Winnebago Industries Inc. today (March 13) announced the launch of a new RV lifestyle website. According to a press release, the site, www.winnebagolife.com, nicknamed goLife, brings “a fresh perspective to the RV industry.”
The goLife website will have continuing features that include stories on owners’ lifestyles, in-depth articles featuring the company’s latest vehicles, a product showcase for apps and travel accessories, stories and pictures from owners, and a look ahead to new trends in the industry.
“For years, Winnebago has been an innovator in recreational vehicle product design,” said Kelli Harms, Winnebago’s marketing and sales promotion manager. “With our new goLife website we plan to continue that innovation by bringing unique stories and fresh ideas that readers won’t find in today’s RV publications and websites. Traditionally, manufacturers’ websites are all about specifications and features, but that’s only half the story. We think that taking our readers behind the scenes with owner stories, in-depth interviews with Winnebago executives and designers, fun travel destinations, and unique product highlights will complete the other half of the Winnebago story.”
Chad Reece, director of marketing noted, “Historically, the RV industry is slow to change. Many of the traditional ways our customers used to learn about our products are now less important. Today, by the time customers walk into a dealer, they already know a lot through on-line research. Our goLife website, along with other social media tools, will be invaluable in helping our customers learn about our products and, of equal importance, share the fun and excitement that our Winnebago owners experience.”
“And to best communicate the Winnebago and RV lifestyle, we’ve done something pretty innovative,” Harms continued. “We’ve reached out to one of our Winnebago owners to be our editor/blogger-in-chief. Last year Don and Terry Cohen traveled 25,000 miles in their new Itasca Navion. Don created a personal website to share their adventures and insights with their friends. Don’s been a successful entrepreneur for four decades and has written, photographed and produced award-winning videos for years. As the goLife editor, he brings a true – ‘been there, doing that’ approach.”
“It’s a dream assignment,” says Cohen. “A year before we bought our Navion, I was all over the Internet learning about RVs. While I viewed hundreds of sites and videos, I didn’t see many that were very well written or produced. I’m super excited that the new goLife website is going to add some long overdue sophistication to the RV industry. We know full well that there are a lot of misperceptions about RVing and I think our goLife site is going to be a fresh voice in getting people to think differently about RVing as a fun travel option.”
Winnebago Industries has introduced its all-new Solei Class A diesel-pusher motorhome, offering two floorplans, the 34T and 38R.
According to a press release, the Solei is built on Freightliner XCS chassis featuring a 340-hp Cummins diesel engine coupled with a six-speed Allison transmission. The interior is set off by polished Corian galley countertops, coffee-glazed cabinetry, LED ceiling lights and upscale entertainment features.
Winnebago’s Smart Storage is as an integral part of both floorplans, providing expanded storage.
• Powered driver and passenger seats in leatherette.
• Radio/rear-view color monitor system with 6-inch touch screen.
• Powered mirrors with defrost/side-view cameras.
• Powered MCD visor shade for the front windshield and MCD blackout shades in the coach area.
• Soft vinyl ceilings, LED ceiling lights and vinyl tile flooring throughout.
• Polished Corian galley countertops and tiled backsplash.
• Home theater sound bar with DVD/CD player.
• Full-coach water filtration system.
• 6,000-watt Cummins Onan diesel generator and 2,000-watt inverter/charger.
• Roof A/C with heat pump, hydraulic leveling jacks and heated holding tank compartment.
• Low profile allows unit to fit through 12-foot door opening while having amazing storage of up to 228 cubic feet (38R).
He was only going to work until spring field farm work started, but he’s stayed for 50 years.
Harlan Rodberg will mark 50 years as an employee of Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc. during a Feb. 24 open house at the company’s visitor center. As reported by the Forest City Summit, Winnebago is only 56 years old.
“It doesn’t seem like it,” Rodberg said on recent break from his assembly line job at the Forest City motor home manufacturer.
He started when he was 19 after a neighbor talked him into trying it. “There wasn’t much to do on the farm in the winter except pitch manure,” Rodberg said.
Rodberg intended to return to the farm after several months, but, “I fell in love with the place and the people I worked with. I love to work.”
Rodberg likes that he’s part of a team that creates and builds motor homes.
“It’s fascinating,” Rodberg said. “We do something interesting every year.”
Rodberg said he’s just one of the employees that keep the operation going.
“He’s a good person,” Rodberg’s supervisor Wade Rout said. “He does whatever it takes for the company.”
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Winnebago Industries Inc. has agreed to become the North American supplier of motorized rental units for Apollo Motorhome Holidays in the United States, according to a press release.
Apollo, a premier international rental provider, has agreed to purchase Winnebago motorhomes to provide unique travel and vacation experiences for its customers within the U.S.
“Winnebago is proud to be associated with Apollo, a well-established rental provider,” said Winnebago Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts. “With our highly recognizable name and their experience in the rental business, this is sure to be a win-win partnership for customers looking to experience the RV lifestyle. These rental orders will be delivered primarily during the company’s third fiscal quarter.”
Winnebago Industries Inc. has been recognized by Statistical Surveys Inc., a retail reporting service in Grand Rapids, Mich., for having the top-selling motorhome brand for calendar 2013.
“We are very proud of the continued success of Winnebago in the marketplace and we continue to develop innovative, quality products to promote this iconic American brand,” said Winnebago Vice President of Sales and Product Management Scott Degnan. “We have launched a great motorhome lineup this year, with several brand new, innovative products just entering the marketplace. We believe our new Trend, Viva!, Forza, Solei, and Travato now entering the market will bring us additional incremental growth in the coming year.
“We congratulate our dedicated employees and our strong dealer partners in once again achieving this top selling position. We look forward to the introduction of even more exciting new products at our upcoming Dealer Days event this spring and we will continue to provide industry-leading support for our dealers and retail customers.”
Winnebago Industries Inc. and Ram had the perfect venue this week at the Chicago Auto Show to exhibit the 2014 Winnebago Travato, a Class B motorhome based on the Ram ProMaster chassis.
According to a report by Cars.com, that’s because the record cold temperatures and near record snowfall this very, very long winter have pushed Chicagoans over the edge — ready to pack up their belongings and join the “snowbirds” heading for the sun.
Roughly the length of a full-size pickup truck at 20 feet, the relatively compact Travato could sit in the driveway off to the side and once the thermometer drops into negative territory, this home would be pointing south.
Just reading the Travato’s feature sheet is a giant tease for Chicagoans in February. The outside has exterior speakers, a retractable power awning with LED lighting, an outside-facing TV jack and household AC jacks that are a recipe for a giant picnic we can’t attend for another four months.
On the inside is a kitchen with stove, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, stainless-steel sink, LED lighting and 22-inch TV. There is also a bathroom with toilet, shower and sink. The bed in the back is quite small, though — a corner “double,” a portion of which flips up against the sidewall to store bicycles or other large items with access from rear doors.
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Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc. was named “Newsmaker of the Year” for 2013 by RVBusiness Magazine and RVBUSINESS.com.
“We picked Winnebago as our 2013 Newsmaker of the Year over and above other companies that also benefitted from last year’s recovering marketplace because the Iowa-based RV builder has to a great extent reinvented itself as it strives to become more of sales-driven company versus a manufacturing-centric firm,” said Sherman Goldenberg, partner and publisher of RVBusiness, in a press release. “This transformation is largely a response to challenges posed by a revamped senior management team led for the past three years by Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts, a 30-year Winnebago veteran, and, more recently, by Scott Degnan, a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. exec who now serves as vice president of sales and product management. And in the final analysis, RVB’s staff concluded, the rebirth of Winnebago, a company billing itself as ‘The Most Recognized Name in Motor Homes,’ is in many ways emblematic of the entire industry’s ongoing recovery.”
“It is a great honor for Winnebago and all our employees to be recognized by RVBusiness for this prestigious award,” said Winnebago Industries Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts. “We’ve worked very hard in this recovering market, literally reinventing ourselves in every aspect of our business from the way we manage the product development process to branding our products and beyond. We look at every day as a new opportunity for continued improvement and will continue to make the changes necessary to grow profitably as we go forward. We’re very excited about what the future holds for Winnebago.”
Like an NFL football team with the true grit to bounce back from a regrettable loss, Winnebago Industries Inc. has in many ways shown the world and the rest of the RV industry what it takes to shake off the bleak days of the Great Recession and – stretching that sports analogy — reset its gameplan, introduce a new playbook and redirect its energies toward the next game or, perhaps, the playoffs.
That drive to survive and redefine the company’s entire approach to the business world, in a nutshell, is why RVBusiness has named 55-year-old, Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago as “RVB’s Newsmaker of the Year for 2013.”
RVB’s staff chose Winnebago over an array of other contenders that generated plenty of headlines in 2013 — Camping World Inc., the nation’s largest RV retailer; Thor Industries Inc., America’s highest volume RV builder; and Fleetwood RV, now part of Allied Specialty Vehicles Inc.’s Allied Recreation Group.
So, why, one might argue, pick Winnebago over other RV builders when it has clearly benefited from the same rising tides that have lifted other manufacturers?
Because the publicly held RV builder, located in the flatlands of northern Iowa about an hour south of Minneapolis — far from the industry’s Indiana RV-building hub — has to a great extent overachieved by “reinventing” itself as it strives to become more of sales-driven company versus a manufacturing-centric firm. From all we can tell, it’s largely a response to challenges posed by a revamped senior management team led for the past three years by Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts, a 30-year Winnebago veteran, and more recently by Scott Degnan, a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. exec who now serves as vice president of sales and product management.
And because the rebirth of Winnebago – the nation’s fourth largest RV builder and a company billing itself as “The Most Recognized Name in Motor Homes” – is in many ways emblematic of the entire industry’s ongoing recovery.
Here’s a few highlights extracted from the pages of the January/February issue of RVBusiness:
The Employment Picture: Winnebago’s employment roster has gone from a pre-recessionary high of 4,000 down to 1,500 at its low point and now back up to an austere headcount of about 2,790.
Expanding Retail Sales: Winnebago posted an industry-best 63.8% rate of growth for retail sales of all RV’s combined from 2011 through the first 10 months of 2013, reports Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Financial Performance: The Iowa firm finished its 2013 fiscal year Aug. 31 with revenues of $803.2 million, a 38.1% gain over $581.7 in fiscal 2012, and operating income of $44.4 million, a 366.1% increase from $9.5 million in fiscal 2012. And it again posted impressive numbers in Q1 of 2014, ended Nov. 30.
National Press Coverage: The Iowa RV manufacturer became somewhat of a media darling over the past year with coverage in everything from CNBC’s “Comeback Companies” to ABC News with Diane Sawyer’s “Made in America” plus a live interview with Randy Potts from New York on “CBS This Morning.”
Three Key Media Accolades: The company drew praise for its performance on a national scale with its selection this fall to Barron’s 400 Index and its listing in Fortune magazine’s “100 Fastest Growing Companies” and Chief Executive magazine’s “Mid-Market Elite.”
Also tipping the scales in Winnebago’s favor is a new brand-licensing program, an award-winning first entry into the commercial vehicle arena and the development of an array of new motorhomes, including the Travato Class B and Trend/Viva! Class C assembled on Chrysler’s Ram ProMaster van chassis, an Americanized version of Europe’s popular Fiat Ducato platform.
But Potts and Degnan make it clear in the current issue of RVBusiness that Winnebago is also keeping an eye on a variety of mainstream product categories, including gas-fueled Class A motorhomes. In fact, the industry can expect the next significant new Winnebago product debut by spring.
“All I can tell you is that we’ll be launching the next big splash to our dealers during our next Dealer Days event, which is the middle of April just before Easter,” said Degnan, “and it’s just really going to be cool.”
Winnebago Industries Inc. is highlighting its Winnebago, Itasca and Winnebago Touring Coach lineups, including the retail debut of several exciting new products during the Jan. 15-19 Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa.
According to a press release, Winnebago products on display will include:
• Winnebago Vista 36Y: True to its name, the gas-powered Class A Vista’s most distinguishing feature is the magnificent view available from the large front cab windows, or through the large, passenger side picture window looking out from the galley island. The triple-slide floorplan also features a StudioLoft drop-down bed in the cab area, new sofa with integrated recliner, three hidden TVs, walk-through bathroom and a luxurious bedroom. The 36Y floorplan is also available in the Sunstar product line.
• Winnebago Destination: The Destination is Winnebago’s first full-size, luxury fifth-wheel that combines motorhome styling and high-end residential appeal. Exterior features include an aerodynamic exterior front cap design with an air dam for increased wind deflection along with an optional rear cap with automotive sport styling. Interiors offer custom hardwood cabinets, entertainment center with a 50-inch TV and an optional fireplace, complete with hearth. The master suite features 6 foot 9 inch ceilings, an optional “Reflection” Entertainment System that hides the TV when not in use with no moving parts, a Flex Bed system that adjusts the head of the bed and a full-size, cedar-lined, walk-in closet with four large radius shelves.
• Winnebago Trend and Itasca Viva!: The all-new Trend and Viva! Class C motorhomes are built on the fuel-efficient Ram ProMaster chassis with comfortable living space for up to six people at an affordable price. Both 23-foot floorplans offer a powered StudioLoft bed that fits tight to the ceiling to conserve space during the day. Other features include sleek euro-body styling, efficient LED lighting, available soft, easy-to-clean Ultraleather furniture and three-point seat belts in the dinette.
• Winnebago Forza and Itasca Solei: The Forza and Solei are new Class A diesel pusher models that can fit in a garage with a 12-foot door. Built on the Freightliner XCS chassis with a Cummins 340-hp diesel engine, the Forza and Solei feature polished Corian galley countertops, coffee-glazed cabinetry, upscale entertainment features and energy-saving LED lighting.
• Class B Travato: The Travato is also built on the Ram ProMaster chassis, offering fuel economy of 16-18 mpg highway. The newest Class B member of the Winnebago Touring Coach lineup, the Travato is 20 feet in length while also providing a functional floorplan. The Travato features a flip-up, rear double bed that allows for large storage items and is the first Class B to feature three-point seat belts in the forward-facing galley seat. Other features include swivel cab seats, efficient LED lighting, touch-screen navigation, fully functional galley, deep wardrobe and a rear wet bath, while the Flex Bed system provides additional sleeping space.
• Winnebago Minnie Winnie and Itasca Spirit: The Minnie Winnie and Spirit product line now features a new 31K floorplan that offers a single slide with U-shaped dinette and lounge sofa/bed. The Class C coach features a split bath, walk-around queen bed and large rear trunk storage compartment. The 31K and 31KP are available in the Minnie Winnie, Minnie Winnie Premier, Spirit and Spirit Silver model lines and is now available in a new champagne sidewall color.
• Winnebago Outdoor Adventures: Another Winnebago highlight at the SuperShow is the debut of Winnebago Outdoor Adventures. Formerly known as WIT Club Tours, this RV travel and adventure service has successfully provided planned travel opportunities with experienced, trained professionals to our WIT Club members for over 25 years and is now open to all RVers.
Winnebago Industries Inc. was named to the “Mid-Market Elite” list by Chief Executive Magazine.
According to a press release, Winnebago is featured in the “Mid-Market Elite” list that appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Chief Executive Magazine. The listing was conducted in partnership with the National Center for the Middle Market at the Fisher School of Business at Ohio State University and GE Capital.
The publication identified 100 top performers among 197,000 middle market companies, both private and public, that “stand out amid the middle-market universe, outpace their industry peers, exceed expectations, and create value in unusual if not unique ways.” They indicated that Winnebago “weathered the recession and is poised to grow with the economy.”
Chief Executive Magazine indicated their purpose was to “draw attention to a vibrant and often neglected segment of the U.S. economy.” According to their research, the revenue growth of the mid-market is twice that of the S&P 500 and represents 3% of all U.S. companies, 1/3 of all jobs, almost 33% of private sector GDP, more than $10 trillion in annual revenue and 1.2-plus million new jobs in 2012-2013.