Winnebago Industries Inc. unveiled a number of new floorplans at the 50th Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 27-29.
“Our motorized and towable lineups at this year’s RVIA National Trade Show were phenomenal,” said Winnebago Industries Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts in a press release. “Not only did we show some of our hottest floorplans, but also a number of concepts were shown in order to gauge dealer response. What we heard was positive and armed with this information – we are going to continue to take Winnebago Industries in exciting new directions that will meet and exceed the needs and demands of today’s RVers.”
Highlights of the company’s motorized division included:
• Winnebago Minnie Winnie 25B: The iconic Winnebago Minnie Winnie unveiled a new 25B floorplan at the show. This value-priced coach is perfect for consumers just entering the RV lifestyle or experienced RVer’s seeking a great value. Despite its shorter length, this 25-foot coach offers tons of sleeping accommodations. With a rear corner bed and bath, the front of the coach offers a dinette with opposing sofa/sleeper. An overhead bunk provides yet another place to sleep at night, while the galley is mid-coach.
• Winnebago Via 25P: Built on the Mercedes-Benz F50 cowl chassis, the new 25P features a rear corner bed and bath. A front slideout room provides great space including an extremely roomy wardrobe and either a standard dinette or optional sofa/sleeper. The fully equipped galley is located on the passenger side of the coach.
• Winnebago Sightseer 35G: The Winnebago Sightseer introduces a new floorplan, the 35G, features the new InTable. The InTable functions as an end table, dining table, island, countertop extension and desk. Plus, it offers built in storage and is moveable. Combined with the extendable sectional sofa sleeper, Euro recliner and innovative TV location, the InTable helps make the 35G incredibly functional and comfortable.
Innovative exteriors were also highlighted at the show with concept paint and graphics packages on display. Luxury Class A gas motor omes, the Winnebago Adventurer and Itasca Suncruiser, also unveiled new front-end styling.
“Not to be outdone, the towables line really turned heads,” said Potts. “At the forefront is the new Cherry Red Minnie. It is a truly striking trailer that is feature packed and fun. The new Winnebago Ultralite line was well received, and the full body paint Raven fifth-wheel is definitely appealing for consumers looking for a high-end trailer.”
• Winnebago Minnie: The new Cherry Red exterior and a new bunk model, the 2301BH, were the highlights in the Minnie trailer lineup. The 2301GH is compact in size and weight, and packed with features usually found in much larger units. Features include a sofa, full sized dinette, queen bed, twin bunks, pantry, tremendous wardrobe and counter space – all in a compact 26-foot length.
• Winnebago Ultralite: The company’s newest towable entry is the Winnebago Ultralite travel trailer. The sleek exterior offers color-infused tan gel coat, poured fiberglass walls, eye-catching graphics and frameless windows. The designer interior features radius ceiling featuring LED lights, the new Ultralite features 80-inch beds, an island galley and mega bathroom. The trailer weighs less than 6,000 pounds allowing it to be towed with most of today’s smaller tow vehicles.
• SunnyBrook Remington: On the value side, the new Remington 2750BHS Ultralite was on display. Sporting a new cool grey high-gloss exterior fiberglass, new countertops and a low entry-level price point, the new Remington Ultralite provides a high quality, value-priced unit for those consumers that are more budget minded.
• SunnyBrook Raven: The 3300CK floorplan featuring full body paint was showcased in Louisville, offering an island kitchen with solid surface countertop and a swing-out cabinet end. Other features include a rear entertainment center, full sized sofa, residential swivel rocker recliners, and dining table and chairs.
Other notables include the Winnebago One travel trailers and Live Five fifth-wheels that have been gaining market share with unique floorplans, curved ceilings and exterior highlights like innovative paint packages and frameless windows, and the value-priced Sunset Creek Sport that offers new interior paneling and black cabinet hardware.
The Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Club is now inviting SunnyBrook and Winnebago brand towable product owners to become members, including owners of SunnyBrook products built prior to the acquisition of SunnyBrook Manufacturing by Winnebago Industries Inc.
According to a press release, WIT is a club exclusively for owners of Winnebago Industries’ produced RV’s. Members are eligible to join any number of WIT Club affiliations, including national, state, local or special interest clubs, as well as participate in caravans and rallies held throughout North America.
Members also receive numerous RV travel related benefits such as discounts at hundreds of participating campgrounds, professional trip routing, free membership in Pilot Flying J Travel Plaza RV Real Value Club, as well as a subscription to WIT Club News.
“We are very excited to welcome SunnyBrook and Winnebago Towables owners to join the ranks of more than 11,000 Winnebago Industries motorized product owners who are currently members of the WIT Club,” said WIT Club General Manager Doug Formanek. “Since our acquisition of SunnyBrook, we’ve seen a growing interest in offering WIT membership and benefits to towable product owners with the most enthusiast proponents being our existing members.”
Formanek continued, “As we eagerly welcome SunnyBrook and Winnebago towable owners, we are excited about the energy and potential growth they will bring to WIT along with plenty of fun and new friendships.”
Interested SunnyBrook or Winnebago brand towables owners may contact the Winnebago Itasca Travelers Club at 800-643-4892, or at www.winnebagoind.com/clubs/wit.
Winnebago Industries Inc. today (Feb. 18) announced Fred Hershberger has been named to the position of national sales manager for Winnebago Industries Towables in Middlebury, Ind., according to a news release.
In his new position, Hershberger is responsible for the development and sales of Winnebago and SunnyBrook travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers. He reports directly to President Elvie Frey.
Hershberger, 42, is a 20-year veteran of the RV industry, having previously worked as sales manager for Coachmen RV and product manager for Keystone RV.
A native of Elkhart, Ind., Hershberger is a graduate of Elkhart Memorial High School and attended Bethel College, Mishawaka, Ind., with a major in business administration. He may be reached at (574) 825-5250, Ext. 5165 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Focus on hard work is what led Randy Potts from his roots in Waterloo to his new position as president of Winnebago Industries Inc.
And, he said, it’s that same focus that will continue to lead the iconic motorhome manufacturer out of a financial funk that first gripped the RV industry two years ago and forced some major cutbacks, the Waterloo Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier reported.
“I’ve always tried to stay focused,” Potts said. “Early in my career, I always tried to stay in the technical side of the manufacturing environment. I love the manufacturing environment. I enjoy it to this day.”
Now, he’ll have a chance to focus on wider responsibilities.
Potts, 52, a 1977 graduate of Waterloo West High School and son of Larry and Eunice Potts, who still reside in Waterloo, was elected Forest City-based Winnebago’s president Jan. 18 by the company’s board of directors.
Potts is the second Waterloo native in recent years to head up the company, which employs more than 2,000 workers in Forest City and Charles City. Waterloo’s Ed Barker had served as company president until his retirement in 2007. Potts follows Osage native Bob Olson as president. Olson stepped down in order to concentrate on his responsibilities as chairman and CEOat Winnebago.
“It’s kind of a strange coincidence,” he said of the Waterloo heritage developed in Winnebago’s president’s chair. “I talk to him about our Waterloo roots.”
Skills developed in hometown
Potts honed his manufacturing skills around Waterloo even before his graduation from Hawkeye Institute of Technology — now Hawkeye Community College. He started with Schultz Manufacturing in Waterloo, and then took his skills into a senior tool designer position at Black Hawk Engineering, which numbered Deere & Co. among its clients.
It was his experience at the latter company that first exposed him to Winnebago, he said.
“What brought me here was tough times in Waterloo, the farm crisis of the early 1980s,” he said. “I was working for Black Hawk Engineering, and the farm crisis had put hard times on John Deere. Times were tough and, consequently, things were very slow at Black Hawk Engineering.”
The Waterloo company dispatched Potts to Winnebago on temporary assignment as a tool designer.
“I was really impressed with Winnebago and the town of Forest City. I saw a lot of opportunity here, so I pursued a full-time position.”
He landed a full-time job at Winnebago in 1988 as senior tool designer and never looked back. Since joining the company, he has filled various engineering and management positions. In 2006, Potts was appointed vice president of manufacturing and, in November 2009, he was promoted to senior vice president for strategic planning, responsible for new business development for the company.
“Randy has a great working knowledge of the company and its operations, having worked in senior management positions within Winnebago Industries for over a decade,” Olson said in a news release.
A more diverse company
Olson credited Potts with guiding Winnebago’s recent move toward diversification, which led to formation of a new Winnebago of Indiana LLC subsidiary, which will build SunnyBrook and Winnebago brand towable products.
Moving up in the company has given Potts a chance to take a wider view of its mission, he said.
“When I became vice president of manufacturing, that’s when I had to look at things more globally and take a broader view than just a technical side,” he said. “That was a good step to where I am now. I’ve been challenged over many years to look at the company as a whole, look at it from big picture, and that’s where I am now as president.”
Potts also has had to help the company work through tough times. When fuel prices spiked in 2008 and the recession first swept through the area, it hit the RV industry particularly hard, according to industry analysts. Winnebago was forced to cut back, closing one of its plants in Charles City and laying off hundreds of workers both in Charles City and Forest City. In Charles City alone, the company trimmed its work force from about 400-500 to about 135.
“The entire RV industry in the financial crisis really saw unprecedented declines,” Potts said. “Our company, through Bob Olson’s leadership, had to do a lot of very tough things to endure that. They’re tough but necessary. So I think it’s a testament to Bob’s leadership and the entire company that here we are today, having survived the toughest times in the history of the company and now in a position where we’re already displaying profitability.”
The company has remained debt-free, Potts noted.
“Our strategy going forward, of course, is one of rebuilding,” he said. “The market is still quite soft, but it’s coming back. We want to make sure that we have fresh products out there, that we have very appealing products and that our brand is stronger than ever.”
Stock on rebound
After hitting its five-year peak at $35.08 in November 2006, Winnebago shares began to slide, eventually bottoming out at $3.23 per share in March 2009. The stock started to climb slowly, reaching its 2010 high at $17.43. Shares have been trading in the $15 range of late, showing an air of stability that was notably absent during the down years, Potts said.
One reason is that the company doesn’t build an inventory it doesn’t know it will sell, he said.
“We’re an order-driven company and essentially don’t build to speculation, and that’s part of the reason we’ve managed to stay healthy,” he said. “That’s a requirement in the modern manufacturing environment.”
As orders pick up, hiring will increase, Potts said.
“So, as the orders for our product pick up, we’ll staff accordingly,” he said. “We have fortunately been able to increase our production staffing as things have improved and essentially maintained our salaried staffing levels. We just have to be vigilant and stay appropriately staffed to the market conditions and, hopefully, that market will continue to improve.”
Potts and wife Pam, also a West graduate, have two sons — Andrew, 27, and Landon, 22.