallies? Not just self-centered at A/S only rallies, but multi-brand rallies as well? Would 90% of Airstream owners recognize him at a rally? Is he devoted enough to Airstream to cannabalize sales from other divisions... or even to lead a buy-out of Airstream from Thor? I doubt it.

Yeah, I probably paid too much by buying a new Airstream and, unlike with a Harley, will probably eat a lot of depreciation because of it. But I know that with care, and the grace of God, it will outlast me by many years. I've done my part to keep the company going another year and in the meantime I'll enjoy what makes it special. If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand.
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:07 PM   #5
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Agree

I agree with RoadKingMoe. With all my gripes, I have a trailer I am proud to pull down the highway and one that will, if no one runs over me, last for many, many years.

I have owned 4 trailers. The Scamp and the Airstream tie for build quality. The Scamp was too confined and engineering was totally lacking; tires and axle were overloaded as delivered. The other two trailers were of drastically inferior quality. The A/S fits my needs perfectly, and, although there are many small items I have griped about, the total picture is that of a trailer that should hold up, long term and make me feel good wherever I go with it.
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:10 PM   #6
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John,
WBCCI offered the free memberships due to declining enrollments due to most likely death and the fact that new owners were not as incllined to join the organization. Its a matter of survival of the organization and they are hoping that once they get people in, they will stay. I don't believe WBCCI is attempting to stimulate A/S sales.

As far as lowering costs, the trailers are not cheap. I wouldn't have purchased my new A/S if the Safari line wasn't available. I couldn't have afforded a similar new Classic line trailer. You go to the factory and watch how these trailers are constructed, you understand why they carry a higher price tag.

Are they pricing themselves out of the market? I guess its a matter of semantics. Personally I find it hard to pony up to buy a new tow vehicle which lists for $40K and up. This reluctance is based on my travel needs. Same applies with new A/S models. There is a threshold that you reach where you have to consider dollars spent vs. the return that you get back. Once a month trips on the weekend in the summer and 2 or 3 weekly excursions also in the summer doesn't justify dollars required for a new Classic line trailer. That's why the 25' Safari has been their best selling line.

I don't know what the profit margin is but at last year's tour at Jackson Center, the guide stated that they were making 15 trailers and 6 motor homes a week. I'm assuming they are making money with that amount of production. Consider holidays, and model change over, the annual production is not giagantic. We aren't talking about Prowler trailers or Winnebago motor homes here.

Folks are buying new Airstreams, but don't get excited that you don't see a lot on the road. I drove from St. Louis to Door County Wisconsin (north east of Green Bay) early in September. I saw 3 A/S going north and one on return. Most of the driving being on major interstates.

In my opinion A/S are an aquired taste and I wouldn't have bought an A/S as my first trailer. After owning others and dealing with them, I really appreciate the A/S. Its a mind set that makes others scratch their heads when comparing dollars spent vs. other makes and styles.

I can tell you one thing. When looking at vintage trailers, how many Prowlers and other stick and staple trailers do you see out there? I'll bet my A/S will be around many more years, and that's another reason why I bought.

Regards,

Jack
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:47 PM   #7
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I have to agree with the Harley analogy. Airstream has a history and a certain cache which comes from building an American icon over a number of years. I can't tell you how many times people come up to me to ask about our AS Bambi, and the positive remarks I get. Plus, the styling is timeless, most people can't tell if mine is new or old, just "beautiful". This is my first trailer, and frankly, with all the anxiety and hassle of getting my Land Rover ready and taking my first few trips, I don't think the experience would have been nearly as good with any other trailer.

Also, when I see the pricing on Class A motorhomes, I think the market is vast. If you want a towable trailer as your RV, you can't do better in quality, engineering, towability, styling, etc. than Airstream. I do, however, think that Thor could do a better job of marketing. I am surprised by how many people ask me if they still make "those trailers".
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:55 PM   #8
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I agree with you Jack.

But in my humble opinion, I prefer the older Airstreams to the newer ones, price notwithstanding. There's a certain warmth to the older models, more homey, cozy or something. It's really almost an intangible quality that can't be manufactured. Kind of like a fine wine, aged to perfection.

And there's the incredible pride in owning something unique enough in its own right, then giving it added life by restoring it and meeting up with someone else who did the same thing. An extra feeling that goes beyond just owning the Airstream brand.

I dunno. I've owned older Harleys and brand new ones, and for my money, realize more of a connection with the older ones for almost the same reasons as my '73 AS.

Just my two cents worth. Do I get any change?
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Old 10-01-2002, 05:03 PM   #9
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I researched travel trailers for almost six months before I bought my Airstream. I actually went to the RV show with the intention of buying SOB because I just couldn't justify the cost of an Airstream. I inspected 5 or 6 brands that I considered to be quality trailers and found that they were only 7 to 8 thousand dollars less than the Airstream. When you consider that the other brands are probably through-away trailers after 10-15 years, the additional cost doesn't seem so much. I decided to get what I wanted and pay for it while I am still working so I could enjoy it after I retire.
I just wish Airstream would pay more attention to detail during the build. They seem to use good quality materials and appliances but the craftmanship is lacking in many of the trailers.
I guess I am glad Airstream trailers cost more than the others-if they didn't, everyone would own one!
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Old 10-01-2002, 05:20 PM   #10
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I love my trailer just as much as the next guy, I'm just surprised how asking a simple question on the cost of the Excella & Limited, raises so many different emotions. I haven't been active here since April but it's seems more sensitive here.
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Old 10-01-2002, 05:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by CJsTs
I agree with you Jack.

But in my humble opinion, I prefer the older Airstreams to the newer ones, price notwithstanding. There's a certain warmth to the older models, more homey, cozy or something. It's really almost an intangible quality that can't be manufactured. Kind of like a fine wine, aged to perfection.
I understand what you are saying. I can honestly say that for my tastes, the older models (pre wide body) were a little too cozy and gave me an uncomfortable tunnel vision feeling. We hadn't seen a wide body A/S until we toured a 2001 unit at the local RV show last year. Quite honestly that extra space was the first thing that made me look closer which led to my purchase.

Jack
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Old 10-01-2002, 05:52 PM   #12
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Airstream was my first, and only choice for my first travel trailer. I did buy used - very used! Candidly, I wanted something that I could sell, should it not be what I hoped it would be. To say that in the used market there are only Airstreams and all other brands is only a slight overstatement.

I did get to see some new 2002 units this summer, and I guess I was more impressed than some are. I thought the fit and finish of the ones I saw were excellent. I was less impressed with the extra width, however. It did not seem to be significant to me. Of course, if I was fulltiming....

One point that is not made enough, I think, is that nothing pulls like an Airstream. These are TRAVEL trailers, after all, and that is their most underappreciated feature, I think.

Mark
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Old 10-01-2002, 06:19 PM   #13
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Mark, I think the fact that no one mentioned pulling their Airstream speaks for itself. I don't even think about it because I hardly know it is back there. My wife has to constantly remind me to "slow down, you have a 6000 pound trailer behind you". I have pulled my Airstream through mountain passes during high winds and was amazed at how uneventful it was.
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Old 10-01-2002, 06:35 PM   #14
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Quality

My first trailer was a tiny, one-end pull-out StarCraft popup. Thequality was horrible ... paper on pressed-board and pressed-sawdust moldings all stapled together. No hope to ever have pride in it.

My second trailer was a Scamp 5th-wheel. Much likme my A/S, it was a study in contradictions. Beautiful fiberglass work on the shell and custom oak cabinets inside. Terrible engineering with overloaded axle and tires. Terrible hardware such as door locks. Total lack of amenities; not even a mirror in the bathroom. Cramped quarters and tire/axle problems finally made me sell it.

My third trailer was a TrailManor 3124K. I was carried away by the engineering ... super light weight and fold-down hard-sides for easy trailering. What I overlooked in my enthusiasm was that I was back to the paper on pressed board and sawdust mioldings. Four years and it was starting to come apart at the seams and I was sick of cabinets pulling away from walls and staples pulling out..

My A/S International is back to Scamp quality without the tire/axle problems and with good interior amenities. In buying a new model, I inherited a lot of teething problems which I have pretty well solved at this point. What I have achieved is a level of pride that I could never have with the other trailers. Scamp came closest, but can't touch the reaction I get with my A/S.

As for pulling the 22' International, I have weathered 60-70 mile gusts across the highway with no problems and 18-wheelers passing are just other traffic, not a problem.
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