Pimp My RV
How do you pitch an old man's ride to the octane-boost set? By reinventing it, natch.
(Business 2.0) – The average RV buyer sets sail in his land-yacht at age 49--and then gets so hooked that he turns into a repeat customer. This statistical pearl gave the folks at Airstream a bright idea: Why not get him hooked earlier? Thus was born the BaseCamp, a 16-foot trailer aimed not at retirees touring Yellowstone but at their kids planning to hang-glide off the Tetons.
When development began in 2003, designers quickly decided that the camper needed basic sleeping accommodations for two and room for toys like surfboards and motocross bikes. It also had to be light enough that it could be pulled by any car. And, most important, it had to look way cool. But producing a camper shaped more like the sensuous fender of a Porsche than a slab-sided motor home isn't as simple as it sounds. "It's easy to make flat parts," says Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler. "But get into compound curves and it's a whole different ball game."
To make those compound curves, 75-year-old Airstream had to ditch its usual aluminum skeletal structure in favor of more malleable fiberglass. The fiberglass frame--made possible by 3-D modeling software and computer-controlled milling of tooling parts--gave the BaseCamp more than a pretty look: It also helped to cut Airstream's labor costs by 40 percent.
Though the BaseCamp doesn't go on sale until next month, Wheeler is already considering coming out with a bigger version. After all, there's a gap in the lineup between the $20,000 BaseCamp and the $30,000 Bambi 16--and plenty of 20- and 30-somethings left to hook. -- A.T.