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|Founded||Forest City, Iowa, USA (February 12, 1958)|
|Headquarters||Forest City, Iowa, USA|
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," which was 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 genericized trademark for such vehicles, whether they were produced by the company or not.
Through the 70s and into the 80s model names were influenced by the Native American tribe of the same name and included the Brave, Chief Black Hawk, 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 continued (using Chevrolet or Ford chassis after 1980) until the name was retired after the 2006 model year, when at 30 feet (9.1 m), it was not exactly "minnie" anymore. 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" used Renault parts, and the "Rialta" has a VW T-4 (a.k.a. "EuroVan") cab, the 2.5 liter 5-cylinder motor, and the 2.8 liter VR6 motor. Distinct from the "Rialta", Volkswagen contracted to have the camper conversions of the T-4 to 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 since the 1950s (through 1991). This tradition continues today with Winnebago's use of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis.
The Winnebago Industries Charles City, Iowa manufacturing plant was closed on August 1, 2008. About 270 people were employed at the plant when production ended. According to a news release from the company, the Charles City, Iowa manufacturing plant was closed because of dramatic changes in the market since its opening in 2004. Winnebago officials credit the declining U.S. economy, higher fuel prices, decreasing consumer confidence and difficulties getting loans have contributed to a decrease in overall motor home demand. Retail sales have declined by double-digit percentages for seven of the last eight months for the industry. Yet, in 2009, a hardwoods department and "B-Van" department both reopened and now employ around 150 employees.
Winnebago vehicles in popular cultureEdit
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. Clay Walker makes reference to a "tie-died Winnebago" in his 2007 release 'Fore She Was Mama. Other examples include the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the Frasier episode "RDWRER", MTV's reality television series Road Rules, Family Guy, Robert De Niro's character has one in the comedy Meet the Fockers, and the title character's (Jack Nicholson) Winnebago Adventurer in About Schmidt. In the Adult Swim series The Venture Bros., the character of Brock Samson, the Venture family's hulking bodyguard, is described as "one-half Swedish, one-quarter Polish, one-quarter Winnebago".
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 Itasca Sunflyer sales video circulated underground on VHS tape, until Internet users turned the clip into a viral sensation. It was also seen in The Walking Dead it show a 1977 Winnebago Chieftain . The Diary of the Dead show a old 1970s Winnebago Brave. The film of 2012 show a 1984 Winnebago Chieftain. In Race to Witch Mountain show a 1975 Winnebago Indian.
- ↑ John Hanson Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame)
- ↑ Roger White. Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 2001, pp. 164–67.
- ↑ Nick Plans A Family Nite - Multichannel.com - August 10, 2009
- ↑ Leckart, Steven (2010-03-22). "5 Secrets of YouTube's Success", Wired (magazine).
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