Winnebago Industries said it plans to gradually resume production of its motor homes, towables and travel trailers beginning Monday, a move that follows the mid-April resumption of production at its Chris-Craft operations and those for its specialty vehicles business.
“We remain focused on ensuring the health and safety of our employees as we continue to gradually restart manufacturing operations around the Company in a disciplined approach, supported by committed demand from our valued channel partners,” said Winnebago Industries President and Chief Executive Michael Happe in a news release.
Winnebago, which is based in Forest City, Iowa, with management offices in Eden Prairie, said on March 23 it was suspending manufacturing operations at its Winnebago, Grand Design RV, Newmar and Chris-Craft facilities in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Some service and call-center operations remained open. A majority of Winnebago’s 5,500 employees work in manufacturing operations in Iowa, Indiana and Florida.
Winnebago resumed production at its Chris-Craft facility and in its specialty vehicles division a couple of weeks ago. Plants that produce Newmar motor homes, Grand Design travel trailers and fifth wheel RVs, and Winnebago motor homes will resume operations Monday with towables production back up and running the following week.
The company said it is taking a measured approach to resuming production that will depend on demand within each category.
“We are cautiously optimistic about several indicators within the outdoor industry, including an uptick in campground reservations and marina traffic in select areas, continued low gas prices and interest rates, easing of stay-at-home restrictions in some states leading to increased commerce conditions, and improved access to some state and national parks,” Happe said. “Retail trends in mid to late April appear to be progressing in a healthier direction than earlier in the month.”
As the company resumes production, it said it is reminding employees working on campuses and off campuses to adhere to safe-working conditions that include safe social distancing, sanitization, personal protection equipment and health checks.
Winnebago also said it has created the WGO Together Fund to help its employees who are facing financial hardship because of the disease. The Winnebago Foundation kick-started the fund with a six-figure donation and pledged a dollar-for-dollar limited matching grant to any employees, family or friends who also wanted to make a tax-deductible donation to the fund.
The WGO Together Fund is accepting COVID-19 hardship cases now but will eventually be converted to a general employee emergency fund. The company wouldn’t state how big the initial grant was but did say it has started making payments to employees from the fund.
Winnebago shares closed Wednesday at $45.47, up 4.6%. Year-to-date company shares are down 13.7% after being down as much as 61% from the beginning of the year through its 2020 low point on March 18.