Winnebago Industries Inc. CEO Randy Potts flipped the pages of a recreational vehicle magazine until he got to the page with a new Winnebago advertisement.
The ad promises a new Mercedes Benz with a purchase of a Winnebago motorhome. The ad shows photos of the front end grills of several Winnebago and Itasca models, which have the Mercedes Benz logos. Winnebago uses Mercedes Benz’ chassis in many of its products and motorhomes carry the Mercedes Benz logo.
Potts said the ad is edgier than what Winnebago would have written and designed in the past, but it’s part of the culture he is fostering as he enters his second year as CEO, president and chairman of the board, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported.
“There is an excitement around here and I think everyone can share that with you,” Potts said.
Advertising, sales and marketing are just one example of how he wants employees and companies to be bolder and “more responsive to the market.”
Potts hired Scott Degnan as vice president of sales and product development within the past year. Degnan had worked for other recreational vehicle manufacturers before coming to Winnebago.
“My perception coming in was that Winnebago had built a reputation of very high quality products but that it was somewhat resistant to change as in ‘we’ve done it this way for years,’” Degnan said.
When he met Potts and visited the company, Degnan realized the company was ready for changes.
“Randy is a change agent,” Degnan said.
Potts said while the company needs to lead on trends and changes or be on the edge of those, it cannot sacrifice quality or the foundation that’s been built on that quality.
Still, “you have to be bold enough to take risks,” Potts said.
For Winnebago, advertisements such as the one that uses Mercedes Benz and others, are examples of taking risks and “empowering people to do it,” Potts said.
“There is more freedom,” said Kelli Harms, a public relations and marketing specialist with Winnebago. “I hate to use the cliched ‘think outside the box’ but that’s what it is.”
Degnan said Harms, her department director Chad Reece and other employees, “felt handcuffed.”
When Degnan said the department had more freedom, Reece responded with, ‘I’ve got such a great team we will blow your mind.’”
Advertising is just one example, Potts said.
The company released two new models with a price of $69,999 for 2013 to hit a price point it was missing before.
Potts said employees completely reconfigured existing motorhomes to get to the new models. They didn’t just remove or add pieces from prior models, Potts said.
He’s formed product development teams that will be responsible for specific products within the company.
Employees will be challenged and they will be encouraged to be creative, Potts said.
“It’s everything, from ads to product development to the way we conduct meetings,” Potts said. “It’s time to change what’s been done here but what won’t change is the quality of the product. That is non-negotiable.”
The Mercedes-Benz Citan commercial van, the first product to result from the Renault-Nissan-Daimler partnership, debuted at this week’s RAI commercial vehicles show in Amsterdam.
Automobile Magazine reported that the Mercedes’ new commercial van joins the automaker’s existing van family alongside the Sprinter and Vito. At this point, the platform will not be sold in the U.S.
The Citan, which combines the words “city” and “titan,” will continue the momentum Mercedes has in the commercial van market. Mercedes-Benz Van boss Volker Mornhinweg reports 2011 was the most successful year in the division’s history, and is convinced the Citan will gain a 4% to 5% market share of the emerging segment.
“We aim to sell more than 400,000 units worldwide by 2015,” Mornhinweg said in a release. In Europe, the market has quickly grown to 700,000 units.
The Citan is available in three lengths (155, 170, and 185 inches) the van will be offered as a panel van, multi-purpose van and passenger-hauling crew bus. The multi-purpose vehicle, the Citan Mixto, is based on the 185-inch version, and offers a foldable rear bench seat and two sliding doors. The third, the 170-inch Citan crewbus, is available as a five-seater with a foldable rear bench seat and sliding door (sliding doors on both sides is optional).
Engine options include three direct-injection turbodiesel engines ranging from 75 to 110 hp, as well as a supercharged gas engine that puts out 114 hp. Engines will be paired to a five- or six-speed transmission. Mercedes’ BlueEfficiency package — with stop/start tech, low rolling-resistance tires, as well as a battery and generator management system — is standard on the gas variant, and optional for the diesel versions.
Sales of Sprinter vans increased 94% for calendar year 2011, according to a press release from Mercedes-Benz. In only its second year of operation, Daimler Vans USA and its combined network of both Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinter dealers achieved a total of 16,577 vans sold, far surpassing the 2010 result of 8,559. The Mercedes-Benz network alone saw an increase of 172%.
“Our strong, diverse network of 185 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner commercial van dealers spread across the U.S. has enjoyed a banner year of Sprinter van sales. From large fleet operators to small construction businesses and mom-and-pop food trucks, American consumers are discovering the incredible benefits of Sprinter vans,” said Claus Tritt, general manager of commercial vans for Mercedes-Benz USA.
The Sprinter platform has also seen growth over the years in the RV industry as a number of manufacturers have built Class A, B and C motorhomes on Sprinter chassis since 2001.
Powered by a 3.0-liter BlueTEC diesel engine, the Sprinter has best-in-class cargo capacity of up to 547 cubic feet and payload capacity up to 5,358 pounds. With cargo doors that open a full 270 degrees, the Sprinter also boasts a rear door opening that’s 5 feet 2 inches wide and 6-feet tall. Both the Cargo and Passenger Vans feature a side-door opening that’s 4 feet 3 inches wide and 6-feet high.
At the same time, their step-in height is only 19.9 inches – lowest in the industry. All versions are equipped with a number of Mercedes-Benz safety features — ESP stability and rollover control, ABS anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist and traction control. The driver and front passenger seats are equipped with standard multi-stage front air bags, and side curtain and torso air bags are optionally available.
Daimler Vans USA recently added a shuttle van to the imported Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van lineup that includes chassis for Class A, B and C motorhomes.
The 2010 Sprinter model lineup also includes a cargo van, passenger van and cab chassis – all of which are powered by a 188-hp 3.0-liter Mercedes-Benz diesel engine that utilizes Daimler AG’s BlueTEC technology to reduce emissions.
Claus Tritt, vice president of operations for Daimler Vans USA, introduced the new model at the company’s Ladson, S.C., factory in a press event attended by MotorHome staffer Patricia Marroquin.
Daimler is rebranding the Sprinter as a Mercedes-Benz product after cutting ties earlier this year with the Dodge division of Chrysler LLC. Sprinters also are sold through Freightliner Trucks North America LLC dealers.
Equipped with many Mercedes-Benz safety and convenience features, the Sprinter shuttle van can seat up to 16 passengers.
The low-floor shuttle van has four seating configurations based on use.
Tritt pointed out that the Sprinter has an interior height of 6 feet, 4 inches and a 54.6 degree turning radius — both of which he noted are ”best of class.”
He said the Sprinter combines Mercedes-Benz design themes with commercial vehicle characteristics. “We brought sexy back to the commercial vehicle market,” he said.
Tritt said that 13 American upfitters, including Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest River Inc., Airstream Inc., Four Winds International Corp., Monaco RV LLC and Fleetwood RV build motorhomes on Sprinter chassis with GVWRs ranging from 9,900 pound to 11,030 pounds.
Sprinters, sold in the U.S. since 2001, are available through 117 Sprinter dealers, and the network is growing, Tritt said.