10 Things We Learned from The Road Ahead, Winnebago’s Virtual Product Launch
By: Katelyn and Howard Newstate
2020 has been the year of being flexible, reimagining plans, and learning how to stay connected on a virtual level. As two people who ended up quarantining on an island in Mexico in our Winnebago Navion, we can speak from experience that this year has been anything but normal. So, it was no surprise that Winnebago took to the virtual world for their new product launch. And wow, did they knock it out of the park, both on delivery and announcements!
We were so excited to sit down and tune in, anxiously watching the countdown clock until the beautiful Winnebago footage started running. We lost count of how many times we said “wow!” during the two-hour event. From exciting upgrades to brand new models, the Winnebago team delivered in a big way. Plus, in the form of a virtual launch, we were able to get a deeper behind-the-scenes look at some of the decision making and design work that goes into each rig.
It’s easy to see that The Road Ahead paves a clear path for redefining traditional RVing by incorporating comforts of home, technology, listening to and acting on the needs of real customers, and tying it all together with quality and customer service that we can personally vouch for as industry leading.
Here is our list of top things we learned from the virtual product launch:
1. There’s Something for Everyone
One thing that was immediately apparent after we watched Winnebago’s Virtual Launch is that the lineup encompasses a rig for every style of RV travel. Whether you’re a weekend warrior looking for luxury, a full-timer seeking the comforts of home or a family who is brand new to RVing and looking for an easy-to-use coach, you’ll find something to love in the Winnebago lineup.
One of our favorites from the The Road Ahead is the upgrades Winnebago has made to the Travato, the #1 camper van in North America (which is quite an impressive stat, by the way). It’s easy to see why this rig is a favorite of those who like to get off the beaten path. The Travato makes boondocking or off-grid camping for longer periods of time a breeze with the Pure 3 Lithium Power System. Plus, the simple but effective upgrades to the sink, wet bath area, and extra four inches of shoulder space in the bed (in the 59G/GL floorplan) improve comfort while maximizing the footprint of the van.
Speaking of getting off the beaten path…
2. The All-New Winnebago EKKO is an Adventurer’s Dream
It’s pretty safe to say we’ve never seen anything quite like the brand-new Winnebago EKKO. This is a rig that has us adventure seekers jumping up and down. Fifty gallons of fresh water AND grey water capacity in a rig that’s 23 feet? Talk about a game changer! Our jaws dropped with that announcement.
Combine the water capacity, enormous storage bay, and the copious amount of solar (455w comes standard) all on top of an agile all-wheel-drive gas-powered chassis and the EKKO catapults its way to the top of the list for on-the-go RVers.
The 22A floorplan was shown off during the event, and we immediately jumped on the Winnebago website to find out more only to discover ANOTHER floorplan that sounds pretty ideal for us: the 24C. With a similar length to our Winnebago Navion 24D (25ft), the 24C floorplan adds an expanded kitchen thanks to a slide, a pocket door that creates what Howard now calls a “Road Suite” (with the bed, bathroom, and separate shower all behind the door), and more floor space for our three dogs to lounge in up front. We can’t wait to see one of these in person!
3. Residential Style in RVs Has Arrived
Are we all breathing a collective sigh of relief and gratitude? Winnebago has set the bar high with their new sleek design elements that mirror (literally, adding residential-style lighted vanity mirrors) what you would find in a high-end sticks and bricks home. This was another one of those “wow” moments for us during the virtual launch.
When Kim Mann, Senior Manager of Interior Design, walked us through the interior of the all-new Journey, we were awestruck. Not only is the interior (and exterior!) aesthetically pleasing, but the thought and attention to detail is evident with just about every feature. We loved seeing the beautiful wood cabinets and the gorgeous lighting fixtures, details that seem small but make a huge difference in the look and feel of an RV. One of our favorite things about this kitchen is the enormous prep sink! We love to cook and we’re so glad that Winnebago has listened to their customers in this area. You no longer have to sacrifice certain creature comforts while you’re RVing.
It is clear that Winnebago has made Interior Design a priority. The fact that the design team works in tandem with other departments to ensure functionality as well as a high-end look and feel proves their dedication to customer satisfaction in this area. Having the comforts and style of what you’d find in a traditional home is the future of RV design. We can’t wait to see what this leads to across the Winnebago family of RVs for years to come.
4. Technology is Bringing Sophistication to RVs
Segwaying nicely from the new and improved interior design of Winnebago’s RVs, we’re thrilled to see connectivity and technology at the forefront in these new models. Across the motorhomes and towables revealed at The Road Ahead, a major theme was the use of technology to solve the challenges of driver safety (Minne Winnie), noisy neighbors (significant sound testing in the all-new Journey), and improving control of all the systems in modern RVs (Winnebago Connect and LCI OneControl).
The new Winnebago Connect feature ties together all major systems (air conditioning, water heater, electrical, lighting, etc.) into one display OR from an app on your phone for complete control. Turn off the lights from the bed, kick on the heat before you walk in the door. Is voice control coming soon? Navion, make my coffee!
5. Towables are Approachable for New RVers
Winnebago takes the guesswork and intimidation out of first time RV buying with their numerous resources and affordable, approachable models. We think the line of towables really shines in this area. With the beautiful Voyage, you’ll be exploring in style and comfort. Both the 5th wheel and travel trailer have luxury features throughout, with many floorplans new this year. We were blown away by the space and design of these RVs.
On the other end of the size spectrum, you’ll find the improved Winnebago HIKE. We love this travel trailer for its compact size, sleek, light and bright interior and the fact that it has a dry bath! When we were looking for RVs for full-time living, having a dry bath was a priority for Katelyn. The fact that Winnebago has accommodated this in such a cool design is awesome.
6. Taking the Launch Virtual Gave Us an Inside Look at What Goes into a New Winnebago
This should be no surprise: consumers care about quality! Winnebago really got to flex their muscles in this department by giving us a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into an RV build.
Showcasing their new assembly lines and introducing us to the teams behind the well-known brand gives us a deeper appreciation for all the hard work that goes into each coach.
Howard gets excited anytime you pull back the curtain and show “how it’s made,” and The Road Ahead’s focus on virtual tours of the factory floors show he is not alone! If you have never taken the tour of the Winnebago Forest City, IA, manufacturing center, it is worthy of a stop when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and tours resume. For now, the interviews and filming at the Forest City campus help show why Winnebago prioritizes safety, quality and productivity, in that order, on the assembly line. When your team members are safe, they can focus on quality and productivity will follow.
We had the opportunity to take the tour ourselves in 2019 and witnessed firsthand the attention to detail in StitchCraft (the inhouse team responsible for building from raw materials the cushions, mattresses, and other upholstered pieces in Winnebago RVs), the amazing machine that precisely cuts wood with high pressure water, and how Winnebago custom manufactures many components on-site (like water tanks) to maximize fit and carrying capacity. You’ll look at the details of your coach in a new light once you’ve taken that tour!
7. Customer Service is a Priority
Winnebago’s commitment to their buyers doesn’t stop once the sale is complete, that’s where it begins. We learned this first-hand as proud new Winnebago owners who had no prior RVing experience when we bought our home-on-wheels two years ago. Their ongoing commitment to backing their products was on full display during the virtual launch. From service to support, we know that there will be someone to answer our questions or guide us along the way.
Starting at the dealership level, the team at Winnebago enables local staff to help make the service, orientation, and repair processes smooth and enjoyable. We had a five-hour walk through orientation of our brand-new rig, and we know that was made possible by the education and support Winnebago provides through their detailed schematics, diagrams, and programs.
After purchasing our 2019 Winnebago Navion 24D, we were able to pick up the phone and speak directly with a customer service rep if we had questions or an issue. Real world examples? Howard COULD NOT figure out how to get the pantry cabinet drawers to come off the rails for cleaning. Or when we were unsure which outlets were powered by the inverter when dry camping. A service rep graciously walked us through each minor issue until it was resolved. That level of immediate, thoughtful customer service is hard to find anywhere in the retail world and Winnebago should be proud of this level of support to RVers.
8. Listening to Your Community of Buyers Makes A Better RV
Throughout The Road Ahead Virtual Launch, we heard from numerous Winnebago owners who are utilizing various RVs in different ways. As a potential buyer, we’re more likely to trust the word of a real person’s experience when it comes to their authentic review of a product. The same goes for RVing and it’s so refreshing to see the Winnebago team tapping into their active and passionate community of real-life RVers. Whether online (in Facebook Groups) or onsite (at rallies and RV shows), Winnebago made clear that they DO listen and want to make the best RV possible for their customers.
Perfect example of this? How about…
9. A Desk + WiFi Connectivity Built into an RV? A Dream Come True for Working from the Road
As two work-from-the-road travelers, seeing dedicated workspaces and connectivity become standard elements of consideration in floorplan design makes our digital nomad hearts happy. While shopping for an RV that we would be living and working in full-time, having dedicated desk space was a must-have on our list. However, during our initial search, it proved to be quite a difficult feature to find in most RVs.
Winnebago has seen the shift in demand for what working-age RVers want and need out of a home on wheels and they’re answering that call by making remote work life more comfortable on the road. Today we see it in rigs like the Vista 29V, Forza 36H, and the all-new Journey. What will tomorrow bring for the working class of RVers?
This ties back into the fact that the design team is truly listening to their consumers. There’s an entire generation who is prioritizing experiential living, and what better way to do so then with the flexibility of taking your home and office with you on those adventures.
10. Bringing Accessible RVs to the Masses with All the Amenities
Up until 2019, Winnebago produced Accessibility Enhanced (AE) coaches on an as-needed basis when specially ordered, often resulting in long lead time. In order to eliminate that wait, they took the learnings of the previous 40 years of producing AE RVs and created standard Accessibility Enhanced floorplans that are available at all times from local Winnebago dealers.
Fast forward to today, and Winnebago has added the new Inspire to their line of AE RVs.
Jennifer Butters from the Winnebago team said it best during the announcement, “We don’t want to define what a mobility challenge is, so we wanted to make sure that we offered as much versatility as we could inside this coach.”
That’s evident in the air-assisted swing door, custom extended table, expanded walkways and roll-in shower. Winnebago is also the only manufacturer to include wheelchair tie downs as a standard feature in an RV.
There was so much information and exciting news jam-packed into The Road Ahead, Virtual Product Launch that we’ve barely scratched the surface here. We recommend grabbing a snack and kicking back to watch it for yourself!
For us, Winnebago’s commitment to producing quality RVs with attention to detail and industry-leading customer service reinforces our purchasing decision two years ago.
What do you think the future of RVing will be?