How Bowlus Became the RV Americans Gladly Order a Year in Advance
In releasing the new Terra Firma model, Bowlus continues to focus on exclusivity
Airstream has become somewhat of a generic trademark, like Kleenex or Band-Aid, where the brand name becomes a stand-in for the product. So anytime people see a gargantuan aluminum travel trailer polished to a mirror shine, they proclaim, “Honey, would you look at that Airstream!”
Except increasingly, there’s a new brand of impossibly shiny aluminum RVs capturing the attention, imagination and bank accounts of the American public: Bowlus, a brand that traces its roots back to the 1930s and was revived in the 2010s. We checked in with the company last summer, when camper sales were through the roof because air travel plans were disrupted by the pandemic, and they had recently released the Endless Highways Performance Edition, a new model with a starting price just shy of a quarter of a million dollars.
This week, Bowlus announced another addition to their lineup: the Terra Firma, a limited-edition model which ups the starting price to $265K and adds functional features like GPS tracking and better water filtration, as well as the kind of opulent touches you’d expect from the price point, like the ability to warm up your floors while you’re on the way back from a hike. But for interested buyers, the most shocking tidbit may be another number entirely: the wait time.
The company says they’re currently taking orders for 2022.
For a relative newcomer to the RV world, this may seem inconceivable. If people are shelling out six figures for a traveling home on wheels, you’d think those well-heeled road trippers would be able to procure their land yachts with a little more haste. But this timeline shows just how popular Bowlus has become, and how committed the company is to offering a luxury experience to buyers.
On the first point, after I published the aforementioned story on RVs last summer, which used a photo of Bowlus as the main image, I got a curious email from a source. They told me that promoting Bowlus “might cause some industry backlash, as those models are virtually unavailable.” Well, I’m certainly not worried about industry backlash, whatever that means, but that unsolicited comment drove home that Bowlus — which would never be mentioned in the same sentence as Airstream or Winnebago just a few years ago — has become a force to be reckoned with in an industry that isn’t used to disruptors.
For example, in an illuminating interview with Entrepreneur magazine last month, Bowlus founder and CEO Geneva Long said she was adamant about two things: cultivating personal relationships with customers in line with other luxury retails, and releasing products on her schedule rather than the schedule of the larger RV industry. That means editions like the new Terra Firma tend to pop up out of nowhere, and the timeline from purchase to delivery is longer — especially as interest climbs — but worth it in the end for the personalized service and bespoke touch that Bowlus provides.
While other camper companies are constantly trying to adapt to changing consumer habits and industry headwinds, Bowlus is continuing to carve out its own niche on its own timeline. But it seems there might be more customers in that niche — who are in the market for $200K art deco travel trailers — than even they expected.
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