Seldom does one person stand out and make such a singular impact on a company the way Airstream’s Senior Vice President of Operations Mark Wahl did in his more than two-decade career at the company. On December 31, 2019, Wahl officially retired from Airstream, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to impact the company for years to come.
Wahl joined Airstream in 1997 as vice president of manufacturing. He came to Airstream having already established himself as a leader and innovator in the RV industry. Wahl began his career at Avion Coach Corporation in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Avion was then acquired by Fleetwood Enterprises where Mark held various management positions and worked in eight different facilities across the U.S. He eventually took a position at Damon Corp. where he worked for as plant manager before joining Airstream.
“It’s hard to overestimate what Mark brought to this company,” Airstream CEO and President Bob Wheeler said. “There’s a magic to seeing how the details come together in the bigger picture. Mark’s strength was connecting those dots and implementing innovative solutions that have strengthened our organization at its core.”
Wahl began his time at Airstream overseeing manufacturing, commercial operations and facility maintenance. He later assumed responsibility for product development, engineering, human resources and other areas of the business.
Wahl was responsible for helping develop the infrastructure that enabled Airstream to expand its product offerings in the mid-2000s. He established Airstream’s manufacturing engineering department and a training and development department, ushering in a new era for the iconic brand. He also helped see the company through the worst downtown in the American economy beginning in 2008. Wahl’s management and leadership—combined with the processes he implemented—were essential components allowing Airstream to survive the Great Recession and come back stronger than ever, the company reported.
“You can use the best materials, follow the best plans and utilize the best equipment, but ultimately it’s the people who are crucial to making the best product,” Airstream COO Justin Humphreys said. “Mark Wahl was the kind of leader who demanded the best of himself, and inspired the best in the people who worked alongside him. People like that don’t come along very often, and Airstream was lucky to have Mark Wahl.”
Those who worked alongside Wahl echoed that sentiment.
“He brought an attitude to everything where failure wasn’t an option,” Airstream’s Director of Engineering Marion Slater said. “For Mark, there literally was no hill too high to climb. He could be tough, but he could also inspire you to go above and beyond simply by doing that himself. You didn’t want to let him down.”
Since 2018, Wahl oversaw the largest facilities expansion in Airstream history, leading the internal team through the planning, design and construction phases of Airstream’s new travel trailer production facility.
“He’s got this encyclopedic knowledge of the Airstream process—from the manufacturing to working with suppliers and managing the associates on the line,” Wheeler said. “His experience was essential as we began to look at how we not only moved our production to a new facility, but how we would continue to improve and tighten that process and strengthen Airstream’s dedication to quality.”
With completion of Airstream’s new plant on the horizon, Wahl made his retirement official. He will continue advising the company in a limited capacity during the transition.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” Wahl said. “I’m extremely proud to have been a part of Airstream’s success and growth. More than anything, though, I’m grateful for the many friendships and memories shared with my associates and colleagues along the way. All of those relationships have a profound impact on a person’s career. It will be those regular interactions that I’ll greatly miss.”