Winnebago Industries Inc. announced today (Feb. 7) that it will expand its manufacturing capacity 30% to meet the demand for its motorhomes.

The company will either construct a new 150,000 square foot factory or buy a building currently owned by someone else to allow for the expansion, said Winnebago spokeswoman Shelia Davis.

The Forest City, Iowa-based company has under consideration “several sites in Iowa and other states.”

A 30% expansion would be equivalent to building 3,000 to 4,000 more motorhomes per year, she added.

The construction of a new factory, or renovation of an existing building is expected to begin this spring and be completed in the fall. The expansion would allow Winnebago to increase output throughout calendar 2003.

The demand for Winnebago motorhomes has been on the upswing but the company’s ability to expand has been limited by the small population around Forest City, a village in North Central Iowa. Consequently, the company is not planning to expand in Forest City, Davis said.

Last year, Winnebago opened new factories in Charles City, Iowa, a town about 60 miles east of Forest City, in order to tap into a new labor market.

But bold steps are needed now because the huge Baby Boom Generation has just started to move into its prime RV-buying years, said Bruce Hertzke, chairman, president and CEO.

The RV industry also has been successful in recent years in expanding its potential customer base to include younger and better educated buyers than was the case in the past, he added.

During 1999, the RV industry’s most recent cyclical peak, Winnebago’s dealers sold 10,056 of its Class A and Class C motorhomes, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent market research firm.

The motorhome sector went into a temporary decline in 2000 and 2001, but sales are expected to increase this year.

In 2000, Winnebago’s dealers sold 9,529 of its Class A’s and C’s, and during the first 11 months of 2001, Winnebago dealers retailed 8,404 of its motorhomes, according to Statistical Surveys.