Iowa-based Winnebago Industries recently rolled out a trio of new motorhome models aimed at shaking up the camping industry. The new RVs, which range from value-minded to high-end luxury products, represent a bold departure from the norm for the brand. But they’re not necessarily unexpected, given CEO Michael Happe’s motivation to update the storied brand to better compete within the industry and to recruit new consumers to RVs, which traditionally have appealed primarily to audiences 55 and above.
Already, orders are backing up for some of the new models, said Ron Lichtsinn, owner of Lichtsinn RV, Forest City’s Winnebago dealer. Demand has been particularly strong for Winnebago’s new four-wheel drive motorhome, called the Revel. It’s designed for campers who want to get off the main drags and experience nature up close.
“We just can’t get our hands on enough of these,” Lichtsinn said. “It’s not going to be a model that every dealer wants to carry because they’re not going to understand the activities that these will be used for. But it’s such a unique model that can be used for so many different things.”
Lichtsinn said it’s an exciting time to be a Winnebago dealer.
“We have the most creative, broad audience lineup we’ve ever had from Winnebago Industries,” he said. “The response so far has been incredibly positive.”
While Winnebago is certainly charting a new course under Happe’s leadership, the dealer said the brand is managing to stay loyal to its roots.
“I think we’ve taken a mindset of traditional quality and maintained that mindset but also driven a much fresher look with a more contemporary style with all three of the new products,” Lichtsinn said. “It’s driven more toward an audience that Winnebago hasn’t really played in in the past.”
Here’s a look at Winnebago’s three new motorhome models:
The sleek exterior of the diesel-powered Horizon might not stand out in a crowd of huge coaches. But the interior features a decidedly modern look that could be confused with a contemporary urban apartment.
“This is a product that when you walk in it, you feel like you could be in a flat in London or a condo in Manhattan,” Happe said. “This is not your grandparents’ interior or living room. This strikes a chord with those customers looking for the RV lifestyle but wanting a contemporary design.”
With a suggested retail price tag of about $385,000, the Horizon is well below the company’s top-of-the-line Grand Tour model, which is listed as high as $513,000. The model, which ranges from 41 to 43 feet long, features a warm gray and brown color palette highlighted by Corian countertops, porcelain tile floors, glossy white cabinets and stainless steel appliances. Options include extras like a double vanity in the master bedroom and an electric fireplace.
“I think our diesel product manager and his product development team really stuck their neck out here and said, ‘Listen, we feel that this type of look is really missing. It doesn’t look like anybody’s doing that,'” Happe said.
He’s hopeful that the sharp design will help expand demand for the RV lifestyle among nontraditional buyers.
“They’ll look at the exterior and the interior and say, ‘OK, there’s an RV that matches my design taste.'”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Winnebago’s new four-wheel-drive Revel. Marketed as taking a “no-nonsense approach to adventure,” the utilitarian motorhome has a suggested retail price of about $135,000.
Built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, the Revel is the most capable off-road vehicle ever built by Winnebago, Happe said. Its was designed to increase the occasions for RV use in North America.
“By producing a product that allows someone to explore the outdoors and get off the grid and be closer to the stream, be closer to the bike path, be closer to the ski hill is something that resonates with active explorers,” he said.
The 19-and-a-half foot, van-style RV includes a standard solar power system, diesel-powered heating and a dinette with a pull-up table that converts to additional sleeping space.
Forest City’s Winnebago dealer says the Revel is driving more demand than any other new Winnebago product in history. Some people want the motorhome for short adventures. Others want to make theirs a full-time home. Small enough to fit into many residential garages, some are even swapping their hulking SUVs in favor of the Revel.
“The Revel is literally the highest-demand product since launch that I’ve ever seen from Winnebago,” Lichtsinn said, “primarily because it appeals to such a larger audience than the traditional RVer.”
The Class A Intent is Winnebago’s attempt to better serve the value-minded customer.
The gas-powered coach, which ranges from 26 to 31 feet in length, is manufactured in Forest City. It includes a rear master bedroom, a convertible sofa and a dinette that converts into a bed.
Happe calls it a “groundbreaking product” for the brand. Listed at about $115,000, Happe said the “street price” for many customers will be in the $80,000 range. Positioned as a starter motorhome, company literature promises “the lifestyle you have been longing for at a price that meets your budget.”
But the CEO said Winnebago didn’t cut any corners with the more affordable RV.
Happe doesn’t want Winnebago to become the low-price leader in the industry. But he said the brand must do a better job of providing value with lower-priced models.
“We’ll still provide customers the Winnebago story around quality, structural integrity, craftsmanship and customer support,” he said. “But the Class A gas Intent is really a groundbreaking product for us at Winnebago to prove that we can deliver Winnebago character at an affordable price.”
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Article courtesy of The Des Moines Register| Kevin Hardy
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