Hipsters Rejoice! The Retro Airstream Gets a Smart Update

December 3, 2018

By Chloe Aiello

The old school Airstream RV is getting a very modern update. Adventurers can now control and monitor the trailers via an app on their phones.

This type of technology is nothing new for cars and SUVs, but for Airstream, going smart has the potential to change the game for owners on the road.

"If you think about [when] you're camping in the wilderness, you only have so much water, only have so much power ー these things really matter. So the technology we've developed in this app helps you keep track of those things and ultimately should be able to predict how much power you have left and tell you, 'Hey, shorter showers are going to be important here in a couple of days,'" Bob Wheeler, President and CEO of Airstream told Cheddar at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Wheeler told Cheddar's Tamara Warren the new updates, called Smart Control Technology, will allow Airstream owners to monitor levels of black, grey, and fresh water; control heat and air conditioning; monitor the battery level; and set interior and exterior lighting by modes, like "away," "cinema," and "sleep" all via a Wi-Fi signal or 4G data.

"We think of connectivity now like any other resource, like water and power. People have come to expect that," Wheeler said.

The shiny metal travel trailers have been manufactured in the U.S. since about 1930, but in recent years they've had a major renaissance. Wheeler has has told the BBC he attributed the renewed success to intensive marketing and a widening dealer network, but a cultural embrace of the trailer's kitschy, retro aesthetic is also to thank. Wheeler told Cheddar the Airstream has become especially popular among Californians.

"California is our number one state year-in, year-out for retail. It has been for decades. The company was founded here. So there's something about the California vibe and Airstream that really go well together," Wheeler said.

Aside from the "vibe," California's agreeable weather and array of outdoor attractions probably don't hurt. Wheeler said the typical Airstream customer is mostly on the road and on the move, but does take the occasional day to Netflix and chill.

"These things are meant to travel. But when you are parked and you're out having an adventure ー you're backpacking, you're hiking, you're canoeing ー you want to come back to something that's comfortable, feels like home, feels like your little pod of security, warmth, and safety," Wheeler said. "And some days it rains, and that's when Netflix comes in awfully handy."