As the pandemic drags on, Airstream is steering from wealthy retirees to white-collar workers and Instagram influencers.
The luxury brand owned by RV giant Thor Industries has unveiled another sinuous, silver towable camper — and this one is designed with the work-from-home crowd in mind. Two of the three beds on the new Flying Cloud 30FB Office will convert to desks, allowing owners to, in effect, sleep where they work.
An office chair comes standard and anchors to the desk while the trailer is moving. Overhead storage cabinets double as whiteboards, and a sliding privacy divider serves as a tableau for Zoom backgrounds. The rig will also come prewired for Wi-Fi, with a powerful rooftop antennae linked to an onboard battery or a bank of solar panels.
“The pandemic has permanently changed the traditional work landscape,” CEO Bob Wheeler said in a statement. “Airstream has always provided the freedom of a mobile living, playing and working space, but the Flying Cloud 30FB Office takes that promise to the next level.”
Airstream says the product strategy was largely structured on feedback from pandemic nomads. And though we will one day reach a start to the end of lockdown life, the brand is betting that many of us won’t get back to a formal office anytime soon.
In August, when infection rates had fallen precipitously from their initial peak, 1 in 4 employees was still working remotely. Many companies are letting leases expire and preparing to extend work-from-home arrangements indefinitely. All of this is good news for those who sell beds on wheels — or desks, for that matter.
Liberated to work from home — or anywhere else — in the past year and leery of hotels and airplanes, a crowd of Americans bought rigs for living on the road. Even though factories were shuttered for weeks in the spring, U.S. RV makers shipped almost 431,000 vehicles last year, a 6% increase over 2019, according to the RV Industry Association. What’s more, the trade group expects the momentum to continue, forecasting another 20% increase in shipments this year, which would be near an all-time peak.
Towable campers like those riveted together by Airstream were the most popular product in the segment and the brand has struggled to keep up. Last year, as Airstream sales surged 22%, its shipments slumped by 13% because of a six-week factory shutdown, Wheeler said. Dealerships that typically have 40 trailers on the lot are now down to six or seven. Almost half of its recent customers were first-time RV buyers.
Buoyed by Airstream, shares of Thor Industries have more than tripled since a nadir in March. The new brand’s newest rig, however, will likely be a stretch for all but the most financially secure digital nomads. The price starts at $107,500 before features like solar panels. And at almost 6,800 pounds, the camper will require something much stronger than a Subaru to pull it around the country.