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Old 09-01-2019, 04:15 PM   #1
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AS Current Quality of Workmanship

There’s *a lot* of discussion here about poor quality of workmanship on new Airstream trailers. Which raises a number of questions for the idly curious.

First of all, for longtime AS veterans, has the current quality of workmanship actually decreased over the years. We’re older trailers more carefully assembled than newer ones?

Next, if the answer is yes, then the major question is why? I’ll assume that the answer is yes and I’ll take a stab at some of the reasons why.

General decline in quality in our culture.
As we save money by buying made in China, quality has plummeted, which probably diminishes overall standards — the bar has been lowered, especially among the younger folks who haven’t experienced much quality of workmanship.

Throwaway culture.
Buy it cheap, if it breaks don’t fix it, throw it away. Previous generations were just the opposite.

Poor work ethic.
Big generalization but folks used to take pride in their work. Now the emphasis seems to be on the paycheck.

There has been a lot of discussion about the millennial generation on a vintage Porsche forum that I’m active on, especially how hard it is to find good employees. Perhaps AS has the same problem? I know many here have been to the factory, what’s your sense?
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Old 09-01-2019, 04:27 PM   #2
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AS Current Quality of Workmanship

I employ young and old alike in Southern New Mexico and Southern Arizona.

There are a lot of good kids out there who aren't afraid to deliver a good quality days work.

IMHO, a certain percentage of hand built trailers are going to have some issues to work through.

Then there's the issue where no one notices the 29 people on a trailer build who do a great job, people notice the results of the one guy that screws something up.

Then there's the issue where there are some people who will "find" a problem no matter what, and they're very vocal on the internet.
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Old 09-01-2019, 04:37 PM   #3
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I employ young and old alike in Southern New Mexico and Southern Arizona.

There are a lot of good kids out there who aren't afraid to deliver a good quality days work.

IMHO, a certain percentage of hand built trailers are going to have some issues to work through.

Then there's the issue where no one notices the 29 people on a trailer build who do a great job, people notice the results of the one guy that screws something up.

Then there's the issue where there are some people who will "find" a problem no matter what, and they're very vocal on the internet.
Very well said.
So many hands touch an Airstream through the build process. Most are quality guys and gals who do great work with great skill. 1 guy messes up and suddenly the whole trailer is crap? Doesn’t seem right to me. Also, a lot of Airstream problems are with third party parts. Sounds like a lose lose situation.
Problems certainly..... but does that make Airstreams junk. Nope
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Old 09-01-2019, 04:53 PM   #4
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A couple of thoughts:

I would wager that the quality of the trailers in general was better in lean years when they were not pushing so many out of the door as fast as possible.

But more to the point, AS does not have a culture of what today's manufacturing world calls Six Sigma or the TPS, where doing it once, doing it right, the first time, every time is ingrained into the company. Rather it seems to be one of, lets push as many of these out as fast as we can. We have a backlog of almost a year, people, let's hustle!

Quality issues are started and fixed at the top, not the bottom. It is completely up to management to signal what they expect or what they will or won't tolerate, what they will or won't reward or penalize. It takes all hands to implement, of course, but from what acquaintances who work there say, it's not a culture of "one and done", but of "get it done, fast as you can."
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Old 09-01-2019, 05:22 PM   #5
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Assembling an Airstream is NOTHING like assembling a mass produced car or truck.

It's not even the same ballpark.

When a car or truck moves down a line, all that's being done is assembly, Airstreams have to be built, and so long as Airstreams remain with the traditional shell design, they always will be built and not assembled.
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Old 09-01-2019, 05:41 PM   #6
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One guy, two guys, three guys? It doesn't matter if one or more messed up. No body's perfect. What matters is no one checking or testing to find out.

I work on a lot of different things and not everything goes right . . . at first. But I discover my failures by testing whatever it is I work on.

Shame on AS if they can't flip on a light switch to make sure they work (reference to a post on another thread by a distinguished member who just picked up their new AS and all lights did not work). Sure the dealer fixed it. Doesn't make it right though that it left the factory that way.

And I say this with as much love of my Airstream as anyone on this forum. And as someone who found his '2012 model's build quality stellar with no nasty debris left in hidden places.

I want Airstream's reputation for quality to be first class. If I didn't care, I certainly wouldn't bother to even post this.
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Old 09-01-2019, 05:43 PM   #7
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One guy, two guys, three guys? It doesn't matter if one or more messed up. Nobody's perfect. What matters is no one checking or testing to find out.

I work on a lot of different things and not everything goes right . . . at first. But I discover my failures by testing whatever it is I work on.

Shame on AS if they can't flip on a light switch to make sure they work (reference to a post on another thread by a distinguished member who just picked up their new AS and all lights did not work). Sure the dealer fixed it. Doesn't make it right though that it left the factory that way.

And I say this with as much love of my Airstream as anyone on this forum. And as someone who found his '2012 model's build quality stellar with no nasty debris left in hidden places.

I want Airstream's reputation for quality to be first class. If I didn't care, I certainly wouldn't bother to even post this.
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Old 09-01-2019, 07:55 PM   #8
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There seems to be a new thread started on this topic a few times per month. Obvious to me that there are problems with the lack of quality control with late model Airstream trailers and Interstates. It looks very similar to what happened with Harley and AMF. But as long as people still buy them at the rate they do now, there doesn't seem to be much incentive for Thor to make any major changes. The sales of RVs in general has flattened out and begun to decline, it may be interesting to watch how Thor responds to that.

I'm extremely happy with my 1982 310TD AIRSTREAM classic motorhome.....
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Old 09-01-2019, 11:41 PM   #9
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I've participated in a number of automotive forums and now here on the AS forum. It's my experience that the folks who have issues often tend to, quite understandably, post their complaints at a higher rate than people who aren't having any problems. Since it's more rare for someone to start a thread that states "I'm having hardly any problems with my Airstream!" than it is "My Airstream's quality is terrible!" it's possible to get a slightly skewed perspective.

I'm not saying that there are not legitimate complaints being aired or that they shouldn't be addressed. But I am saying that those of us that have had relatively few problems are pretty happy with our AS purchase, and not because we're fan boys.

In my own case there have been a few things that needed fixing on our prior Flying Cloud and current Classic. For the most part they were issues with third party suppliers; for example a Dometic oven that had to be replaced (twice!) and an Alde fan that failed and rendered the heating system inoperative. But aside from a missing screw here and a loose hinge there, and considering the complexity of all the components in a luxury travel trailer, there aren't too many things I can blame Airstream for. I've been really pleased with the overall quality of our coaches.

Again, I'm not trying to minimize the problems that people have experienced, and maybe we've just been lucky. But if we're going to evaluate the complaints fairly I think it's also important to give credit when Airstream gets it right. This is a data point for the other side of the ledger.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:35 AM   #10
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AS probably has "efficiency experts" monitoring their fabricators and apply pressure to produce at the highest rate possible, if that is the case, then it is not the best environment for "pride in workmanship".

The quality issues I have seen on our 2017 were just three: a misplaced gasket that leaked, a disconnected drain, and a crudely cutout and riveted storage access door surround. Need better and more efficient assembly technique not necessarily a more dedicated worker. So that is on the MFG Engineer to improve. I don't consider those minor faults which I repaired to be a big deal in the end.

General quality and expectations today in consumer products has a lot to do with price point. What do you expect to pay for a really good vacuum cleaner? Probably about 20% of what it should cost to make a high quality product. So most buy a throw away unless you are in the commercial cleaning business.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:20 AM   #11
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A neighbor bought a 2019 that came with a factory leak in the shell. It was repaired by the factory under warranty.

Many co-workers present and recent past have owned white box trailers with many more problems.

My conclusion is that Airstream may not be perfect, but as far as travel trailers are concerned, they may be the best available.
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Old 09-02-2019, 08:16 AM   #12
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That's the thing that some of us keep wondering...are they the best available? Recent posts have indicated a growing belief that Oliver may be the best available, but with some serious shortcomings for those used to Airstreams' layout and equipment.

Larry
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Old 09-02-2019, 08:42 AM   #13
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I just want to chime in... I've been very happy with my AS. I bought her sight unseen from a dealer hundreds of miles away (not a good idea as I later learned) but everything has worked well. I guess I was lucky. Or the dealer was excellent. (I'm going to write them a note to thank them for their good work.) My main beef as I just wrote on another thread is that it seems to be set up for full hook up, not for boondocking. The quality of the components that are needed for boondocking are cheap and I will end up replacing them and throwing them away which I hate. I understand that they have to keep weight down, costs down, while promising a kind of luxurious product. It probably would be a good idea for them to do an online survey to find out what people like most and least about their AS because it seems like they are trying to do too much, meet too many different demands. I wonder if cutting back on the number of offerings--maybe three or four sizes/layouts and having a luxury/hookup model and a boondocks model for each size. Boondocks model being "component empty" plug in ready so you can add your components easily without having to be an electrician/carpenter, including the converter, inverter, charger, battery monitor, toilet.
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:08 AM   #14
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Well, you can call me a fanboy, but I still believe that Airstream makes a very nice trailer. There are some horror stories out there, but when asked, Airstream will take care of the issues. Sometimes I think it is mostly affected by the attitude of the owner.

I am a proponent of learning as much as you can about your trailer and fixing as much as you can. You can cry bloody murder to the dealer that the drawer won't close properly, you can schedule your trailer to be worked on and you can complain about the three months you have to wait, but you can also find out why it doesn't close and fix it yourself. Once fixed by you, you can fix all of the drawers in your trailer if this happens again. You've just learned how to fix drawers.

There are things that are wrong directly from the factory, but Airstream is now giving you a three-year warranty to have it made right. We sometimes think our trailers should be perfect for the money we spent. Maybe the dealer should be going over the trailer more before you purchase it, or maybe you should be going over the trailer before you purchase it.

For those living somewhat near Jackson Center Ohio, I would make an appointment the day you pick up the trailer! It will be three months out, but you can get everything fixed that you don't want to fix yourself and or at all. JC has fixed all the tough issues that I could not do with no question asked and they seem to do everything very well. A good example was this last time (first warranty service) we had a seal in the toilet that leaked. I was going to replace it, but since we had the appointment at JC, I ask them to. They could have said it was not a warranty item, but instead, they replaced the whole toilet under warranty.

This is no different than any other vehicle or product we buy. The more complex, the more issues can crop up. Remember your first computer? Wonderful devices if you had computer experience, but without that experience, things go very bad.

It appears that Airstream has seemed to have dropped a notch in quality control. They make a lot of trailers now. That's no excuse but it may account for the perceived issues that seem to appear and some of the wild design flaws that show up from time to time. My question to you is, "Are you asking for the product to be "perfect" and is that affecting your attitude about the quality issues"?

I'm not "perfect" and I don't expect my trailer to be perfect. My attitude makes life easier. It will get fixed whether I do it or I have Airstream do it. I suggest you learn to fix all you can. Most things are very inexpensive if done by yourself and surprisingly simple in most cases. It also avoids the trip to the dealer who, unfortunately, may make things worse.

Get to know your trailer and lighten up. Life's too short. (Stepping off the platform - this should be in the new pet peeve thread started!)
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Old 09-02-2019, 09:39 AM   #15
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well, you can call me a fanboy, but i still believe that airstream makes a very nice trailer. There are some horror stories out there, but when asked, airstream will take care of the issues. Sometimes i think it is mostly affected by the attitude of the owner.

I am a proponent of learning as much as you can about your trailer and fixing as much as you can. You can cry bloody murder to the dealer that the drawer won't close properly, you can schedule your trailer to be worked on and you can complain about the three months you have to wait, but you can also find out why it doesn't close and fix it yourself. Once fixed by you, you can fix all of the drawers in your trailer if this happens again. You've just learned how to fix drawers.

There are things that are wrong directly from the factory, but airstream is now giving you a three-year warranty to have it made right. We sometimes think our trailers should be perfect for the money we spent. Maybe the dealer should be going over the trailer more before you purchase it, or maybe you should be going over the trailer before you purchase it.

For those living somewhat near jackson center ohio, i would make an appointment the day you pick up the trailer! It will be three months out, but you can get everything fixed that you don't want to fix yourself and or at all. Jc has fixed all the tough issues that i could not do with no question asked and they seem to do everything very well. A good example was this last time (first warranty service) we had a seal in the toilet that leaked. I was going to replace it, but since we had the appointment at jc, i ask them to. They could have said it was not a warranty item, but instead, they replaced the whole toilet under warranty.

This is no different than any other vehicle or product we buy. The more complex, the more issues can crop up. Remember your first computer? Wonderful devices if you had computer experience, but without that experience, things go very bad.

It appears that airstream has seemed to have dropped a notch in quality control. They make a lot of trailers now. That's no excuse but it may account for the perceived issues that seem to appear and some of the wild design flaws that show up from time to time. My question to you is, "are you asking for the product to be "perfect" and is that affecting your attitude about the quality issues"?

I'm not "perfect" and i don't expect my trailer to be perfect. My attitude makes life easier. It will get fixed whether i do it or i have airstream do it. I suggest you learn to fix all you can. Most things are very inexpensive if done by yourself and surprisingly simple in most cases. It also avoids the trip to the dealer who, unfortunately, may make things worse.

Get to know your trailer and lighten up. Life's too short. (stepping off the platform - this should be in the new pet peeve thread started!)

amen !!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 09-02-2019, 10:06 AM   #16
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AS Quality

We were very happy with our 2017 Int. Serenity 23D purchased new in May, 2017. It was an April, 2017 build. Couple minor warranty items all corrected at JC. Great trailer and enjoyed our travel in it. Sold in May of 2019.

We are now very happy with our 2019 FC25 RBT purchased in May, 2019. So far after 2 nice outings there are no warranty issues. Fit and finish are very good. I am very picky about fit and finish as I have performed 5 frame off restorations of mid 1960's Ford cars. The devil is in the details.

I am sure that some AS come off the line with issues. So far, at least for us, the two new ones we have experience with have been very good if not outstanding.

We feel that our $$$ is a safer investment than with an SOB. We would buy another if we decided to replace our FC25.
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Old 09-02-2019, 10:23 AM   #17
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One way many of us have found to side step this issue completely is to buy used, or even vintage.

A good used trailer usually (but not always, in every case) means many if not most of the issues have already been taken care of.

Vintage usually requires some work on the part of the new owner but the main key advantage here is that in the restoration/refurbishment, you yourself get to know the trailer and its systems inside and out, AND can then customize the trailer to your own tastes and needs, whether it is updating to contemporary standards like wi-fi and solar, or restoring to original with 8-track players and olive green shag, ()you'll end up with something better than new! (And, for far less $$ invested, not counting your own labor/education)
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Old 09-02-2019, 10:55 AM   #18
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My intent in starting this thread was to explore reasons *why* current AS workmanship seems to be poor at times. Thanks to the many thoughtful comments we have identified a few that seem plausible:

(1) High volume construction with inadequate facilities.

(2) Relatively new, inexperienced and poorly trained work force.

(3) Intense pressure to pump ‘em out as fast as possible.

(4) Relatively few sloppy employees but lack of final QC to clean up after them.

(5) No manufacturing protocols in place.

(6) They sell as many as they can roll out the door so there’s no pressure from the market.

Overall, it seems like a corporate attitude of urgency - make hay while the sun shines. They realize that the baby boomer demand won’t last much longer.
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:10 AM   #19
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I hear a lot about qc, many are correct, but vendor supplied equip. AS could do more research for these items instead of just use cat. or sales men spiel. No matter cost all have prob. Last week I met a person that owns prevost pusher & we were discussing qc issues, he stated that whether $1 1/2 million mh have electronic prob. that he's back to fact. for 3rd time. Bottom line SOB, AS or costly MH have prob. w/3rd party items. IMO AS service dept A#1, production line needs much improvement. AS last life time warranty was 1974 also quality of work & equip started down hill. All 5 AS [last 76] & 1 argosy relatively free of defects but some items wear out except the univolt total junk. Yes I have had hinges break screws loose, rivets pop but AS 43+ yrs old I expect this plus US roads worse shape ever. Last week hit hole on I80 west of I55 that black top & cement were gone leaving huge hole thru base. This is 70 mph zone. I was in out side lane wb, 1/4 mile before other lane blocked w/ large amount of debris. It is sad that roads are in bad shape.
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:11 AM   #20
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We are now one year veterans and have had some issues. From what we have read on this forum there seems to be a concensus that AS quaity is not what it used to be. If in fact AS management has shifted their emphasis to profit first over quality, then this is the beginning of the end for them. Management 101 courses are full of case studies on companies that have lost sight of what made them successful, ultimately leading to their demise. We like our Flying Cloud and look forward to many years of happy travel. We hope AS will stay true to their original mission and maintain their golden reputation.
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