June '21

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22 • RV PRO • June 2021 rv-pro.com as well. And it has caused each company to innovate, according to the two executives. "I think there is more digital technology and innovation that we're investing in and pursuing," Miller said. "The dealers are seeing it. Also, there are areas where dealers were starting to use digital to connect with customers, but this accelerated those initiatives. "There are a lot of new customers coming into the industry that are not as learned in camping and in these units. There is an opportunity for training and customer service," he added. As far as Newmar's part in addressing the new buyer, the company has had a program in place for the past seven years. Miller said, "These are complex machines, and we have a 24-hour number that people can call into. Every unit has a sticker in the driver window with a picture of the specialist for that brand." Happe said that, from Winnebago's perspective, it is about the process with the customer. You think about supporting the customer before, during and after the sale," he said. "I think the health of our partnerships with our dealer base put us in a good position to make sure that the dealers had everything they needed from a product knowledge standpoint to try to attract those first-time buyers into specific brands. We've been increasing our digital marketing and selling capabilities across the businesses as best we can." " I think our story is evolving in a positive way. We genuinely feel like we have a lot of runway in the future to be a meaningful player in the outdoor industry, and certainly in the RV industry, which is, and will be, our core business for many decades." – Winnebago President Michael Happe "Certainly, as Matt said, the dealers had to accelerate their digital marketing and selling competencies through this time with tips and videos and troubleshooting content to those users as they are using their RV for the first time." Happe said he believes after the sale is where Winnebago's brands thrive. "We're a good partner to our dealers in terms of parts supply, technical knowledge and warranty administration, in order to try to make sure our products are serviced as effectively as possible," he said. Keeping the Customer Happy As far as keeping those new customers happy, Happe and Miller said they agree that quality and value are driving factors as they continue to bring product to market. "As the popularity of RVing keeps growing, service capacity is definitely a constraint. At Winnebago Industries, we just need to keep doing what we do well, which is building high-quality product and knowing what's in our product," Happe said. Miller concurred, adding, "I think one of the things that sets Newmar apart and has helped us gain market share is that cus- tomers see more value in quality. They want to buy things that are well-built and last. They want them to have good brand equity. "The better we build our motorhomes, the better the expe- rience is for the customer," he added. "Nothing ruins a trip like an air conditioner not working or something else not working. We don't want that to happen. We want those exceptional expe- riences. I tell people we're not building vehicles – we are building something for customers where they have experiences and build memories." Outlook for 2021 & Beyond Dealer inventories declined during 2020 as consumers flocked in large numbers to dealerships to purchase RVs and enjoy the great outdoors – many for the first time. Though interest sky- rocketed, many industry professionals were unsure how long it would last, including Miller. "I would have said six months ago – even though we knew things were going well – I couldn't say that the outlook for all of 2021 would be as strong as it is now," he said. "There's a lot of new customers still coming in, and there's customers that bought a year ago who are now trading in." Towables were in strong demand pre-pandemic, but the motorized segment had been in decline. However, the pandemic surge has shown an increased interest Class A's and Class C's. The RV Industry Association's March shipments report showed Class A motorhomes enjoyed a 13.6 percent increase year-over-year while Class C's increased a whopping 35.6 percent. "I think there continues to be a lot of people that prefer a motorhome," Miller said. "There's room for both segments (tow- able and motorized) to grow, and they are going to be strong in years to come. But I think thousands love the ease of set up in travel and driving down the road. You're in your RV and you can Miller outlines some of his goals for Newmar during a presentation to the manufacturer's dealer body.

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