The Airstream Nest failure: A closer look

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By Keith Ward
The Airstream Nest stood out immediately from the rest of the Airstream RV lineup in that it was a fiberglass travel trailer. It was a risk for the company that made its name by creating beautiful, shiny aluminum RVs. In the end, the risk didn’t pay off, and Airstream has stopped making the Nest.

Airstream hasn’t publicly stated why it halted production, and declined to answer questions from RV Travel about the decision to kill off the line. But the Nest is merely the latest attempt by Airstream to gain a solid foothold into the fiberglass RV market.

Airstream Nest: A brief history

Airstream has been open about this desire: “… [F]or years, we’ve had our eye on small, fiberglass travel trailers,” the company said in a blog entry from 2017. But it apparently didn’t want to build one from scratch.

Instead, it bought out the NEST Caravan company in 2016, and released the first Nest models in 2018. That means Airstream bailed on the Nest fewer than three years into its production run.

NEST Caravan was created and developed by Bend, Ore.-based Robert Johans. He began “The Egg Plant,” a fiberglass restoration business, in 2006. Over the years Johans worked on various fiberglass RVs, and eventually decided to use the knowledge gained to build his own travel trailer.

According to Airstream, Johans was brought into the company with the purchase of his business, and was the Nest project manager. At the time of its introduction, Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler said that “Nest is a product that conveys sophistication, simplicity, and upscale modernity, so it made sense for us to partner and help bring this design to market.”

The Nest was offered with a base price of $45,900, a hefty sum for a 16-foot RV. Airstream declined to provide sales figures for the Nest, but it also offers three aluminum travel trailers in the same rough size as the Nest, with price points both above and below the Nest’s base price.

It’s not known when Airstream decided to stop Nest production, but it’s worth noting that as recently as Feb. 14, 2020, the company was still promoting the Nest as a part of its lineup (see screenshot below). In terms of timing, the coronavirus pandemic began to hit the world at about the same time, but it’s unclear if the two things are related. Contrary to predictions, however, RV sales took off rather than contracted, as people saw them as a safer alternative to air travel and hotels.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Although the Nest isn’t Airstream’s first try at penetrating the fiberglass RV market, it’s had the most success. This article from the Airstream website provides a thorough history, discussing how founder Wally Byam was experimenting with fiberglass as an alternative material to aluminum in the 1950s. An Airstream ad of unknown date that appears with the article touts a fiberglass model as “The World’s First Plastic Trailer.”

The article describes multiple attempts by Airstream to restart the idea of a fiberglass RV. So it’s clear that Airstream sees the value in “plastic” travel trailers, but it has yet to hit on the idea that can make it in the market for more than a couple of years.

Will there be more fiberglass in Airstream’s future? Only time will tell.

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Glenn Miller
22 days ago

Build a 20 plus foot fiberglass trailer and watch your sales soar.

Steve Murray
22 days ago

Airstream should have bought Oliver and made a 28 Foot Fiberglass Trailer. I love my Airstream and After my first Hailstorm, I will never buy another. Airstream needs to have ZipDee design a Manual Hail Protection System. Nope.. The Nest Was Cute.. but now it’s a Tax Write-Off.

Chester R Nichols
22 days ago

Airstream lost its way with the Nest. They took an already designed and Built unit & Brought its owner over Just too reduce Research & Development Costs. Even though using tried & tru interiors. It would never work for the shell itself. Cheapens the Airstream Brand & build Quality. Also, he would not be familiar with Airstream History & still build them the Way he wants.

Bill
22 days ago

Airstream is now owned by Thor. Say good bye to quality.

Anita D
21 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Just an FYI, but Airstream was Thor’s first acquisition, having purchased if from Beatrice Foods in 1980.

Doug
22 days ago

killed itself by:
1. being way overpriced compared to other fiberglass trailers.
2. having a minuscule cargo capacity compared to other fiberglass trailers.
3. having minimal amenities compared to other fiberglass trailers.
4. really? I have to go out the back and walk in the rain to get around to the awning?

all it had going for it was the “cute” factor.

ron manuel
22 days ago
Reply to  Doug

What’s your favorite fiberglass trailer?

Michael Schmidtman
21 days ago
Reply to  ron manuel

Oliver.

Peggy G
22 days ago

Two yrs ago I bought an older model AS and redesigned it to my likings. I got a good deal and loved the project. Going to do it again because someone wants to buy mine. Love Airstreams

Shawn Brown
22 days ago

We own a 2019 Nest and wish we didn’t. It was a costly model, but it did come with it’s fair share of goodies as standard equipment. Although we don’t enjoy going from dinette to bed each day, we found the bed to be very comfortable. Our issues really lie with the quality of the product. We, like so many Nest owners, have experienced one failure after another. Airstream didn’t provide the same quality assurance methods with this model. We even had ours in the shop for over two months waiting for repairs to be made. Not a single one was completed. We looked into trading our Nest in for a traditional Airstream, but their offer was so low, it was clear they didn’t value their own product. The Nest was a failure and the owners are the ones that are paying the toll.

Dave
22 days ago

Small plus expensive is the problem.

wayne
21 days ago
Reply to  Dave

the 16 foot bambi, caravel and basecamp would like to disagree

Jeff George
22 days ago

It certainly seems like the problem for Airstream is their desire to have their cake and eat it, too. They may want a fibreglass trailer in their line-up but they want to price it up with their aluminum premium line. That’s wrong-headed, because if you give people a choice between an Airstream and an Airstream, they’re going to take the Airstream every time – that is, if they’re going to pay top dollar they’re going to want the trailer that looks like the iconic, gleaming, metal Airstream, not the duller, plastic unit with the Airstream badge. It’s also wrong because setting a price point at, say, 75% of the classic Airstream of the same length would add another level of differentiation, would tempt some to buy the Nest based on saving money over the aluminum units, and would reinforce the premium status of the classic, shiny silver Airstream.

Tommy Molnar
22 days ago
Reply to  Jeff George

If people wanted a Casita or a Burro, or a Scamp, they’d buy one. I don’t get the ‘logic’ behind the Nest idea.

Chris
15 days ago
Reply to  Jeff George

What’s amazing is that Airstream’s management keeps misunderstanding their own image.The Nest was such a tone-deaf decision as a product. However, on the manufacturing side, the new AS plant installed fiberglass and polymer casting equipment that will handle panels up to 30+ feet in length. They use the technology for the Class B shells anyway. But they installed flexibility to move to larger fiberglass panels in the future. There’s a big pent up market out there that wants a big Airstream Class A motorhome like in the 1980s, with the classic bulbous Airstream look. The new tech may get them there eventually.

Susan B Banks
22 days ago

I own an Airstream, I thought the Nest was a great design, for 1 . I personally am not a fan of making a bed every night. I am sure AS took a big hit on this venture.

tim palmer
19 days ago
Reply to  Susan B Banks

Not as big a “hit” as the people that bought them.

Donald N Wright
22 days ago

I liked the Nest-Egg design, the rear door makes sense, it is like a boat interior. Also easier to load bicycles or a canoe. If they had let it be simple and inexpensive sales might of taken off. Think of the Casita trailer, everyone of the trailers in the showroom has already been sold. Another problem is the RV dealers. the DFW RV shows never had a Nest, or other small fiberglass trailers. Popups were rare.as were truck campers. Just think, there are only two Oliver trailers in Dallas.