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CEO Michael Happe maps new route for Winnebago

Patrick Kennedy, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Automotive News

The addition of Grand Design and the organic growth from Winnebago's existing towables business boosted full-year revenue from the towables segment to $685.2 million, an increase of $595.8 million from fiscal 2016.

"Our contacts expect an even better year next year," Kennison wrote in a research note before the release of year-end numbers. "Still, the industry is cyclical and eventually will correct -- perhaps when the credit cycle peaks."

There may be more acquisitions in Winnebago's future.

"We will be careful. This is a cyclical business," Happe said. "But we do believe that you can make smart investments using the balance sheet if needed to grow your company profitably."

The industry is in year eight of an expansion, the longest in industry history. Stable macro economic trends including interest rates, availability of credit, stable fuel prices and the wealth effect have contributed to a positive outlook.

Those secular trends include more than baby boomers ready to retire, younger generations who are leading more active lifestyles, increased digital connectivity and people finding extended uses of their RVs beyond long road trips.

"This industry will always be susceptible to certain things beyond our control that could slow the industry down," Happe said. "But every time it comes out of cycle it mostly rebounds to a new high; we think in the next 20 years it will be similar. More and more people will be attracted to the RV lifestyle."

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