Nest by Airstream was launched last week, an upscale grab at the vanlife movement. Design purists will note that it is not original to Airstream. Nest was conceived by Oregon designer Robert Johans and was acquired by Airstream in March , with further development in-house. Johans was brought aboard as project manager.
It turns out that founder Byam actually built fiberglass prototypes in the 50s and early 60s, experimenting with this new material. His exterior design features a low stance and wide front windshield that was allegedly inspired by ski goggles. In keeping with a trend to move away from claustrophobic traditional trailers, Nest has six windows and a skylight. All of this helps to flood the interior of Nest with light and brings the outdoors inside.
The look is fairly minimalist.
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There are touches that the inventive Wally Byam, who passed away more than half a century ago, might have liked. Not to mention low tech blackout curtains, which would be useful when the morning sun in Cabo or the Keys comes flooding into your trailer. Speaking of sunlight, Nest is pre-wired for solar if you decide to add solar collectors and go off the grid for a while. Visit Airstream for more info. I have been traveling the world and writing about it for a living for more than three decades, starting with a story for The Washington Post about the sleeping giant tha Let me ask you a question: Have you ever placed your hands on the skin of an Airstream trailer?
There is something about the aerodynamic shape, the silver color, the rivets.
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Airstreams have an allure. People have an emotional response to them. Airstream owners have a very strong sense of belonging. I just came back from a customer rally in Vermont that 5, Airstreamers attended. We have to be approachable as a company, and I try to embody that spirit as its president. Airstreamers are a very loyal and demanding community.
They have high expectations, and they demand authenticity. At the Vermont rally, I lived in a trailer for the six days I was there. It was a hell of a lot of fun.
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We actively harvest customer feedback. We do some of this through traditional methods like surveys and Web chat rooms, but we solicit a lot of feedback informally at rallies and other community-based activities. Every Wednesday evening during the summer, for example, I host a customer cookout. People drive their Airstreams back to company headquarters in Ohio for service from Florida, California, and everywhere in between, and we talk to them about their experiences while I cook the hamburgers and hot dogs.
If they have problems with the product, we work hard to resolve them. Fixing a problem is a great opportunity to forge a relationship with a customer. Authenticity is the sum of a lot of attributes. But which are most important? Is it the consistent shape and color of the product? Or the Airstream community itself? As we challenge authenticity, we determine the constraints on innovation at Airstream.
The fact is, our brand mystique can breed an insular and sometimes narrow-minded view of what makes an Airstream an Airstream. Our ability to innovate certainly requires us to balance the expectations of faithful, longtime customers with the desires of new customers. Consumers rejected it. It has a countertop, shelves, and a refrigerator. But is it an authentic Airstream product? We think so. But the customers will ultimately tell us. It was a necessary experiment.
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I expect all Airstream associates and managers to make plenty of mistakes, myself included. But, obviously, we need to learn from them. Airstreams are beginning to attract a hipper demographic.