Megacorporations have long been a part of our cultural landscape, but we don’t always realize the pervasiveness of their reach. For instance, many adventure enthusiasts are still under the impression that Airstream, which makes just a few thousand trailers per year, is a small and craftsmanship-oriented company. However, since Airstream was acquired by Thor Industries in 1980, many Airstreamers have lamented that the quality took a downward turn…a trend that continues today.
Over 91% of the RV industry is owned by Thor Industries, Forest River and Winnebago. Their tour de force: selling as many RVs as possible for as cheaply as possible. It’s because of this approach, which has indoctrinated most of the industry, that the RV industry has a reputation for crude execution and dissatisfied consumers. Take a look at any of the hundreds of forums filled with angry, disillusioned RVers.
The big RV supply chains work like this: suppliers make the parts, which are sold to the manufacturers who assemble the parts. Then, the finished RVs are sold to dealerships. Dealers sell these to consumers. A lot goes wrong throughout this long supply chain. In order to be profitable, RV parts are produced as cheaply as possible (often in China) and manufacturers throw the parts together as quickly as possible. For consumers who finance these RVs, their purchase rarely outlasts their payments and the cheap subcomponents fail just after the warranty ends.
In his illuminating series The RV Industry Death Spiral, journalist Greg Gerber writes that “As a full-time RVer I can see through the industry’s smoke and mirrors. The industry talks a good talk and markets the heck out of the lifestyle. But, it drops the ball big time when it comes to QSV—quality, service and value.”
Following the model of its parent company, Airstream satisfies dealers first and consumers second. It may portray itself as being an authentic and homegrown business, but this is largely a marketing gimmick that leverages a long-ago past. They use the same quality parts and to a great extent, the same methods of construction as Thor Industries’ “white box” RVs.
Bowlus Road Chief is independently owned and we focus on our relationship with you, our customer. We are able to grow and develop in a way that is meaningful and organic. When we design a Road Chief we are doing so because we want to share our vision with the world and fulfil your needs, not because we have earning reports demanding it. Our independence allows us to craft the Bowlus Road Chief the way we want to, make our customers’ needs our main priority, tell our story in an authentic voice and celebrate those who desire to adventure on their terms.
Our Road Chiefs have soul in a market of soul-less recreational vehicles. We reject the traps that many other RV brands set for consumers. We are our own supplier, manufacturer and dealer. We subscribe to a factory direct model because we don’t want to compromise on quality.
We do not primarily use RV parts. We opt for marine and aircraft materials. Our iconic shell is crafted from 2024 aluminum—which is, for example, the same material used to construct a Boeing jet. Our aluminum is 5-6 times the price of softer, dentable aluminum used in an Airstream. Our interior is real wood, compared to Airstream’s paper or plastic veneer. Our rivets are aircraft-grade. The rivets used in an Airstream are the same you might find in belts or pot handles. Many of our parts (electrical system, electrical monitoring system, power converter, inverter, lighting fixtures, showerhead, sinks, etc.) are marine-grade, meaning they are long lasting and extremely durable. RV-quality parts are not built to endure. In other words, we don’t cut corners at Bowlus Road Chief.
Why the painstaking effort? It’s simple. We believe in the spirit of modern adventure. As a family-run business, our love of the Bowlus Road Chief has its roots in our own cross-country adventures in Road Chiefs. It’s why we revived the brand in 2011 with a small-but-mighty team of skilled artisans. We are on a mission to empower other travel-lovers to adventure on their own terms, for a lifetime. To fulfill that, we do all we can do to provide you with The Ultimate Luxury Off Grid Adventure Vehicle™, and we thank you for joining us.
Declare your independence,
Bowlus Road Chief