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Winnebago Outlines New Towables Strategy

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March 29, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

Pictured in the photo are (from left to right): Elvie Frey, Winnebago Industries Towables President; Randy Potts, Winnebago Industries President; Sarah Nielsen, Winnebago Industries VP-CFO and Bob Olson, Winnebago Industries Chairman and

Pictured in the photo are (from left to right): Elvie Frey, Winnebago Industries Towables president; Randy Potts, Winnebago Industries president; Sarah Nielsen, Winnebago Industries vice president and CFO; and Bob Olson, Winnebago Industries chairman and CEO.

Winnebago Industries Inc. will call its new Winnebago of Indiana LLC towable subsidiary in Middlebury, Ind., ”Winnebago Industries Towables” following its December purchase of SunnyBrook RV Manufacturing Inc.

The SunnyBrook name will continue as a Winnebago Industries Towable brand.

”SunnyBrook RV is now ‘Winnebago Industries Towables,”’ a Winnebago spokesman said Monday (March 29). ”This is a subsidiary of Winnebago Industries and will operate as such. Under Winnebago Industries Towables, we will continue to produce the SunnyBrook line of towable RVs and also introduce a new line of Winnebago brand towable RVs.”

Winnebago purchased SunnyBrook for $5.7 million in cash while retaining SunnyBrook founder and President Elvie Frey as the subsidiary’s president.

The company anticipates establishing Winnebago as a major towable brand that will complement its motorized lineup. ”The Winnebago brand is very strong, not only the product, but the services that we offer,” said Winnebago President Randy Potts, vice president of strategic planning before being promoted to president in January. ”We think that brand philosophy will carry over into towables where we are going to parallel our success in motorized.”

Potts said that Winnebago Industries Towables will operate independently from its parent company.

Frey reported that Winnebago travel trailers will be in production by July, and will be offered first to existing Winnebago motorized dealers.

”We will be starting out with travel trailers,” said Frey, whose northern Indiana company was the 13th largest towable maker last year. ”That will be our immediate focus. Fifth-wheels are part of the plan for the future.”

Initially, Winnebago Industries Towables products will be aimed at the ”sweet spot” of the travel trailer range in lengths of 28 to 32 feet, Frey said, declining to discuss specifics. ”We already are working on prints and putting together floorplans,” he reported ”From there, we will just keep branching out.”

Winnebago last built a towable RV in 1981.

”We were founded as a towable manufacturer and we went back and forth a couple of times,” Potts said. ”Every time we went into the towable business, it was a copy of how we had done it before.

”In the strategic planning process, I looked at all the things that I thought led us to fail in the towable markets previously. That’s the reason this attempt is so different than when we’ve been in the towable market before. It’s an acquisition, and SunnyBrook is a smaller company with experience and in good standing with the RV community.”

Acquiring a smaller company based in Indiana made sense from several standpoints, particularly during the financial environment of the last couple of years, Potts said.

”All of the strategic planning was going on at a time of a lot of uncertainty in the RV industry, and we were holding onto our money pretty tightly,” he said. ”I didn’t think there would be an appetite (on Winnebago’s board) to buy into a larger company. With a small acquisition, there would be less risk.”

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