Open main menu

Winnebago Industries, Inc. is an American manufacturer of motor homes, a type of recreational vehicle (RV), in the United States. It is based in Forest City, Iowa. On June 4, 2018, the company expanded into motorboat manufacturing with the acquisition of Chris-Craft.[2]

Winnebago Industries, Inc.
Traded asNYSEWGO
S&P 600 Component
FoundedFebruary 12, 1958; 61 years ago (1958-02-12) Forest City, Iowa
Forest City, Iowa
Key people
Michael Happe (CEO)
ProductsRecreational vehicles
Revenue$945.2 million (2014)[1]
$63.9 million (2014)
$45.0 million (2014)
Number of employees
2,850 (2014)


Corporate historyEdit

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.

Early Dodge-based Minnie Winnie

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 fuel 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.[6] 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.[7]

Australia (1982–2015)Edit

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.[8] 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.[9]

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 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.[8][10]

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."[11]

In 2014, Avida RV announced they would reintroduce the Winnebago name and logo to their premium range of RV products.[12] This announcement came just one month before Winnebago Industries announced they were entering the Australian market for the first time.[13] Binns is currently opposing the registration of the Winnebago trademark in Australia, despite having been refused permission to hold the trademark himself.[14][15]

In 2015, the first Winnebago Industries 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 cultureEdit

Winnebago products have appeared in numerous 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 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, which he adorns with the personalized plates saying "RDWRER" (pronounced "Road Warrior"). 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.[16]

The 1975 Frank Zappa song San Ber'dino starts with the words: "She lives in Mojave in a Winnebago".

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.[17]

In 2016, Kenny Chesney released "Winnebago" on his Cosmic Hallelujah album.

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 " American Citizen, you are entitled to...", they list many vehicles, among them: "A Winnebago! Hell – a herd of Winnebagos, we're giving them away!"

Kathy Mattea's 1988 song "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" includes the line, "They'll buy a Winnebago, set off to see America".

The Goldfrapp song "Ride A White Horse" released in 2006 features the lyric, "I'll take you dancing at the disco / When you buy your Winnebago."

A 1973 Chieftain is featured prominently during the first two seasons of The Walking Dead TV series.

In politicsEdit

German politician Guido Westerwelle (FDP) used a Winnebago Elanté 37 painted in the FDP colours yellow and blue and called "Guidomobil" during his campaign for the 2002 German federal election, which received much media attention.[18]


Hardly known and rarely seen, the Winnie Wagon was produced for only two 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 rangeEdit

Model Class Length Fuel
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
Winnebago Era Class B 24' Diesel
Travato Class B 21' Gasoline
Travato Class B 21' Diesel
Revel Class B 19' Diesel
Destination Fifth Wheel 35'-39' n/a
Latitude Fifth Wheel 33'-37' n/a
Voyage Fifth Wheel 28'-30' n/a
Ultralite Travel Trailer 27'-31' n/a
Minnie Travel Trailer 18'-24' n/a
Micro Minnie Travel Trailer 17' n/a
Scorpion Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler 40' n/a
Spyder Travel Trailer Toy Hauler 24'-32' n/a
Metro Link Transit Bus/School Bus 25'-28' Gasoline or Diesel
Park Model RV Park Model 34' n/a

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Winnebago Industries Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2014 Results".
  2. ^ Galvin, Terry. "Chris-Craft bought by Winnebago", Sarasota Herald-Tribune (June 4, 2018). Retrieved 2018-06-09
  3. ^ John Hanson Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
  4. ^ White, Roger (2001), Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, pp. 164–167
  5. ^ Slater, Shirley; Basch, Harry (1996). Fielding's freewheelin' USA. Basch, Harry. (2nd ed.). Redondo Beach, Calif.: Fielding Worldwide. ISBN 9781569521250. OCLC 35284519. Just as Frigidaire became a generic term for refrigerators, Winnebago is often used to refer to all RVs
  6. ^ [1] Globe-Gazette "Winnebago will open new plant outside of Forest City"
  7. ^ [2] WCFCourier "Winnebago to Open Plant in Waverly"
  8. ^ a b Knott Investments Pty Ltd v Winnebago Industries, Inc [2013] FCAFC 59 (7 June 2013), Federal Court (Full Court) (Australia)
  9. ^ Court rules Winnebago brand was 'hijacked', Leonie Wood, Sydney Morning Herald, July 31, 2012
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Avida RV - Motorhomes, Campervans, Caravans, Pop Tops". Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Australia, IP (May 22, 2018). "IP Australia". Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  15. ^ "Knott Investments Pty Ltd v Winnebago Industries, Inc [2013] FCAFC 59". Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  16. ^ "Nick Plans A Family Nite – – August 10, 2009". Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  17. ^ Leckart, Steven (March 22, 2010). "5 Secrets of YouTube's Success". Wired.
  18. ^ "Guido macht mobil -". Retrieved September 25, 2018.

External linksEdit