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.