The decision to build a new motorhome assembly plant is an aspect of Winnebago Industries Inc.’s goal of becoming the No. 1 producer of Class A motorhomes, according to Bruce Hertzke, chairman, president and CEO.
During 2001, Winnebago was the leading producer of Class C motorhomes by a wide margin, but the Forest City, Iowa-based firm was No. 3 in terms of retail market share in the Class A motorhome category, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. data.
Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., was the retail market share leader in Class A’s and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif., was No. 2 for the full year 2001, reported Statistical Surveys, an independent market research firm.
However, Fleetwood recaptured the retail market share lead in Class A’s in December and January.
Meanwhile, Winnebago announced today (April 1) that it will build a new motorhome assembly plant in Charles City, Iowa, which will increase the company’s manufacturing capacity by about 30%.
Construction of the new facility will begin soon and it is expected to go into production early next year.
During an interview prior to today’s announcement, Hertzke said gas engine-powered motorhomes will be built in the new factory.
About 18 months ago, Winnebago opened a diesel pusher motorhome assembly plant in Charles City, and Hertzke said some diesel pushers might eventually be built at the plant that will open next year.
“We’ve been very strong in gas Class A’s while other people have been stronger than Winnebago in diesels,” Hertzke said. “So, naturally, we’re focusing on more development in the diesel area, and hopefully, we’ll have more and more offerings in diesels, and that will allow us to gain additional market share in A bodies.”
Winnebago has no plans to assemble its own diesel pusher chassis, preferring to continue buying diesel chassis from Freightliner Custom Chassis and Spartan Motors, he added.
Concerning Winnebago’s desire to become No. 1 in Class A’s, Hertzke admitted. “I’m sure everybody else in the industry has those aspirations and nobody wants you to do it. But we’re very proud that we’ve gained market share consistently in both A’s and C’s for four consecutive years. Naturally, our objective will be to continue on that same path.”
Hertzke added that Winnebago does not plan to accelerate its growth rate by acquiring competitors. Instead, it prefers internal growth, such as will occur when the new facility in Charles City goes into production.
Also, Winnebago does not want to become the leader in Class A’s by lowering prices to the point where its profits, and its dealers’ profits, are squandered. “I’m not going to buy market share,” Hertzke said. “We need to earn it like we’ve been earning it, through quality product design, quality products and service to our dealers,” he said. “We want to make sure that when we’re done, we haven’t just created a big war on pricing where we skinny down the benefits to consumers and hurt our industry for the long run.”