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Changing the Face of Motor Homes.
|Traded as||NYSE: WGO
S&P 600 Component
|Founded||Forest City, Iowa, US (February 12, 1958)|
|Headquarters||Forest City, Iowa, USA|
|Michael Happe (CEO)|
|Revenue||$945.2 million (2014)|
|$63.9 million (2014)|
|$45.0 million (2014)|
Number of employees
The company was founded by Forest City businessman John K. Hanson in February 1958. At the time, the town, located in Winnebago County, Iowa, was undergoing an economic downturn, so Hanson and a group of community leaders convinced a California firm, Modernistic Industries, to open a travel trailer factory in a bid to revive the local economy.
Surviving a rough beginning, the entire operation was purchased by five Midwesterners, with Hanson serving as president. In 1960 the name of the company was changed to Winnebago Industries. To improve quality, Winnebago Industries manufactured furniture and other components designed specifically for its travel trailers. One such innovation was the "Thermo-Panel", a strong, lightweight sidewall that was a characteristic of Winnebago products.
In 1966 the first motor home rolled off the Winnebago Industries assembly lines. These motor homes were sold at a price approximately half of what was being charged for competitors' models, which led to its ubiquity and popularity in the RV community. The brand name has become synonymous with "motor home" and is commonly used as a generic trademark for such vehicles, whether they were produced by the company or not.
Through the 1970s and into the 1980s model names were influenced by the Native American tribe of the same name and included the Brave, the Indian, the Chieftain, and the Warrior. Older Winnebago RVs are often recognizable by the painted "w" (also called the "flying W") on the side of the vehicle, with a stripe that connects the front and back of the camper.
In 1973, the company introduced a new model, the Minnie Winnie, built on the Dodge B-series van chassis. It was about 19-1/2 feet (5.9 m) long (despite the name, longer than the shortest contemporary Brave model). Longer models were added through the years. This model continues (using Chevrolet or Ford chassis after 1980) to this day. As gas prices went up over time, the company made smaller models available, such as the "Winnie Wagon", with a low profile and pop-top.
The company also developed a line of smaller units slightly larger than a passenger van, built using various bodies and powerplants from two European automobile and truck manufacturers. The LeSharo was based on the Renault Trafic van with a 2.2 L 4-cylinder motor, and the "Rialta" had a Volkswagen Transporter (T4) (a.k.a. "EuroVan") cab, the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder motor, 2.8-liter VR6 with 140 BHP or 2.8 V6 engine with 201 BHP. Distinct from the "Rialta", Volkswagen contracted to have the camper conversions of the T4 be done by Winnebago Industries, a radical departure from using the Germany-based Westfalia company that had become famous for building the VW Type 2 campmobile models from the 1950s through 1991. This tradition continues today with Winnebago's use of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Fiat Ducato chassis.
In December 2010 Winnebago Industries entered a new chapter when the company purchased SunnyBrook RV, re-entering the towable manufacturing market for the first time since 1983.
In March 2015, Winnebago announced that it was opening a production center to employ 70 in Waverly, Iowa, due to labor shortage issues in the Forest City area. The company now employs about 2,400 workers in Forest City, 200 in Charles City and 60 in Lake Mills, plus additional employees in Middlebury, Indiana.
In July 2012, a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia determined that a Sydney businessman, Bruce Binns, "intentionally hijacked" the well-known American brand "in a bold attempt to preempt Winnebago's opening its doors here". Versions of Winnebago models were manufactured in Australia by Binns's Knott Investments, using a logo which bore a striking resemblance to Winnebago's U.S. logo, from about 1982. In 1992, Winnebago and Binns signed a settlement for him to stop passing off his products as those of Winnebago, yet he continued to do so. In 1997 he registered Winnebago as a trademark in Australia. The court ordered the cancellation of this Winnebago trademark in Australia.
On appeal in 2013 Chief Justice Allsop found that "...Knott and Mr Binns had from the outset deliberately sought to obtain some connection with Winnebago and take advantage of any reputation Winnebago may have had in Australia as at 1978. However, the fact that Knott had manufactured and sold RVs under the Winnebago name in Australia for 32 years, 25 years of which was with the knowledge of Winnebago, was an unusual situation which could not be overlooked". Accordingly, Allsop CJ held that it was appropriate that Knott be permitted to continue to use the Winnebago name and logos, provided the distinction between its business and Winnebago's was made clear.
As a result of the case, a disclaimer was required to be made clear on any vehicles made by Knott in the future, and on any advertising and promotional material. Further, all future consumers of Australian Winnebago/Avida products are required to sign a disclaimer declaring they have been made aware that they are not purchasing a United States Winnebago product. The disclaimer reads "These vehicles were not manufactured by, or by anyone having any association with, Winnebago of the United States."
In 2014 Avida RV announced they would reintroduce the Winnebago name and logo to their premium range of RV products. This announcement came just one month before Winnebago Industries USA announced they were entering the Australian market for the first time. Binns is currently opposing the registration of the Winnebago trademark in Australia, despite having been refused permission to hold the trademark himself.
In 2015, the first Winnebago Industries USA caravans arrived in Australia making their debut at the Melbourne caravan show, with the first customer taking possession in March 2015. Four Minnie models are currently available.
In popular culture
Winnebago products have appeared in various works of film, television and music. For example, the 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain, features a 1974 Minnie Winnie, which is made to fly in a memorable sequence. A spacecraft made from a 1986 Winnebago Chieftain appears in the Mel Brooks spoof Spaceballs. Other examples include the 2006 film Click, the 1985 film Lost in America, Family Guy, and the title character's (Jack Nicholson) Winnebago Adventurer in About Schmidt. In Frasier, character Martin Crane drives an unspecified Winnebago in several episodes, once in the first season episode "Travels With Martin", in which he rents one, and he later buys one. A popular hunting show on the VERSUS network, GUN IT, features Benny Spies traveling the countryside in his 1973 Winnebago hunting with friends, family, strangers, & just about anyone else who enjoys the outdoors. In the film Sneakers, "Mother" demands a new Winnebago in exchange for helping the NSA. In the 1974 film For Pete's Sake, the character Henrietta Robbins (played by Barbra Streisand) attempts to gain employment as an urban cattle rustler, and drives a hollowed-out Winnebago motorhome (emptied out of all its interior components) containing several cows through Manhattan.
Punk rock band the Dead Kennedys have a song on their 1982 LP, Plastic Surgery Disasters entitled "Winnebago Warrior", which mocks the habits and self-perception of stereotypical RV owners with lines such as "Winnebago warrior, brave as old John Wayne; Winnebago warrior, a true Yankee pioneer". The 2009 stop-animation cartoon Glenn Martin, DDS is based on a dentist driving a Winnebago around the country.
Winnebago Man is a 2010 documentary feature film about Jack Rebney, an RV salesman, whose profane outtakes from a 1989 Winnebago industrial film circulated underground on VHS tape, until Internet users turned the clip into a viral sensation.
A Winnebago was mentioned in the 1975 song What Do You Want From Life, by The Tubes. In a long list of items that as "..an American Citizen, you are entitled to...", they list many vehicles, among them: "A Winnebago! Hell – a herd of Winnebagos, we're giving them away!"
A 1973 Chieftain is featured prominently during the first two seasons of The Walking Dead TV series.
A Winnebago RV is used in episode 23 of season 4 of popular sit-com Modern Family, where the Dunphy family take a road trip together in an RV. Phil Dunphy also meets with other Winnebago RV owners at a stop during the trip.
Hardly known and rarely seen, the Winnie Wagon was produced for only 2 years, starting in 1974 and returned in 1980. The 1974 model features a pop up top with an inside height of 6'6 and a 2 burner range and sink. It had no restroom.
Current model range
|Winnebago Grand Tour / Itasca Ellipse Ultra||Class A||42'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Tour / Itasca Ellipse||Class A||42'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Journey / Itasca Meridian||Class A||36'-42'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Forza/ Itasca Solei||Class A||34'-38'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Via / Itasca Reyo||Class A||25'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Adventurer / Itasca Suncruiser||Class A||32'-38'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Sightseer / Itasca Sunova||Class A||33'-36'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Vista LX / Itasca Sunstar LX||Class A||27'-36'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Vista / Itasca Sunstar||Class A||27'-36'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Brave/ Itasca Tribute||Class A||26'-31'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago View / Itasca Navion||Class C||24'||Diesel|
|Winnebago Aspect / Itasca Cambria||Class C||27'-30'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Trend / Itasca Viva!||Class C||25'-31'||Gasoline|
|Winnebago Minnie Winnie / Itasca Spirit & Spirit Silver||Class C||22'-31'||Gasoline|
|Micro Minnie||Travel Trailer||17'||n/a|
|Scorpin||Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler||40'||n/a|
|Spyder||Travel Trailer Toy Hauler||24'-32'||n/a|
|Metro Link||Transit Bus||25'-28'||Gasoline|
|Park Model RV||Park Model||34'||n/a|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Winnebago motor homes.|
- "Winnebago Industries Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2014 Results".
- John Hanson Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
- White, Roger (2001), Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, pp. 164–167
-  Globe-Gazette "Winnebago will open new plant outside of Forest City"
-  WCFCourier "Winnebago to Open Plant in Waverly"
- http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCAFC/2013/59.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=winnebago. Missing or empty
- Court rules Winnebago brand was 'hijacked', Leonie Wood, Sydney Morning Herald, July 31, 2012
- Nick Plans A Family Nite – Multichannel.com – August 10, 2009
- Leckart, Steven (March 22, 2010). "5 Secrets of YouTube's Success". Wired.