Winnebago Industries Inc. recently showcased the all-new high-mileage Class A Winnebago Via motorhome for participants in the Forum on Stimulating Economic Vitality and Resource Conservation, a gathering of top national and state tourism and park leaders hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior.
Held in downtown Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15, the forum allowed key RV industry leaders, state tourism officials, the managers of public lands covering more than one-third of the nation’s surface and others to discuss increasing visits by Americans to national parks while making this use sustainable, and to see how changes in RVs will help the RV lifestyle remain popular in an era of new focus on “green” living, according to a news release.
Forum participants included state and local government officials, gateway community and tribal leaders as well as tourism and recreation industry representatives.
Keynote addresses were delivered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, both members of the president’s Cabinet. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon and American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall briefed the secretaries on RV travel and innovations as they toured the Via. The event also recognized innovations in RVing that have made the industry more eco-friendly, fuel and cost efficient.
“We were delighted by the positive focus of the administration’s comments at the forum – about its commitment to strengthen the link between Americans and the Great Outdoors. Both secretaries noted the immense economic importance of the RV industry and related recreation businesses,” said Crandall. “The Winnebago Via’s eye-catching styling, exclusive features and impressive fuel economy were a real hit with meeting attendees.”
RVs will be featured at a forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior in cooperation with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) in downtown Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, according to a news release from the Recreation vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Winnebago Industries Inc. will provide its new high-mileage Class A Via motorhome for tours by government officials including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. RVIA President Richard Coon will join ARC President Derrick Crandall to brief the secretaries on RV travel and innovations as they tour the motorhome.
The Via is the first Class A motorhome built on the imported Dodge/Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis.
The event will include remarks by LaHood and Salazar, who are expected to speak about the continued popularity, importance and benefits of outdoor activities on public lands including RVing in this economy. They are expected to recognize RV product innovations, which will be represented by the green RV on display, as part of a more eco-friendly, fuel- and cost-efficient RV industry taking shape.
“This is going to be a tremendous opportunity to share our industry’s story with two key officials in the Obama Administration,” said Coon. “Secretary Salazar already is familiar with RVing, having spent almost two weeks traveling through Colorado in a motorhome during the 2008 presidential campaign. He also understands that jobs in factories in Indiana and elsewhere depend upon the public being interested in visiting parks and other places, and being welcomed there to enjoy outdoor recreation.”
“Secretary LaHood heads an agency that is vitally important to the RV industry,” he continued. “The Transportation Department is now leading the way to help promote livability in our communities, protecting and expanding our ability to move to and from where we live, work and play. Their programs have also increased the public’s access to America’s Great Outdoors with a vast network of federally-aided roads, from Interstates to scenic byways.”
The Department of Interior forum, “Stimulating Economic Vitality and Resource Conservation in Gateway and Tribal Communities,” will focus on how to balance the need for economic growth with conservation and protection of natural resources during a time of severe economic challenge. Attendees will include leaders from gateways and tribes, state and local governments, the tourism and recreation industries, and federal lands and other agencies whose policies have an effect on these communities.
Winnebago Industries Inc. today (Aug. 25) announced that shipments of the company’s revolutionary new 2010 Winnebago Via and Itasca Reyo have now begun with initial deliveries arriving at select dealers throughout the U.S. “The culmination of an extensive development process, the all-new Winnebago Via and Itasca Reyo are ground-breaking motorhomes in every way,” said Roger Martin, Winnebago vice president of sales and marketing. “With innovative new features and construction, contemporary design, and record-breaking fuel economy, the new Via and Reyo are truly motorhomes for the future.” The first Class A diesel motorhomes built on the fuel efficient Dodge/Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, the Via and Reyo are 25 feet long, fully equipped and are slated to provide the highest fuel efficiency currently available in a Class A motorhome, along with superior handling and maneuverability.
Winnebago Industries Inc. CEO Bob Olson was generally upbeat during a third-quarter investors’ conference call today (June 18).
Despite a major thunderstorm that struck Forest City, Iowa, during the call and the specter of the just-completed third quarter, in which the company experienced a net loss of $8.6 million on a 63% reduction of sales, Olson contended that the RV industry has brighter days at hand.
For many months now, Winnebago dealers have not been matching sold units at the retail level with wholesale purchases on a one-to-one basis, depleting their dealer lot inventories to record-lows, Olson said.
At the end of May, dealer inventories totaled 2,324 units, compared with 4,341 units a year ago. Olson said he thought the replenishment would kick in when inventories fell below 3,500 units.
But he thinks a change is imminent.
“My gut tells me we’re an eyelash away from this replenishment cycle starting,” he said.
Dealer inventories were down 47% in April from a year ago and are near the lowest in Winnebago history, Olson said. “There is a point where this is not sustainable, where replenishment must begin again,” he said.
”That would make a huge difference if we could just equal where retail is right now,” he said. The lull in orders has sent Winnebago factories down to just a 18% utilization rate at the end of the quarter.
While retail and wholesale credit remains tight, Olson cited several factors to support his optimistic outlook.
Winnebago scrapped its traditional new product introduction in Las Vegas and instead introduced its 2010 lineup via a DVD sent to all 243 dealers. The DVD is being followed up with personal visits to all the dealerships this month.
“This was quite a deviation from what we have done in the past,” said Olson, who sat in on several of the presentations. “The first thing said after it was over was the dealers were impressed how Winnebago is innovative in a depressed year. They didn’t expect new product but just a facelift.”
The Via, the industry’s first Class A motorhome produced on an importered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, has been well-received, Olson said, though the company is just beginning production. The Via on the 11,030-pound GVWR Sprinter chassis equipped with a 6-cylinder 154-hp turbocharged front diesel engine averages 14-15 mpg, Olson said.
The company also “stepped up a notch on its other diesel motorhomes with new interiors and exteriors based in part on feedback from its dealers,” he added. Winnebago also is offering a new “bath-and-a-half” on some floorplans, as well as some with tag axles. He said he also heard a good response from dealers about its revamped Sunstar Class C motorhome, which sports a new front end and more amenities.
“We’ve invested a lot in our 2010 product,” he concluded. “I was impressed they noticed the fact that innovation at Winnebago is alive and well.”
In the present environment, Winnebago has been able to increase its market share in both Class A and Class C motorhomes, he noted. The company had an 18.4% market share in both classes through April, up from 17.3% a year, he added.
Olson acknowledged that he once feared now defunct or bankrupt manufacturers would flood the market with “huge, huge, huge discounting” of new units, but that has not come to pass. “There is still have a very large discounting environment out there,” he said. ”For the retail customer it’s a great time to buy an RV. Really, when you look at what it could have been, it didn’t end up as being as bad, so far.”
Olson also maintained that the large pent up demand for RVs should begin to show up at dealer lots as interest rates loosen and consumer confidence rises. The industry enjoyed a record year in 2004, he said, and with RV owners typically holding onto their units for four to six years, RVers are ready to trade up.