Just like the housing bubble, there was a bubble in the RV industry
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Just like the housing bubble, there was a bubble in the RV industry
Winnebago's new CEO, Randy Potts says "Many competitors went bankrupt. We survived and are strong. I'm looking ahead at a different chapter. We're figuring out where we're going to be in five years"

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6/28/2011 - The following extract from an article is by, and reproduced from, DONNELLE ELLER DesMoinesRegister.com
 Link to full story 

Winnebago's new CEO - Randy Potts, 52, an Iowa native who has worked in manufacturing since graduating - follows Bob Olson, who remains the board chairman.

Potts has spent nearly 28 years at the northern Iowa motor home manufacturing plant, working his way up from a senior tool designer to vice president of manufacturing to president in January and CEO last week.

Potts talked with The Des Moines Register on Thursday as the White House announced President Barack Obama would visit Iowa on Tuesday to discuss the future of manufacturing.

Q. What would you like President Obama to do to help the manufacturing industry?

A. It's saddening to see how many manufacturing jobs this country has lost. But with globalization of economies, the world is a much smaller place.

  
Manufacturing jobs that involve a lot of labor, especially unskilled labor, will just keep going to cheaper sources. There's nothing our government can do about that. Protectionism has failed. We all have to learn how to adapt in a changing world.

Q. What are important economic factors for Winnebago? Is it jobs, retirement funds?

A. It's a multitude of factors. Just like the housing bubble, there was a bubble in the RV industry. ... The industry has a long history of working on either side of normal, but sales spiked to 70,000 units in 2004. Looking back, the RV industry was overbuilding. Once the economy came undone, sales plummeted. The consumer base went from 70,000 to 20,000. But the dealer network was stocked with inventory for that higher sales level. Manufacturing was stacked up for the higher sales level. It took a long time to work itself out.

 
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When will we get back to normal?...:

A lot of people ask when we'll get back to normal, but we don't know. We simply don't know. Nobody knows.

We'll continue to gain market share. We'll take business away from our competition. But it's a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

We need to look for long-term sources of revenue. The towable trailer manufacturer we purchased in Indiana (SunnyBrook RV) is a good sampling of what we have an appetite for.

Q. Will workers, analysts, others who follow Winnebago see a big change between your leadership and Bob Olson's?

A. Bob was faced with a bottom falling out. He dealt with that very well. Many competitors went bankrupt. We survived and are strong. I'm looking ahead at a different chapter. We're figuring out where we're going to be in five years.

What we have to do now is more strategic. ... Winnebago is over 50 years old. The culture of this company, the product, quality, everything about this company has taken years to evolve. We can't be reckless. We have to be very careful.


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(See also general comments further down this page)
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