Made in the Midwest: Winnebago Bus Line

Posted at: 04/25/2013 6:50 PM
Updated at: 05/01/2013 7:43 AM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's one of the most recognized names on the American road. Now, the next chapter is being written in the history of Winnebago Industries.

"It's a cutaway transit bus," Winnebago’s Terry Tweeten explained.

For Winnebago Industries, it’s a project that's been two years in the making.

"This is a progression of what we've already been making," Terry Tweeten told us.

“Anything above the chassis we can do it all here at Winnebago, so we saw a real opportunity in both the public and private sectors of the public transportation world," said Winnebago’s Scott Degnan.

“We are looking at about a 16-thousand unit market, procurements per year," Terry Tweeten added.

It’s a style of bus already being used by public transit agencies around the country, and there are other companies that make them.

"What we've seen over the years out there is pretty average workmanship, not a lot of longevity to the life of those vehicles," Winnebago’s Scott Degnan said. But with a long history of building motor homes:

"We knew with our technology, the way we build our chassis, we could build a better mousetrap."

“It has a one piece roof, a flush window design, a smooth fiberglass exterior," Terry Tweeten told us, showing off one of the first prototypes of the new bus.

“We're putting pretty much a roll-cage construction, we're going to have some patents we're putting into the way we frame and mount and secure our windows," Scott Degnan added.

The bus production facility was located on Winnebago’s existing property in Forest City, Iowa.

“We did have to retool the line a little bit and add some lifts and bring staff over here, but that's what we do," the company’s Scott Degnan said.

And with a different customer base than what it has for its signature product – the motor home --

"This might give some opportunities maybe when the RV market is in a down mode," Terry Tweeten said.

But even with the addition of buses, there will still be plenty of RVs rolling off the Winnebago assembly line.

“This is a completely separate business unit for us," Scott Degnan explained. “We won't do anything that takes away from our core motor home business. That's our bread and butter.”