January '21

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30 • RV PRO • January 2021 rv-pro.com The patented exoskeleton is one of many features that instantly tells consumers HIKE is a new breed of Winnebago towable. Fender flares, off-road tires and spare tire are clear signs the coach is ready to go off the beaten path, while Dexter torsion axles ensure it won't be rattled by rough roads. At the front of the coach, a diamond-plated steel external storage box is a handy place for anything from hiking gear, to ratchet straps, to LP tanks and batteries. All floorplans have dry weights below 5,000 pounds. The trailers are just under 8 feet wide and are 20 to 25 feet long. "Every aspect of HIKE has an aggressive footprint," Win- nebago's Eberlein says. "HIKE is differentiating Winnebago as a forward-thinking manufacturer, whereas before we were on the conservative side." Being aggressive sometimes means being ahead of your time, he adds. That was the case with HIKE, which originated several years ago as a top-secret off-road concept prototyped for an annual dealer advisory board meeting. "Our engineering team built this concept trailer and shipped it to the meeting under a tarp on a flatbed truck," Eberlein says. "We showed it to a select group of dealers who signed confiden- tiality agreements. They thought we were onto something, but they weren't sure the market was ready for it." Winnebago kept the HIKE prototype under its tarp, waiting until the time was ripe for its official unveiling. Meanwhile, Win- nebago commissioned a third-party firm to create a "demand landscape" marketing study to identify what consumer segments exist and what drives their buying habits. "Traditionally, consumers were classified in generational terms: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials," Eberlein says. "But the demand landscape showed us something else: A group of consumers we call 'rugged nomads.'" "Rugged nomads" have a strong independent streak and a sense of adventure. Eberlein says research shows they love having the freedom to venture into the wild to camp at non-traditional sites – something that draws them to RVs like the Winnebago Revel Class B van, which owes much of its success to its rugged nomad fanbase. "As soon as that demand landscape came out, we realized not every rugged nomad can afford a $160,000 B van," Eberlein says. "We thought there's got to be something for rugged nomads with an MSRP in the mid-$30,000's." That was the cue for the HIKE to emerge from its tarp and get its design refined and finalized just in time to debut at the 2019 Elkhart Open House. The first units shipped in early 2020 – just before the initial COVID-19 outbreak, but sales really kicked off when lockdowns started being lifted this spring. "With every aspect," Eberlein says, "we thought of how a rugged nomad would want to use a trailer." In designing the HIKE, Winnebago Towables Product Man- ager Adam Christoffersen envisioned clean, straight lines with a modern, European-inspired aesthetic. Because the HIKE and Winnebago's Class B vans have similar interior design elements targeted at a similar demographic, Christoffersen consulted his Winnebago motorized colleagues to draw on research and devel- opment that group had already done. Developing the HIKE has fostered synergies between Win- nebago's towable and motorized sides that Christoffersen says he finds particularly exciting. He notes that a consumer-submitted photo of a Winnebago Revel hauling a Winnebago HIKE posted on the manufacturer's social media channels quickly garnered more likes and shares than any social media post in the com- pany's history. Forest River IBEX Finds Its Footing The Forest River IBEX is a classic case of an overnight success a decade in the making. IBEX launched in May, but its pedigree stretches back more than a decade. It is manufactured by the Forest River division that produces the popular r-pod and No Boundaries (NO-BO) lightweight travel trailers. "I think IBEX comes from a long-term evolution of the style of PHOTO COURTESY OF WINNEBAGO Winnebago's HIKE features contemporary styling, clean lines and quality furnishings.

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