Wednesday, March 01, 2006
AIRSTREAM PHASING OUT MOTORHOME PRODUCTION TO FOCUS ON TRAILERS
Airstream Inc. is leaving the Class A motorhome business to better focus on its icon Airstream aluminum-skin travel trailers. As part of the process, the Jackson Center, Ohio, company is phasing out production of its diesel pusher motorhome lines and has suspended plans for two new gas Class A series. Airstream will continue to produce Sprinter chassis-based van campers. "We are in a phase-out mode, but we are going to continue to build motorhomes for many months," said Bob Wheeler. "And after that, we will support the product that hasn't retailed yet and those motorhomes that have." Airstream's departure from the Class A motorized segment follows a year in which new Class A registrations fell 9.2% compared to 2004. Employees at Airstream's rural Ohio facilities, were told the news Feb. 15. No layoffs are anticipated, Wheeler said. Wheeler said he expects production of two diesel pusher lines – A-series and Land Yacht motorhomes – to end later this year, but that the company will continue to take orders into the summer. "We have put together a build-out strategy that will take us out through most of the rest of the year," Wheeler said. Additionally, the low-profile, gas-powered Airstream Land Yacht that was taken out of production last summer will not be replaced as was planned, and Airstream has halted a project to develop a new, much-awaited aluminum-skin "Classic" gasoline-powered motorhome. Leaving the motorized segment will allow Airstream, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year, to focus on towables and van camper markets, Wheeler said. "We don't compete very well in A-class products," he said, noting that in order to do so the company would need to make a major resource commitment. "We are choosing not to do that in order to be able to focus on what we do best – Airstream trailers and Class B's.'' To better use available Class A production capacity on the assembly line, Airstream's diminutive new BaseCamp sport utility towable (SURV) is likely to develop into a whole family of trailers, Wheeler said. "We are giving serious consideration to a new entry-level trailer with a traditional Airstream shell targeted at a price point that would average in the mid- to high-$30,000's,'' he reported. The aluminum-skin Airstream Safari, the company's most affordable trailer right now, retails for an average of about $42,000. Airstream in February also showed a narrower, super lightweight Airstream travel trailer designed for the British and European markets at a major RV show in England. Airstream will continue building Interstate and a more affordable Parkway Class B motorhomes in Ohio on the imported Dodge Sprinter commercial van by Mercedes Benz. And the company will still upfit the German-built, Sprinter-based Westfalia van camper at a facility in Jacksonville, Fla.