Winnebago is an American company which manufactures recreational vehicles, often referred to as RVs. The business was founded in Winnebago County, Iowa, by John K. Hanson in 1958. Hanson’s hometown was suffering an economic slump, so prominent people in the community approached Modernistic Industries, a Californian company to open a leisure vehicle factory in the town to provide jobs. The business was financed by five investors, with Hanson serving as director. The name of the company was changed to Winnebago Industries in 1960. To improve the quality of their recreational vehicles, Winnebago Industries manufactured their own furniture and other components specifically for use in its models.
The first motorhome left the Winnebago Industries production line in 1966. These spacious, characterful vehicles were half the price of other motorhomes of a similar specification. This made them very popular amongst American motorhome enthusiasts and later on throughout the world. The Winnebago brand has become almost another name for a motorhome.
Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s the names of the Winnebago models showed a Native American influence: the Brave, Chief Black Hawk, the Indian, the Chieftain and the Warrior. In 1973 the company introduced a new model called the Minnie Winnie, built on the Dodge B-series van base, although this was still longer than the shortest Brave. Responding to the increase in petrol prices in the 1980s and 1990s Winnebago introduced smaller models such as the low profile “Winnie Wagon”, with a pop-top. Winnebago also developed a range of smaller motorhomes based on various chassis and engines from the European manufacturers Renault and Volkswagen.
In 2008, Winnebago Industries celebrated its 50th anniversary along with the production of its 400,000th vehicle. However the Winnebago Industries manufacturing plant in Charles City, Iowa was closed on August 1, 2008, with the loss of 270 jobs. The company cited dramatic changes in the motorhome market, the rise in fuel prices, the fall in the U.S. economy and decreasing consumer confidence as reasons for the closure. A rescue package was put in place and in 2009 a “B-Van” department and hardwoods workshop reopened at Forest City, Iowa, employing about 150 people. In December 2010 Winnebago Industries bought SunnyBrook RV and re-launched themselves into the towable trailer or caravan market. They now also advertise a range of A class and coachbuilt motorhomes on their company website.