Winnebago RV Growth During COVID-19 Lockdown

Motorbiscuit has covered before how the global COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged many people to consider RV, overlanding, and offroading trips and activities to a greater degree. Consequently, many businesses in that market segment have seen sales growth. The popular company, Winnebago is no exception. The RV and boat manufacturer has become strong enough through the lockdowns that it is taking care of debt and focusing on meeting what it expects to be continued strang demand for more RV models. 

A Winnebago Navion RV sits in a valley on a nice blue-sky day.
The Navion model | Winnebago

Much better RV sales over last year

The Wall Street Journal says,

“Winnebago said dealer orders were up by about 80% at the end of May compared with a year earlier, excluding the impact of the company’s November purchase of RV maker Newmar Corp.”

Winnebago pays off loan

That sales spike was a contributing factor that put the company in a position to pay off a nearly $250 million bank loan. Now, with some extra money in the pocket, the company is looking to cautiously prepare for the possibility of longer or renewed regional COVID-19 restrictions. 

The pandemic means people get entertained outdoors

During the shutdown, people have stayed away from hotels, busses, and plane flights. But, was a large turn toward outdoor travel and activities. Winnebago benefitted from the new attention but at the same time found itself straddling a delicate balance between meeting the demand and also facing Motor Vehicle Departments that are still shut down in some cases, preventing the registration of new vehicle purchases in a timely manner. It is one thing to recognize that people want to get outdoors with trailers and motorized RVs, while it is another thing to deal with governmental bureaucracies. But, the company has done what it can to meet the increased demand. 

A drone takes a picture of a Winnebago Solis RV parked and set up at a campsite with two ladies sitting by it. The pop-top is extended on the roof of the RV.
The Solis RV | Winnebago

A lot of that increased demand has come from first-time campers and vanlifers. According to the report, a sizeable portion of the recent sales have been to families with children whose Summer plans disappeared. Also, people who want to work remotely during the pandemic. So, a lot of Winnebago’s lower-priced models were being sold to people venturing into the outdoors for the first time. But, the company also expects a lingering effect of the RV lifestyle to carry on in its sales. 

“Before the pandemic unfolded, Winnebago directed some of its marketing to younger buyers, including those interested in traveling the country in camper vans, a phenomenon known on social media as #vanlife. After the pandemic subsidies, the company expects younger customers to upgrade eventually to higher-end RVs, and travelers’ preferences for outdoor vacations to continue.” – The Wall Street Journal

It is not happening just to RV manufacturers

Winnebago is not alone. Wade Jorgensen, the founder of Sunstorm Vans, says his rental business has seen an uptick as well. He takes vans and retrofits them with vanlife friendly custom interiors. With regard to the pandemic, he mentioned that initially, there were a lot of cancellations. Then, a drastic change happened. He says,

“The demand went through the roof, and I am now booked out through September because everyone is traveling, but people don’t want to fly or stay in hotels. They want to self-isolate and be safe, and they can do that in a van or RV. I can’t build them as fast as I need them,”

A silver Winnebago Revel RV sits atop a hill on at dusk.
The 2021 Revel model | Winnebago

Airstream Launches the 2021 Basecamp 20 and 20x Travel Trailers

Overall, Winnebago, and other related outdoor recreational companies, such as Mr. Jorgensen’s, are experiencing a dramatic increase in customer interest and business as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, according to a press release from RV Industry Association,

“46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months. This positive news for RV manufacturers, dealers and campgrounds reinforces what US dealers are already seeing at the retail level.”

It is reasonable, therefore, to expect Winnebago’s strength to continue to permeate through the foreseeable future as people continue to go travel in RVs.