Winnebago Industries Plant Tours
If you happen to be in northern Iowa this summer, make plans to see how a modern-day motorhome is built during a tour of the Winnebago Industries plant in Forest City. Each year more than 10,000 people visit the manufacturing facility, which recently was featured on “American Factory,” a program on the Destination America cable channel.
Founded in 1958, “Winnebago” grew into a household name when the company became the first recreation vehicle manufacturer to build motorhomes in an automotive-style assembly line system. Winnebago Industries builds its Winnebago, Itasca, and Era motorhome brands in one of the most technologically advanced RV manufacturing facilities in existence today.
The tour begins at the Winnebago Industries’ Visitors Center, where a 20-minute video offers a preview of the manufacturing process. Afterward, a tour bus departs for a drive-through tour of the grounds. Visitors also can do walk-in tours of three buildings: the Chassis Weld facility, where the raw chassis is prepared to become a home on wheels; the Stitchcraft facility, where chairs, window valances, sofas, and other furniture pieces are built; and the main production area, named Big Bertha. Equivalent in size to eight football fields, Big Bertha features three production lines. Visitors will see the magnitude of this building thanks to mezzanines that provide a bird’s-eye view.
Before or after the tour, visitors can stop by the Winnebago Industries Museum, which is located in the upper level of the Visitors Center. The museum chronicles the company’s 54-year history, as well as the design and construction of Winnebago Industries’ motorhomes.
During the spring and summer months, the Visitors Center also features some of the latest motorhome models right off the assembly lines. Visitors also can see one of the company’s earliest motorhomes, the classic 1967 Winnebago D22.
Tours of Winnebago Industries are free, and all ages are welcome. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The Visitors Center is accessible to those with disabilities; however, the factory tour does include three staircases.
The two-hour tours are offered twice daily, at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, from April through October, and once daily at 1:00 p.m. in November. Reservations are recommended for groups larger than six.
For more information, call (641) 585-6936, visit www.winnebagoind.com/company/visit-us, or e-mail [email protected]
Bike Accident Takes The Life Of Thetford’s Mary Burrows
Mary R. Burrows, longtime manager of chemical engineering at Thetford Corporation and a true RV industry expert, died June 26, 2012, following a bicycle accident near her home in Dexter, Michigan. She was 53.
“Mary was a wonderful friend, person, and coworker,” said Thetford executive vice president Kevin Phillips. “She was liked and respected by everyone who worked at Thetford the past three decades. Mary touched so many people. To say that she will be greatly missed is an understatement.”
Ms. Burrows started work at Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thetford in 1983, shortly after graduating from Albion College. She was responsible for the formulation, production, and quality control of every chemical product that the company made.
Well-known in the RV industry, Ms. Burrows attended the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s National RV Trade Show each year as well as numerous consumer events, including FMCA conventions. She tirelessly answered questions from RVers, dealers, distributors, campground workers, etc. who wanted to know the truth, based on chemistry and verified by testing, about RV sanitation or care.
“Family Motor Coach Association, Thetford, and the entire RV industry lost a wonderful supporter of the industry,” said FMCA executive director Jerry Yeatts. “Her depth of knowledge was incredible. Her passion for green initiatives was inspiring. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mary’s family. She will be missed.”
New Highway Bill Exempts RVs From Axle Regulations
On June 27, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the $105 billion Surface Transportation Bill. More commonly referred to as the Highway Bill, the legislation included a weight exemption for RVs in the Federal Bridge Formula, according to information from the office of U.S. congressman Joe Donnelly. The bill was sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
In January 2012, four Indiana congressmen — Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republicans Marlin Stutzman, Mike Pence, and Larry Buchson — sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advocating for this exemption on behalf of the RV industry. The congressmen lobbied for an amendment to the bill that would alleviate concerns both the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and RV manufacturers had regarding how recreation vehicles would be treated under the Federal Bridge Formula.
The Federal Bridge Formula had previously set a maximum gross axle weight of 20,000 pounds for a vehicle’s single rear axle, while buses, although similar in design to RVs, had a single rear axle weight exemption of up to 24,000 pounds. With the passage of the bill, RVs now have that exemption as well. This means that a second rear axle does not need to be added to an RV, eliminating the potential $10,000 to $14,000 addition to the cost of the vehicle.
New Owners At Parliament Motor Coach
In June 2012 it was announced that a group of investors led by Cliff Koschnick has purchased custom bus converter Parliament Motor Coach Corporation. Other partners include Ken Johnson, Sharon Howard, and Cyndy Johnson. Production of new Parliament Coach conversions is expected to begin in 2013.
“We wanted to reassure everyone that we are a new entity and a new regime with new perspective and new ideas,” company officials noted in a press release.
All previous employees were retained, and additional workers have been hired to increase productivity and improve customer service. Additional changes include a new parts store, an updated customer lounge, and a revamped remodel/refurbishing department.
“Parliament Motor Coach has three Prevost factory-trained technicians and believes in a continuing education program so we can adapt to the ever evolving Prevost brand,” according to the press release.
Parliament Motor Coach Corporation is located at 4455 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, Florida. For more information, call (888) 571-5755 or visit www.parliamentmotorcoach.com.