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Old 04-29-2003, 02:25 PM   #1
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Thoughts on quality and prices

I think the compromise in quality "today" vs "40+ years ago" is evident in almost all products made today, i.e. homes, cars, appliances, furniture, clothing, etc. The common denominator is we live in a mass-produced, disposable society today, much different from when Airstreams were basically custom made to order in the early '60s & earlier.
Why should Airstreams be held to a different standard than anything else? Even Mercedes aren't what they used to be...


Shari


That hits the nail on the head. The answer you are looking for is inflation. The quality of currency in the society is inversely proporational to its amount. Meaning, the more currency there is, the less it buys.

This is why, for example, a bottle of Coke in 1950's was 5 cents and it is 1 dollar now. Coke surely hasn't become more expensive. How could it? Think about it for a second. Production methods have improved, becoming more efficient, and cheaper with better machinery, computers, et cetera. Distribution methods have improved as well (the interstate highway system). Advertisizing works better. So, that 12 oz of Coke going from 5 cents to about 1 dollar are not an indication of its cost increase or increased demand, it is an indication of something else and that something else is value of currency going down and down. 5 cents doesn't buy you 12 oz anymore, it only gets you 1/20 of that or about 0.6 oz.

It works like that with anything else. It's obvious that rising prices are an indication of a diluted currency. What's not obvious is that another drasticaly detrimental consequence of a diluted currency is that it constitues a powerful stimulus for the manufacturers to produce "disposable" products as you put it. With the value of currency constantly going down, it just doesn't pay to manufacture long-lasting, top quality products. It is more complex than that: it's not just the prices or goods, but also services which are less tangible but also surely affected. (Evident in th original post by femuse) In short, monetary debasement affects the entire society, while consumers blame manufacturers for rising prices and lower quality, manufacturers are forced to raise prices to account for the debased currency, et cetera.

This explains why in late 70's, a period of relatively high inflation of about 20%, Airstream went bankrupt and was bought by Thor. Airstream of course was not an isolated event. Chrysler products also experienced the same thing, their quality hit rock bottom in '78 and would have gone bankrupt had Congress not given them a loan.
Could it be that the highest quality A/S units are really from 50's and 60's, given that inflation was low in that period? (In 1965 Congress removed all silver from the currency, enabling massive inflation of the 70's.)
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Old 04-29-2003, 02:43 PM   #2
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Well said ipso! Some things have gone up in quality though. Take Chevy/GM trucks for example. When I graduated from High School in 1973, I went out and bought a new 3/4 ton pickup. It has numberous quality issues. The one that irked me the most, was the fact that the body rusted out above the wheel wells in 18 months. The dealer said it was my fault because I did not have it "rustproofed". Why was it not "rustproofed" at the factory then? Anyway, water over the dam. The quality of products from "The Big 3" has gone up over the years, as well as the prices. Any bets on when the first $100K pickup truck hits the car lots?
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Old 04-29-2003, 03:45 PM   #3
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Not sure I can *totally* agree although I somewhat agree.

See, where I have problems is that we bought an SOB in 1982 for about $8k. That same box or similar purchased today, 21 years later is only about $14k (granted they are both not as well built as the Airstream). That is about 4% inflation per year. In order for statements made to be correct, then Airstreams in 1982 would have to have been an average of **about** $16,000.00 (not including high mid-range or high end Airstreams). I have no idea if they were or not. Anyone know for sure? Adding 4% inflation then puts the Airstream at about $29k and some change. 4% is pretty high too, maybe not in the early to mid 80s, but there after through today, 4% would be very, very high. To me the numbers don't add up to fully support the full inflation only stance.

Also, how much more do you think it costs to build and Airstream vs. an SOB? That same point about producing Coke holds true for every manufac. Keep in mind the only difference (and it is a very big difference) is the body. The rest are the same components (fridge, heat, hot water, LP tanks, pumps, faucets, windows, etc) as found in most SOBs.

I agree that the bulk might be inflation, but I am not sure most of the price increase between the years is all inflation. As I said in a previous post, nowhere have I been able negotiate 17% off a vehicle sticker, diluted currency or not. That is another indication that all might not be as clear cut an issue as we all (including myself) make it out to be.

In the end, I love my Bambi. I would buy another Airstream when the time comes. I think the price was good as well. My original statements in a prev post were simply to say, I think they could have paid a liitle bit more attention in the assembly process. I would happily forego the extras Thor threw our way to get some, not all of the little things addresses (like the doors and the bathroom floors). None of these I consider very serious. Can you imagine buying a $30k car and the door not closing right or the floorboard sinking due to lack of support? Everything has it's issues, but at the priceline a certain expectation is assumed and maybe wrongly so, but I don't see many Cadillac buyers (or other premium vehicles) walking in and expecting that for the price.

This are not meant to be arguementitive, just sharing my perception.

Still love the twinkie and wouldn't consider anything else.



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Old 04-29-2003, 06:31 PM   #4
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Pick,

Well said ipso! Some things have gone up in quality though.

IMO nearly everything has gone up in quality due to technological advances. However, I think it is the value that has gone drastically down. Today, you can buy the very best of anything. Problem is, the value of this "best" stuff is not as good, once you look at the sticker price.

Find a new Ford diesel tow vehicle, load it with options and then look at the price. It's very nice indeed, will probably last longer than diesels from any other decade. But prices of these new top quality items are sky-high compared to where they used to be, 30 or 50 years ago which doesn't make them such a good deal after all.
Which means at the end, most end up getting a used vehicle in a more reasonable price range. The de facto effect of lower purchasing power is you getting less in quality and value.


Take Chevy/GM trucks for example. When I graduated from High School in 1973, I went out and bought a new 3/4 ton pickup. It has numberous quality issues.


That's true, 70's vehicles had a lot of issues with rust. I had a '74 mopar and the trunk rusted completely through. Admittedly it took it 15 years.


.... The quality of products from "The Big 3" has gone up over the years, as well as the prices.


Indeed, but quality is irrelevant if it represents a poor value and is not affordable for the mere mortals. This is true because the average consumer borrows more and more to get the same thing. For example, truck leasing is a new trend and going up, which ensure you never own the vehicle.



Silvertwinkie,



See, where I have problems is that we bought an SOB in 1982 for about $8k. That same box or similar purchased today, 21 years later is only about $14k (granted they are both not as well built as the Airstream).

Actually, that proves my point. The same box purchased today should cost more than $14K because de facto inflation rate was higher than 4% you cite. $8K in 1982 was more than 14K today. In other words, the SOB maker you had just doesn't invest as much as they used to in the building process, fearing high prices. Which ultimately means to you, the consumer is lower quality for the same unit. If you want same or higher quality, you have to get a high-end unit. You have to choose between (1) high quality and higher prices (2) same prices but lower quality. Most manufacturers raise prices accordingly but sometimes it is not popular and quality issues must result. It makes perfect sense.
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Old 04-29-2003, 09:04 PM   #5
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IPSO,

Although I agree with the quality comment regarding the SOBs, the inflation rate for the past 11 years has been far, far below 4%. It has actually been near the 2% mark. The 4% I quoted was an absolute worst case which had never materialized. Granted I can't speak for between 1982 and 1992, but I will agree that the early 80s were a bit rougher in the inflation rate than was the case moving to the late 80s on.

I attest some of the higher costs to simply cost increases that could be justified to increase revenue and profit. I surely do not claim that the entire 4% was inflationary at all.



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