From Yosemite to the Teutoburg Forest in Germany, and through the world’s highways, byways, and dirt roads, Airstream enthusiasts have been there with their silver-bullet looking, aircraft-inspired adventure travel trailers.
Just don’t call them RVs.
“If you told an airstream owner you owned an RV they might smack you in the head,” said San Martin-based South Bay Airstream Adventure owner Ted Davis.
As Davis indicated, Airstream owners can be touchy when it comes to their travel trailers.
“The durability and reliability of an Airstream is unmatched,” Davis, 55, said. “Since 1931, 70 percent of Airstreams are still on the road. When you look at industries that rely on product turnover, like cars and traditional RVs, they have short lifespans. When you buy an Airstream, it’s a second and third generation investment, and they have the highest resale value in the industry.”
Davis is the President and Chief Executive Officer at AANW Holdings LLC in Clackamas, Oregon. Along with his two silent partners, he owns five Airstream dealerships in Seattle, Boise, Portland and San Francisco, along with a custom Airstream shop that builds commercial units and a graphic design company which also produces videos.
“We wanted to address the South San Francisco, San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy market,” Davis said of his facility at 13635 Sycamore Ave. in San Martin. “We realized that our Fairfield store is about one and a half, to two-hour drive for a lot of our customers.”
Sales of recreational vehicles have surged recently. In 2017, recreational vehicle wholesalers shipped 504,599 vehicles to dealerships, an increase of 17.2 percent from the previous year, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, who also report that sales have increased every year since 2012.
“It was challenging to say the least,” Davis said. “We started looking about a year and a half ago. When this facility became available, we liked the big open space, the outdoors and a great community. The community has embraced it and the lifestyle that Airstream represents.”
South Bay Airstream Adventures employs 18 people, and they are hiring technicians and sales staff, or “Adventure Advisors.” When it comes to Airstreams, the terminology is a big thing.
“We are not in the RV sales business,” Davis said. “We are in the luxury and adventure travel business. We sell memories, and adventure and the Airstream is a product that can deliver those adventures and memories.”
In Gilroy, between 2013 and 2016, automotive sales rose by 27 percent, thanks in large part to the surging recreational vehicle market. Managers of See Grins RV, the area’s largest recreational vehicle dealer, said that they sold between 1,500 to 2,000 units in 2016 with gross revenue between $80 million to $100 million.
With a healthy economy and the associated increase in dollars to spend on vacations and luxury items, Airstream sales are driven by the product’s enduring appeal and demographics.
“What drives our business is baby boomers and emerging millennials,” Davis said. “We see 10,000 baby boomers a day reaching retirement age, and they are the highest net worth generation yet. Most of our customers are first time buyers, and they’re not buying traditional RVs. They are going from zero, to buying an Airstream and I think that’s because of the draw of the brand.”
For now, Baby Boomers are the best customers, but millennials, especially those with sufficient income, are emerging as buyers.
“They are making up a higher and higher percentage of the market,” Davis said. “As the Boomers age out, the millennials will age into our brand. A 25-year-old probably doesn’t have the income, but by the time they’re 35 to 40, that would be a great time to get into our product and brand.”
As Airstream’s legacy continues to endure, South Bay Airstream Adventure hope that sales continue to soar, like as Davis claims, an Airstream could.
“If you put wings and a motor on an Airstream, it would fly,” Davis said. “The design has stayed relatively unchanged. The production and the technology have improved, but the aluminum silhouette that is well known around the world has remained.”