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Airstream CEO Reports: Future Looks Bright

May 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc.

Airstream Inc.’s senior management presented a solid picture of business growth over the past year for the Jackson Center, Ohio-based division of Thor Industries Inc. during last week’s 2013 National Dealer Meeting in Reno, Nev., RVBUSINESS.COM reported

The company reported positive trends in terms of sales, inventories, retail turns, production hikes, dealer body growth, international sales and first-time buyer ratios along with a key new model debut on tap for later this year of the company’s highly publicized, high-end Land Yacht travel trailer.

First shown to dealers as a concept vehicle at last winter’s Louisville Show, the 28-foot Land Yacht, retailing for “just north of $140,000,” will go into production in August with most of the same interior touches originally developed by Airstream in conjunction with Italian yacht designer Mauro Micheli, best known for his work with Riva Yachts and Italian cabinet maker Technoform S.p.A.

“We’re very pleased with the results of the meeting – both the dealer council, which is more of a roundtable dialogue about a broad range of issues, and the general dealer meeting, which is an overall presentation of what’s happened in the last 12 months and what we expect to have in the next 12,” reported Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler of the May 15-17 event at Reno’s Peppermill Casino & Resort.

Click here to read the entire story.

Airstream 2 Go Readies for West Coast Launch

May 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Dickey Riegel

Airstream 2 Go, a new travel company offering rentals of current-model Airstream trailers, makes its debut this month.

According to a press release, Airstream 2 Go offers customers a unique and stylish way to explore the United States in a turnkey Airstream vacation experience. Travelers can visit and explore America’s national parks, landmark destinations and landscapes with all the comforts of their own Airstream trailer, custom matched to dedicated GMC Yukon Denali sport utility vehicles.

Independently owned and operated, and exclusively factory-authorized by Airstream Inc., Airstream 2 Go has strategic locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“Airstream 2 Go is a brand new company with an 82-year history,” said Dicky Riegel, founder and CEO and a former Thor Industries Inc. executive. “Airstream trailers have been an American icon for travel and adventure since 1931 but, until now, only Airstream owners have been able to access the brand. Through its rental offering, Airstream 2 Go provides adventurous travelers with a timeless vacation and travel experience.”

Airstream 2 Go trailers feature sleek and contemporary interiors designed by award-winning San Francisco architect and designer Christopher C. Deam. All Airstreams in the fleet are fully equipped, with many items provided through Airstream 2 Go’s relationship with Zappos.com (www.zappos.com).

Each Airstream includes luxury amenities such as plush linens, towels and all the essentials for a fully equipped kitchen. Available in two sizes – a 23-foot trailer that sleeps four and a 28-foot trailer that sleeps six — each Airstream features Ultraleather fabrics, Beauflor flooring, Wilsonart laminate furniture, flat screen LED televisions, Sony DVD/CD players, iPod docks, integrated sound systems, microwaves and cook tops, barbeque grills and Zip-Dee powered awnings.

Travelers will receive also hands-on guidance and expertise to make the trip as turn-key as possible. Airstream 2 Go has partnered with Off the Beaten Path (http://offthebeatenpath.com/), a travel planning and outfitting company known for exceptional outdoor explorations since 1986. Named one of the top 25 exploration experts in the nation by National Geographic magazine, Off the Beaten Path offers an insider experience to some of nation’s most incredible natural attractions.

Prior to hitting the road, Airstream 2 Go will educate renters by providing detailed information on itinerary stops, destination facts and even step-by-step product videos available online at www.airstream2go.com, including what to pack for their specific journey. Upon arrival in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, guests are welcomed and transferred to the Airstream 2 Go depot, where staff will provide a thorough overview and education about the Airstream and tow vehicle. Renters will be equipped with fully loaded iPad Minis containing information on all necessary safety systems, a copy of their itinerary, maps and even a special Airstream 2 Go driving playlist.

The journey duration is up to the traveler, with a minimum of five days. Introductory week-long trip rates range from $5,300 for a ‘do it yourself’ trip with a 23-foot trailer to $7,500 for a fully customized itinerary with the 28-foot trailer. Airstream 2 Go offers travelers a unique opportunity to experience America, in a quintessentially American way.

For more information visit, www.airstream2go.com or call (800) 780-9880.

Latest Briefs from RV Parks/Campgrounds

April 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Shane Ott

MONTANA

From the Billings Standard:

Two weeks ago in China, a country with almost no commercial campgrounds and limited cross-country highways, Shane Ott of Billings opened a third Airstream RV dealership, according to the Billings (Mont.) Standard.

The Beijing dealer, Xing Liu, sold two RVs on opening weekend.

“I think, maybe in some cases, these ultra-wealthy people are parking the RV on their property just to make their equally wealthy neighbors jealous,” Ott said.

In recent years, China has been on a tear to build modern infrastructure from subways to railroads to highways, according to the newspaper.

“They may not have many miles of highways, but the ones they have are brand new,” he said.

Click here to read the entire story.

NEW YORK

From the Glens Falls Post Star:

The Adirondack Samaritan Counseling Center in Hudson Falls will honor the Lake George RV Park on Route 149 in Lake George for its ethical practices during an awards banquet on April 27.

The RV park, owned by Dave King, will be honored in the large business division.

The winners were selected for their commitment to core ethical values such as integrity, fairness, honesty, community involvement and public service.

The awards are the result of a yearlong process. The counseling center, which provides mental health services across the region, seeks to recognize ethical local businesses because there is a connection between a positive, supportive workplace and mental health.

Nominations are sought in the spring and summer, and a SUNY Adirondack business ethics class conducts interviews and ranks the nominees in the fall.

NORTH DAKOTA

From The Forum, Fargo-Moorhead:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, will delay opening its camping facilities at Lake Ashtabula near Valley City, N.D., until May 10, weather permitting.

The decision is due to the snowpack lingering into late April and no significant melting forecast for the next 10 days.

Campgrounds impacted include East Ashtabula Crossing, West Ashtabula Crossing, Eggert’s Landing and Mel Rieman Recreation Area.

MISSOURI

From KSDK-TV, St. Louis:

Missouri has been named “Best Trails State” in the nation by a nonprofit organization working to enhance and protect the country’s hiking, biking and riding trails.

The group, American Trails, made the announcement Wednesday (April 17) at the International Trails Symposium in Arizona. The “Best Trails State” award is handed out every two years to the state that does the most to improve and promote its trails system.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the state park system features almost a thousand miles of managed trails and more than 500 miles of National Recreation Trails designated by the U.S. Department of Interior.

More than 18 million people visited Missouri state parks in 2012, marking the fourth straight year of increased attendance, reversing a 10-year decline.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s office said a 2012 economic study for the Missouri park system reported total annual expenditure of state park visitors in 2011 was approximately $778 million.

 

Airstream CEO Co-Chairs Go RVing Coalition

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc.

Go RVing has selected Bob Wheeler, president and CEO, Airstream Inc., to serve as co-chairman of the Go RVing Coalition, the RV industry’s national advertising and market expansion initiative.

Wheeler joins RV dealer Tom Stinnett of Tom Stinnett Derby City RV (Louisville, Ky.-area) as co-chairman of the industry-wide coalition, replacing Bob Olson, who retired from Winnebago Industries in 2012.

The officers of Go RVing, Inc. — RVIA President Richard Coon and RVDA President Phil Ingrassia — released a joint statement praising Wheeler as an excellent choice to serve as co-chairman:

“Bob is a proven industry leader who understands the importance of branding and strategic promotion. He brings valuable experience, insight, and influence to the Go RVing Coalition, and partnered with Tom, they will make a strong team to help guide Go RVing forward as we seek to build on the growth of the past few years.”

Wheeler, 46, began his professional career as a manufacturing engineer at General Motors. He became president and CEO of Airstream in 2005 after serving in several other positions with Thor Industries, which is Airstream’s parent company.

“The Go RVing program plays a vital role in our industry’s effort to raise consumer awareness about the benefits of RVing and the RV lifestyle,” said Wheeler. “I’m honored to work with the talented members of the Go RVing Coalition, who have for years helped position RVs as a fun and affordable way to build lasting memories. As we look to furthering industry growth and expansion, I’m excited to be part of the team’s move towards more creative, impactful and innovative campaign executions.”

Stinnett, who has been involved in Go RVing since it began in 1994 and has served as a co-chairman since 2004, will continue to play a leadership role as a key consensus-builder among dealers and manufacturers. “With his experience with Thor and Airstream, and his passion for the RV lifestyle, Bob Wheeler will be a great addition as Go RVing co-chair,” Stinnett said. “I look forward to working with him as the 2013 ad campaign gets underway.”

Wheeler is a resident of Sidney, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, Kelly, and their three boys — Grant, Harvey and Finn.

The Go RVing campaign is widely credited for boosting the image and popularity of RV travel and helping to maintain RV awareness and demand through the recent economic downturn. The Go RVing Coalition consists of RV manufacturers, component suppliers, dealers, and campgrounds who work to provide the public and media with information about the benefits of RV travel and to foster satisfaction with the RV experience through its Committee on Excellence. For more information, visit www.GoRVing.com.

 

Riegel Creating Unique Airstream Rental Firm

April 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Dickey Riegel

In an entirely new twist for the RV industry, former Thor Industries Inc. executive Dicky Riegel in May will launch Airstream 2 Go LLC, a company that plans to rent Airstream travel trailers hitched to GMC Yukon Denali SUV tow vehicles to retail consumers.

”Airstream 2 Go is entirely new for people who never have had the experience of an Airstream,” said Riegel, former president of Airstream Inc. and senior president of Thor Industries, Airstream’s parent company.

Airstream 2 Go initially will make available through facilities in Las Vegas and Los Angeles a fleet of 20 23- and 28- foot Airstream International Signature travel trailers with interiors by noted designer Christopher C. Deam.

Rates for a weeklong rental will range from $5,300 for people who just want to pick up a trailer/tow package and range up to $7,500 for a customized itinerary developed by Airstream 2 Go’s partner Off the Beaten Path, a Montana-based travel planning and outfitting company. Riegel noted that Airstream 2 Go would limit rentals to five days or longer.

”It’s a premium experience,” Riegel said. ”Many in the RV industry will say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money.’ But if you think about how unique Airstream 2 Go is, and the ability we give to visit America’s Great venues in a quintessential way, we know there will be demand for the experience at the premium price point.”

Rental customers will be covered by their automobile insurance, Riegel said. ”Insurance coverage will be just like when they rent an automobile,” he said.

Riegel said Airstream 2 Go, in developing its novel business plan, surveyed 60,000 consumers about their interest in renting an Airstream and found a substantial number of positive responses.

”For all those people, Airstream 2 Go presents an exciting opportunity never offered before,” Riegel said.

Also as part of its game plan, Airstream 2 Go has an exclusive arrangement with Airstream Inc. to provide rental travel trailers to the public, which heretofore had not been available.

In California, Airstream to Go will offer rentals at the Airstream Los Angeles dealership in San Gabriel. In Nevada, the new company will have a 28,000-square-foot lot in a redevelopment project in downtown Las Vegas.

Riegel said Airstream 2 Go over the next three to five years expects to establish facilities in Florida, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, Illinois and New England, “among other attractive locations.  Ultimately, the consumer will tell us where they want to go.”

Unique Airstream 2 Go is Launching

March 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Dickey Riegel

Editor’s Note: The following column is penned by Dutch Mandel, editorial director for Autoweek, chronicling his association with former Airstream and Thor Industries Inc. executive Dicky Riegel over the years and the pending launch of Airstream 2 Go – the only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the U.S.

I met Dicky Riegel about 10 years ago. I’d been wandering the halls of the annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) convention in Louisville, Ky., and Dicky was completely blocking the doorway of a bright and shiny Airstream trailer. I wanted in.

At 6 feet 7, Dicky blocks a lot of passages, but opens up many more. As then-president of Airstream Inc., he afforded adventurers a chance to see the world, one iconic aluminum tube at a time.

When we found out what each other did, neither of us could stop asking questions. Dicky is a car fanatic — a nut of the finest order – and from an early age, he consumed car magazines, including Autoweek, like oxygen. As I’ve an interest in design, the open road and a cool, hip life I envision leading someday with an Airstream on my bumper and miles of roads ahead, it was an ideal match. For days, stories and vodka gimlets flowed.

Over the years, I visited Dicky and right-hand-man Bob Wheeler — an unassuming engineer the ladies adore at their Jackson Center, Ohio, headquarters. We did projects together: When Autoweek competed in a human-powered Red Bull Dragster event, we promoted a righteous Airstream SkyDeck motor home. Every successful race team needs hospitality, right?

In time, Dicky moved from Airstream to parent company Thor Industries Inc. (and Bob became Airstream president, a position he still holds today). That was the beginning and the middle of this story … that gets better.

Move forward several years, and Dicky wants to do something on his own. He conjures up a brilliant plan.

Understand that the only way anyone could experience the Airstream lifestyle was if they went all in and bought one. It was a commitment to be part of a life enjoyed by many and envied by more.(Who among us, upon seeing a summer sun glint off that shiny carapace, has not breathed the sigh of a beckoning road?) Until now, there’d been no way to rent an Airstream to live this fantasy.

Dicky started Airstream 2 Go, the first and only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the States. He raised capital, bought a squadron of trailers and a fleet of GMC Yukon Denalis, and created a mobile destination getaway we all can enjoy. (Its soft launch is this month, but he’s booking clients for May already! Go to www.airstream2go.com to learn more.)

He’s made it simple — a concierge will plan stops, coordinate your adventure, plot your path and, of course, make reservations. Before you go, a full-blown ground school will walk you through how to care for the trailer. Or you can fly in, rent the rig and off you go. The level of engagement is customizable and fits every customer.

Have you dreamed of a roll through America’s purple mountain majesty? A 23-foot Airstream could fill your needs. A family of six can vacation to the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean in a 28-footer. Each model is fitted with air conditioning, power awning, backup camera, lawn chairs, gas grill, available bike rack, generator, bathroom with shower, kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, duvets (!) and flat-panel TV.

You could float down a river, spelunk a cave or lie on a beach, but until you’ve enjoyed the openness this country offers, you’ve not lived. Dicky, like I said, has opened up America to many, and I can’t wait for my Airstream vacation.

 

Airstream Reporting All-Time Sales Mark in 2012

January 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Bob Wheeler, Airstream Inc. CEO

Airstream Inc. announced that 2012 was the best year for sales in the company’s 81-year history.

Airstream, which manufactures travel trailers and Class B motorhomes, saw sales climb 16% year-over-year, outperforming the RV industry which reports approximately 11% growth for the same period, RVBUSINESS.com reported.

Airstream’s travel trailer business was up 7% in 2012, while the company’s Class B motorhome sales jumped 28% over 2011.

“We are pleased to report 2012 was Airstream’s most successful year, and not only are we still in business after 81 years, we’re doing better than ever,” said Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler.

“We anticipate a very active 2013 in both North America and abroad as Airstream continues its expansion into new global markets.”

Airstream attributed the 2012 increase to:

  • An expanded product offering including Airstream’s Class B Interstate model, which appeals to luxury buyers along with the traditional RV customer.
  • An expanded dealer network, which includes 17 new retailers – 12 for the B-van business and seven new travel trailer retailers.
  • Prominent marketing partnerships in 2012 targeting younger consumers, which exposed Airstream to a group of first-time RVers.

Airstream recently unveiled the Land Yacht Concept Trailer at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and will announce a decision on production in the months ahead. The company is forecasting 15% growth in its business for 2013.

USA Today: RVs are Getting Smaller

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood's Storm features an optional hide-a-loft (shown above).

You may have to look harder to see those convoys of motorhomes headed for vacation spots this summer. The RVs are getting smaller, USA Today reported.

While sales of traditional motorhomes have grown at a respectable 6.2% rate for the first six months of the year, two smaller classes encompassing large van conversions have grown nearly twice as fast, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports.

“The era of bigger-is-better and more ostentatious” is over, declares RVIA President Richard Coon. Now, “the trend is toned down quite a bit.”

Blame the economy and gas prices, but also retirees who have decided they don’t need rolling McMansions for status in otherwise hard times.

“Fuel prices are driving it, but this is a cultural shift,” says Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc., which converts delivery-van-style Mercedes-Benz Sprinters into low-key motorhomes. “There’s a shift away from conspicuous consumption.”

Though these units are priced upward of $125,000, Wheeler says they typically don’t have the fancy paint and graphics of larger units. “No flashy paint job,” he says. Rather, it’s “understated elegance” — and up to 18 miles a gallon from the modest diesel engine, triple the gas mileage of some big gasoline-powered motorhomes.

Even in the bigger vehicle classes, some RVers are downsizing. RV-maker Fleetwood RV Inc. says many buyers of more traditional motorhomes, who formerly would have opted for 36-footers or bigger, today are buying downsizing to its 28- to 32-foot Storm line, which starts at about $92,000, says Lenny Razo, eastern regional sales director.

Those RVs are being fitted with more space-maximizing features, such as bunks that drop from the ceiling. Many buyers “are getting older, and they don’t need as much” space, Razo says.

Winnebago Industries Inc., too, has introduced more lower-priced motorhomes and fuel-saving diesels. “In the last couple of years, people are wanting value products, not necessarily all the bells and whistles like in 2004,” says spokeswoman Sheila Davis.

Smaller motorhomes also can be more versatile, such as serving as a base camp for little leaguers at games, as well as a home away from home on vacation, she says.

Midwest Leasing Releases Financing Details

May 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Fran Wickenhauser

Midwest Leasing Inc. has joined forces with Thor Industries Inc. on an exclusive basis to provide the RV park and campground industry with financing solutions.

Bryan Wickenhauser

Midwest Leasing Inc. will finance park model rental units for Airstream Inc., Breckenridge, CrossRoads RV and Keystone RV Co., according to a news release from Fran Wickenhauser, president of Midwest Leasing Inc.

Midwest Leasing Inc. originated in Milwaukee in 1985, but is now headquartered in Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colo. Midwest Leasing will provide conventional financing, as well as structured financing to coincide with a campground owner’s seasonal cash flow on terms up to 60 months.  “At the end of the financing term your campground owns the park models/rental units. We will finance park model/rental units, including freight, as well as other capital equipment related to your campground, throughout the United States and Canada,” he said.

Advantages of Financing With Midwest Leasing Inc:

  • Will finance 100% of total purchase.
  • Allows you to finance other equipment for your campground.
  • Conserves cash resources for other priorities.
  • Allows for structuring of your payments to coincide with seasonal cash flow.
  • Allows you to pay for units as you are receiving revenue from their use.
  • Allows for the same tax benefits as if you had purchased the units.
  • Does not affect your bank line borrowing ability.

“We have been financing capital equipment for 25 years,” Wickenhauser said. “We have looked long and hard at the park model/rental unit marketplace and feel comfortable with the products from Thor Industries Inc. We are excited and optimistic about our ability to help campground owners in the U.S. and Canada who want to acquire park model/rental units, as well as other related equipment, for their campgrounds. Campground owners are finding that park model/rental units are providing two to five times as much income as a traditional RV site, so we think the time is right for us to enter the financing arena to help campground owners acquire these units.”

To learn more specifically about how Midwest Leasing can help your campground call or email: Fran Wickenhauser at (800) 203-8920; Bryan Wickenhauser, vice president, at ( 800) 398-2604; fwick@financing-equipment.com; and bwick@financing-equipment.com.

Ott Touts Rental Units at Reno Convention

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shane Ott, Thor Industries Inc.

Before joining Thor Industries Inc. as its director of campground relations last year, Shane Ott spent 23 years with Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), working his way up to president and COO of the company.

But during an address to private park operators attending the ReV up in Reno convention and tradeshow in Sparks, Nev. last month, Ott said the multi-week, long-haul family vacations that many of us grew up with are a thing of the past.

And while recent increases in fuel costs certainly encourage families to camp closer to home, that’s not the only factor.

Most families, he said, no longer can afford time off work to take extended vacations of two weeks or more, as they had in years past. In most cases, both parents are working, and many find it difficult to leave work for more than a few days at a time. Their kids may also have sports practices and other extracurricular activities, which further complicate efforts to escape for a lengthy trip.

As a result, he said, people are taking shorter trips, and they’re camping closer to home. And while there will certainly always be some people who have the ability to take long-haul, multi-week RV and camping trips, Ott said the phenomenon of families taking shorter trips closer to home is “a macro trend that is here to stay.”

But while this may seem like an ominous development for private park operators, campground operators have found that they can broaden their guest base by investing in park model rental accommodations, which are perfect not only for people who don’t have a tent or RV, but for time-deprived families who want to have a quick and easy weekend getaway without having to worry about packing tents and sleeping bags, let alone setting up and taking down camp.

Rental accommodations are lucrative, often generating three times as much as a typical RV site. Park models are more lucrative than RV sites not only because they generate more income per night, but because they tend to be booked more often and have higher average occupancy rates than RV sites.

“To some extent,” Ott said, “campgrounds have insulated themselves from dependence on RVs by investing in park models.”

This is one reason why several Thor subsidiaries have partnered with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to provide campground operators with special pricing on rental accommodations, including park models manufactured by Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. and CrossRoads RV as well as travel trailers manufactured by Airstream Inc. and Keystone RV Co.

During an interview with Woodall’s Campground Management, Ott said the park operators were directly involved in helping the Thor companies develop their respective rental products. CrossRoads RV, the latest to join the ARVC-Thor promotion, has several features, including:

  • 5/8-inch pine plank tongue and groove interior paneling instead of ¼ inch paneling or gypsum board.
  • No carpeting. Instead, the floors are covered with Beau Floor linoleum, which is easy to clean and more resistant to furniture scratching and cracking due to cold weather than other floor coverings.
  • No curtains because the materials used in draperies can tear and hold odors. Instead, CrossRoads uses miniblinds, which can be easily cleaned and replaced as needed.
  • Residential-style refrigerators. Guests prefer them over compact RV refrigerators because they hold more and work better. They can also be easily replaced as needed.
  • Custom designed deck plans. CrossRoads has provided Lowe’s with architectural drawings for patio decks that it designed specifically for its rental units. So whenever park operators want to install a patio, they can simply contact Lowe’s, which will provide them with the deck plans as well as the lumber and other supplies they need.

Esther Osborne of Marble Quarry RV Park in Columbia, Calif., in California’s famed gold rush country, told WCM she has seen evidence of the trends Ott described at her park, which her father has owned and operated for 32 years. She said the park has invested in cabins in recent years to broaden its market base and the results have been significant. “It used to be more clubs and older people that came in here,” she said. “But now (with the rental accommodations), we’re getting a huge mix with a lot of families with children.”

In fact, Osborne was so impressed with the CrossRoads RV unit on display at the Cal-ARVC convention that she bought the unit, and hoped to have it ready for occupancy before Memorial Day weekend.

The convention was sponsored by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) and the associations of several neighboring states.

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