You’ve probably seen evidence of #Vanlife, the burgeoning lifestyle movement, in the stream of idyllic photos on your Instagram: People in expertly outfitted vans and RVs, frolicking in beautiful natural landscapes free from 9-to-5 jobs and modern urban life.
While it’s clearly a fixture online, the van life movement is also influencing the design choices of automakers including Airstream itself, which is now selling models with extensive gadgets and connectivity tailored to younger customers. The company recently announced that it has experienced a 218% growth in sales over the last five years–and that a whopping 45% of customers are buying an Airstream for the first time.
The design strategy helping fuel this growth, as Skift reports, has to do with tech. It seems young customers don’t exactly want to get lost in the vast and wondrous American landscape. They want Wi-Fi. And LTE. And Bluetooth. And cool digital LEDs to illuminate their nightlife, when the coyotes are howling outside. That’s why Airstream now sells trailers that can be equipped with Wi-Fi with AT&T LTE stations that provide with unlimited data. The models also come with Bluetooth-controlled LED lighting, and wireless audio. Other companies, like Volkswagen and Nissan, are doing the same.
These vehicles are not cheap. The basic Airstream start at almost $37,000 without all those high-tech options. The company’s iconic large Classic RV will cost you $149,900. But as Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler told Skift, smaller Airstreams are seeing increase in the lower-end models, adding “small is the new big.”
Airstream has changed its strategy, Wheeler continues, abandoning the idea that people want trailers to go on the road to disconnect completely. He argues that customers want to be able to go away, yes, but they want to be connected at all times–so they can Instagram the greatest sunset ever and show off their peaceful morning coffee on Facebook.
Then there’s the other reason more customers want unlimited LTE data connections: So they can work on the road. The fact that these vans also function as offices is an aspect of #vanlife you don’t often see tagged online because, in the end, taking work with you on the road is only worth a #thissucks.