Winnebago Industries Inc.’s recent agreement with Champion Home Builders Inc. and subsequent foray into the growing park model sector was officially christened as part of Winnebago’s Dealer Days last week in Las Vegas.
Two Champion-built park models, badged with the iconic Winnebago logo, received scrutiny from Winnebago’s dealer body during the April 8-10 event while also launching an intriguing licensing agreement between two prominent manufacturers. Champion, which owns park model builder Athens Park Homes, is a major player in the manufactured housing arena.
“We are very excited about this unique licensing opportunity and see the park model RV business as a natural extension of our Winnebago brand,” said Chad Reece, director of marketing for Iowa-based Winnebago in an April 1 statement. “Based on their history of innovative, quality products and customer satisfaction, we feel that Champion Home Builders is a great choice to carry the Winnebago name into the park model RV space.”
Dick Grymonprez, director of park model sales for Champion/Athens Park Homes who headed up the Las Vegas rollout, pointed to his association with Reece on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board as providing the spark for the agreement.
“Chad and I are both RVIA board members, and we began talking about the possibility,” Grymonprez told RVBUSINESS.com. “We have seven plants strategically placed around the U.S. that build park models. Winnebago ships everything out of Iowa, and the park model freight made it cost-prohibitive. We felt that if somebody was going to build a Winnebago-branded park model that our company would be perfect since we have a manufacturing presence in every key market.”
Grymonprez indicated that Champion would be building units out of all seven plants, starting with four floorplans, including the traditional- and cabin-style models displayed at Dealer Days. Plans are for the units to be sold through Winnebago’s dealer network along with park model retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“We did some new things for the Winnebago models, adding some custom features. There are about 10 different features that are different than our other lines,” Grymonprez said, listing a rear bay for added storage, USB charging hookup in the kitchen and fiber cement siding with vertical matte strips to create a durable, attractive exterior.
He reported that the Dealer Day park models – one featuring a loft – were well received by the Winnebago dealer body, noting that the collaboration has also drawn interest on the company’s website.
“We’ve seen great response so far. We’re really excited about the opportunity,” Grymonprez said. “I think the Winnebago name is just going to open the door for us. I mean a lot of people that know the Winnebago name are already hitting our website wanting to know about the Winnebago park model RVs. We’ve got the URL address, parkmodelrv.com, which will go to the Winnebago website as well as the Athens Park website.”
He added, “The park model business is growing but it’s not growing like the RV business. We just creep up a little bit each year. What we’re trying to do is just gain more market share, and we feel by having a brand like Winnebago that we’re going to get 300 to 400 more park model sales a year just because of that name recognition.”