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Airstream CEO Shares Secret Of Resurgence

Stocks in this article: THO

What features in recent models have been getting the buyers' attention and bringing them beyond that novel exterior?

Wheeler: First and foremost is some of the interior design work we've been doing in the past 10 years specifically. Starting in 2001, we introduced a line of travel trailers called the International Line that represented very cutting-edge, modern design in any venue -- either residential or, certainly, in the RV world. Those products started to get the attention of the design aficionados and design press. more than anything, that has attracted attention to our brand and cemented it in people's thinking as current and relevant to their lifestyles.

Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler boasts of interior design work we've been done in the past decade to update the venerable camper brand.

On top of that, we've packed a lot of technology into the trailers, in particular Blu-ray/DVD players, LED flatscreen TVs, Bluetooth connectivity -- LED lighting both interior and exterior for a minimal carbon footprint. We've tried to push forward aggressively in both interior design and in providing people the electronics they have in both their houses and cars. Those are things people have come to expect in a premium luxury product.

That seems to go back to Airstream's modernist beginnings. It was a space-age product that preceded the space age. How much digging through the crates took place at Airstream while coming up with the new designs?

Wheeler: It's always been a product that's been ahead of its time. It's the perfect embodiment of "form follows function" but it captures the imagination.

When we look at new designs, we have to strike a balance. We can't be too influenced by our past or you get products that look like everything we've always made. We have to respect and give a nod to our heritage, but luckily we're in a position where we don't really feel the need to tinker with the exterior shell that everybody loves. We really leave that alone and focus on the inside, because there is no iconic Airstream interior.

The interior's a place where we really feel we can flex our design muscle and push some creative boundaries and take some chances. When we look at our past, our company was founded on design quality and innovation, so in everything we do we use that as a touchstone but use it as a reference rather than looking at a lot of old photos of the '60s and '70s and trying to recreate designs that were popular then.

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