Tag Archives: winnie drop

Forest River Drops Lawsuit Against Winnebago

It started a little over a year ago when Forest River filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries, citing  “trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition” in regards to Winnebago’s introduction of the Winnie Drop. Forest River contended the Winnie Drop was “confusingly similar” to their R-pod, citing consumers who couldn’t differentiate the two trailers.

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According to INiplaw.org, Winnebago’s legal representative “Overhauser Law Offices, LLC, filed a partial motion to dismiss with the court, arguing that Forest River had neither sufficiently identified the features that constituted the claimed trade dress nor provided any factual support for its assertion that such features were non-functional.” Furthermore, “The court agreed with Winnebago, concluding that Plaintiff had relied on “conclusory and meaningless” assertions in its pleadings. Consequently, it granted Winnebago’s motion and dismissed without prejudice Forest River’s claims concerning trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) as well as similar claims made under common law.”

As a result of this, Forest River withdrew its suit against Winnebago. According to an article in RV Pro today, “Overall, more specific details needed to be provided for the lawsuit to constitute trade dress infringement. For this reason, Winnebago asked to dismiss Forest River’s claims, which the company and judge then agreed to on Feb. 14”.

What does this mean? Simply, expect more R-pod type trailers to hit the market by other manufacturers. The R-pod is the top selling trailer under 20′ and expect even more manufacturers to now aim for a piece of that pie without fear of Forest River’s legal team. We’re already seeing new units hit the market since the Winnie Drop came out, including offerings from KZ, Keystone, Jayco, and Starcraft.

I know this has been a hot button topic for many of you, especially you loyal R-pod devotees. If there’s a good thing to come out of this, expect the added competition in this class to improve the quality and options among all the manufacturers in an effort to rise to that number one spot where the R-pod currently sits. I’ve always been a firm believer that competition makes you up your game, and this alone will benefit the consumer. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

 

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Winter RV Show Season Set to Begin

The winter RV show season is kicking off in many cities this coming weekend, and the 120,000 square foot Indy RV Expo in Indianapolis is one of them. Some of you long time readers may recall I’ve filled in as a part time salesman over the past few years for local Indianapolis dealers Braun’s Fun Time Campers and Mount Comfort RV. I thought I was going to be an “unsigned free agent” for this year’s show and just be a spectator until an opportunity arose this week to join Braun’s again on both weekends of the show.

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As most of you know, this website is not my full time job, and I don’t even make a regular living in the RV industry – I work full time in the retirement services division of a major insurance holding and  financial services corporation. So any time I get to escape the daily routine and talk to folks about trailers in person, I’m all over it! I enjoy writing and having you all read my ramblings, but helping dealers at these shows is a no pressure, rewarding venture for me that allows me to get out and help the industry grow. Granted, I like to think this website does just that as well, but talking to people one on one about RVing is one of my more enjoyable things to do. funtimesSo, for those of you in the Midwest looking to get out of the house, the show starts this coming Saturday, January 7 and runs through Sunday, January 15 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I’ll be working at the Fun Time Campers corral both weekends of the show from open to close.  Braun’s is a dealer mainly of Riverside Retro, Winnebago Towables, and KZ travel trailers. They’re the same dealer we recently bought our Riverside teardrop from, so as was the case with my time working the show for Mount Comfort RV last year, I’m taking the angle of a customer selling for them as well. Honestly, a lot of folks don’t like dealing with sales people, so I try to convey to them my position as a fellow RVer. In some cases, that can tend to enable them to drop their defense shield a bit knowing they’re dealing with “one of them”.

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So aside from Riverside Retros, you can expect to see some Winnebagos there such as the Winnie Drop and plenty of KZ products, such as the Escape.

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Even if you’re not in the market for a trailer and just want to see what Braun’s and the other dealers have brought out, I do hope you’ll hunt me down and say hello!

Pat

 

 

 

 

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2016 RVIA Show Review

The 2016 RVIA show in Louisville featured the usual full spectrum of RVs the industry has to offer. However, this year was one of the best…if not the best…of the six shows I’ve now attended for the small trailer segment. It’s no secret that this segment of the industry is gaining steam and this year proved manufacturers have embraced the small trailer culture with new, innovative models and expanded floor plans of existing models.

Every year I keep telling myself that I’m going to take two days off work to attend this show, and this year was no exception. However, I packed a lot in the full day I was there on Tuesday, November 29. By the time my day was over, I logged a whopping 24,116 steps on my Fitbit, or 11.04 miles! Fortunately I bought a new pair of New Balance before the day began…and they got quite the break-in. But perhaps 2017 will be the year where I take those two days for the show, as this year I wished I had another day to talk more to some of the manufacturers about their products.

Part of my day this year was spent hosting a couple from Indianapolis. Bob & Becky Kevoian are recent retirees now traveling the U.S. part time in their 2014 Airstream International Sterling 25FB.  I spent a few hours with them looking at Airstreams and just giving them an overview of how physically big this show really is. Some of you may recognize Bob and his signature LA Dodgers cap. For more than 30 years, Bob was half of the Bob & Tom Show, a nationally syndicated morning radio show based out of Indianapolis. Once Bob hit 65 in December of 2015, he signed off the air for the last time, although the show still carries on with his name. Following his retirement and induction into the national radio hall of fame late in 2015, Bob and Becky have been enjoying the past year spending much of it on the road in their Airstream. Earlier this year, they started a podcast as an accompaniment to their blog about their Airstream, affectionately called “June Bug”. You can follow along on their adventures at their website, junebugjourneys.com where you can catch up on travel updates and listen to their recent podcasts.

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In this post, I’m just going to give an overview on what I saw, but not delve too much into anything in particular . I figure I can highlight individual trailers this winter when I’m cooped up in the house.  And there should be plenty to individually highlight as well. What made the most impression on me this year was the multitude of new products. But much of this year’s new trailers weren’t just the same old designs and floorplans badged with a different manufacturer’s name. There was plenty of that, but there were also fresh, new designs that strayed from the “same old, same old” that I hear many of you tire of. Some of those were the Hymer Touring series of lightweight travel trailers with a pop-up roof. These aren’t yet available in the US, but that should change in 2017. Their website has little info about the Hymer Touring, but there were four units on display in Louisville. One dealer I spoke with heard MSRP on these will be in the low $20k’s. One note, they have a low entry door head clearance. Don’t ask me how I know this. :-/

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One new offering from Aliner is the Ascape. It’s a rear-entry unit that’s loaded with everything a single person needs for a comfortable weekend. And at just 13 feet long and 1350 lbs, it’s towable by a lot of smaller vehicles. It’s not yet up on their website, but look for prices in the mid teens. The Plus model adds air conditioning, cassette toilet, audio/visual package, and awning.

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The Travel Lite Falcon is one that easily attracts. While Travel Lite is known mainly for truck campers, in recent years they’ve introduced travel trailers to their lineup and have added to that lineup the slick looking Falcon. It comes in five floorplans and weights ranging from 2480 to 3215 lbs. They’re skinned in smooth aluminum and come on 18″ to 20″ wheels, depending on whether the floorplan has a slide or not. Very good looking unit with good looking interiors. Very nice change from the industry norms.

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Forest River is also coming out with some innovative smaller trailers. Rockwood’s Geo Pro and Flagstaff’s E-Pro should be out sometime in the first half of 2017. Geared toward “those campers that value being environmentally conscious and have chosen to drive today’s more fuel efficient crossover vehicles and small SUVs”. An A-frame bike rack, flexible roof mounted solar panel, and 12 volt 19″ TV are just a few of the options these two essentially identical trailers will offer. They’ll have five floor plans to choose from, with the smallest being a teardrop style that has a rear kitchen and a bed you crawl into from the outside, not unlike a teardrop, but not shaped like one. The particular model in these photos (the 14K) has a spacious U-shaped dinette that converts to a bed and also has a wet bath next to the front kitchenette. It has an unloaded vehicle weight of just under 2,000 lbs and is 14′ total length.

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Airstream’s introduction of the redesigned Basecamp happened a couple of months ago, and units are just now starting to show up on dealer lots. The first incarnation of it occurred in 2008, and it was really nothing more than a small utilitarian designed unit that never gained traction with the public. After lasting just one year, it was shelved and reintroduced this fall with a new interior package and redesigned on the inside while keeping the same overall shape it had in 2008, with the addition of a side entry door, wet bath, and a few more touches to give it more of a micro travel trailer feel on the inside. So far, feedback has been positive and Airstream has been advertising this thing hard on social media. There were two units on display in Louisville, with one showing the additional tent rooms that can be added to both the side and the rear of the Basecamp. There was also one without the tents to show the sleek design of the Basecamp uninhibited by the tent rooms. The MSRP was a cool $38,000 on the one I looked at. Airstream appears to be marketing it towards millennials and those outdoors recreationalists that you would typically find camping off the grid and not in a typical campground.  I’m not sure of too many of those 20-somethings who could afford that price tag when you consider their likely school debt and other financial and career obstacles that generation faces. Time will  tell on the Basecamp. If it were me looking for an Airstream in that size and price range, I’d go with a traditional 16′ Bambi Sport for about the same size, weight, and money. After all, if you’re buying an Airstream, don’t you want it to look like an Airstream?

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Debuted at the Elkhart Open House in September, Heartland RV again had the yet to be named prototype retro trailer. Its look harkens back to the classic Holiday House built in the early 1960’s. Whether it makes it to production remains to be seen. Although it’s a single axle trailer, it’s got some bulk to it. It sits pretty tall and although I didn’t see a weight on it, it’s weight is likely well north of 3,000 lbs and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s darned close to 4,000. More than one industry professional I talked to about it said that while it’s got a great exterior look, the interior is a little too modern looking and somewhat brings down the trailer as a whole.

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Another one that debuted at Elkhart which was a big draw at Louisville was the T@B 400 by nuCamp RV. About 3 feet longer and a foot wider than a traditional T@B, the 400 will weigh in the 2300-2600 lbs range with a 6’7″ of head room. The T@B 400 gives what a standard T@B doesn’t: a separate dinette and a separate bed. One look at the interior styling of the 400 and you’ll immediately know that it takes cues from its European counterpart. I’m sure it’ll gain the favor of loyal T@B owners, but I’m not sure about the fridge. For the size of the trailer, the fridge seemed to be lacking in size, as it appears to be down in the 2 to 3 cubic foot range. Look for it to go into production early in 2017.

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That covers most of the new offerings I saw at the show. Now for some other observations. Despite Forest River’s knack for dropping lawsuits on anyone who makes anything with wheels and a fresh water tank (Note to Forest River’s legal department: This is SARCASM. Lighten up, Francis.), that still hasn’t stopped Winnebago, Jayco, and Starcraft from producing their own r-Pod offshoot. And why not gun for them? According to Forest River’s own statistics, the r-Pod is the number one selling travel trailer under 20′ (I plan on posting on this in the near future). But not everyone is a fan of Forest River, so they have a choice in brands, and all four have just about the same floorplans from which to choose. So to recap those four, we have the original, the r-Pod

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the Winnebago Winnie Drop

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the Jayco Hummingbird

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…and the Starcraft Comet Mini

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But for those you who are just interested in something in that 19′ to 21′ range without the need for your trailer to be the prom queen when you roll into the campground, your options are wide open. Every major manufacturer has something for you, with prices ranging from entry level in the low teens to a little higher end in the mid 20’s, depending on the manufacturer. So whether your budget is in line with the entry level Serro Scotty or Coachmen Clipper,

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to the mid-range Winnebago Micro Minnie or Keystone Passport Ultra Lite

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or to the higher end Livin’ Lite Camp Lite or Lance,

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and everything in between, you WILL find what you’re looking for. This is a fantastic time to be in the market for a trailer less than 20′. Your styles and options are vast and there’s something out there for every budget. So as winter is upon us, start looking for those RV shows in your area, and get out there and see what’s available. Kick the tires, find a floor plan you like and compare brands. Ultimately you will find what you’re looking for in time for the 2017 camping season. There were a lot of other brands out there that brought models in the 19′-21′ range, but I just touched on a few. I’ll be updating the Manufacturer’s Page to include some of the new models set to hit the dealer lots in 2017. And stay tuned this winter where I’ll highlight some of these new models that I’ve discussed here.

Thanks for reading…and may you all have a great holiday season!

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Winnebago Spruces Up Exterior of the Winnie Drop

A long time ago, many jobs ago, the CFO of the company I worked for once told me, “Pat, just because someone has an idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good one”. Fortunately he wasn’t referring to me, just giving me advice that’s stuck with me all these years. When the Winnebago Winnie Drop was introduced a couple of years ago, that advice came to the surface of my thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Winnebago Industries. Not only has Winnebago been synonymous with RVing for decades, but their products are synonymous with quality. And it could be I’ve had an affection for Winnebago for some 40 years when my mom and dad bought me the famous Tonka Winnebago Indian that came out in the early 1970’s that I got for a Christmas present when I was a young lad. I really wish I still had that thing!

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But when the Winnie Drop first came out, I was initially excited about Winnebago introducing a small trailer that was eye catching, but the more I looked at one, the less excited I got. I just could not get past the graphics and the interior color. Let’s face it, the graphics were nothing short of a cluttered mess that left the word “garish” embarrassed.

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Instead of enhancing the Winnie Drop, these graphics did nothing more than distract from it. With the size and shape, as well as the exterior colors offered by Winnebago, the graphic package never did this trailer any favors. Up until now.

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(image courtesy Josh Winters of Haylett RV – haylettautoandrv.com)

This late 2017 graphics update for the Winnie Drop is exactly what this trailer needed. Now what do we have? A trailer that is accented by an excellent balance of size, shape, sidewall color and a much less vocal graphics package. Even the new Winnie Drop logo on the side is very nicely done with a simple arch incorporating the Winnebago “W” as a wheel.

Aside from the new graphics on the Winnie Drop, Winnebago has also increased the number of available colors it comes in. As Josh Winters of Haylett RV in Coldwater, Michigan tells me, “If yellow isn’t your color, then remember it only comes in six other amazing colors!” Up until now, the only colors it came in were cherry, blue, white, and platinum. In addition to those, you can also get it in orange, champagne, and the lemon color shown above.

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Now hopefully Winnebago will look into going with a lighter interior instead of the, as I call it, “brownish-gray” that they’ve had since its inception.

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Going with the interior color Winnebago is now putting in their Minnie line of trailers would open up the feel tremendously in their 6 1/2′ wide Winnie Drops. mi-b2f-16(image courtesy winnebagoind.com)

For those of you new to Winnie Drops, Josh put together another one of his stellar walk through videos of the Winnie Drop with the new exterior graphics. Be sure to visit the Haylett RV site for more info on their line of Winnebagos in stock.

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Starcraft RV Releases the Comet Mini

Hooking on to the popularity of the r-Pod and Winnebago Winnie Drop, Starcraft RV has recently introduced its own offering to the teardrop inspired 18′ to 20′ travel trailer segment.

comet-miniThe Comet Mini offers four different floor plans ranging from 19’11” to 20’8″ lengths. With dry weights from 2708 lbs to 3055 pounds, it makes it towable by most mid size SUVs at a minimum. To keep it lightweight, the Comet Mini offers an aluminum cage and laminated sidewalls.

The floorplans offered aren’t any different than any what r-pod, the Winnie Drop, or the Jayco Hummingbird offer, so all else being equal, this gives buyers an apples to apples comparison where they can narrow their choice down to options, color schemes, and prices. Standards include a convection microwave oven  and upgraded pleated night shades, as well as optional 13.5k air conditioning, electric awning, electric tongue jack and bumper mount grill. comet-interior1Interior-wise, I really like the tone of the sugar maple cabinetry when compared to some of its competitors. It’s a color you don’t see in many trailers and brightens things up while separating itself from the others.

comet-inteior2With Starcraft being a member of the Jayco family, it also offers a 2 year manufacturers warranty on the Comet Mini, which is something r-pod and the Winnie Drop do not. All in all, the Comet Mini appears to be a sound option for those of you in the market for the so-called European styled exterior design.

comet2To find out more about the Comet Mini, including floorplans and specifications, visit the Starcraft web site at http://starcraftrv.com/products/travel-trailers/comet-mini

 

(photos courtesy lazydays.com)

 

 

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R-pod vs. Winnie Drop: Let the lawsuits begin!

In our “who didn’t see this coming” category, Forest River has filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries. The suit stems from Winnebago’s recent introduction of the Winnie Drop, which strikes a resemblance to Forest River’s 7 year old R-pod. DSC_0570

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In a story published on January 16, 2016 in RV Business, Forest River filed suit in December “for trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition.” The term “trade dress” refers to the overall visual image.  “The use of our trademarks and trade dress by other manufacturers confuses and misleads consumers and cannot be tolerated. We do not initiate lawsuits without serious consideration”, Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert told RV Business. The article goes on to state that the R-pod “incorporates patent pending technology and copyright-protected floorplans.”

I’ll be watching this closely at it goes through the legal process. Forest River filed suit a few years ago for similar reasons against Heartland and their now defunct “mpg” trailer. Industry professionals I’ve talked to shake their heads when talking about trademarking an RV floorplan. If anyone has ever gone to an RV show, you all know everything is copied by everyone. I’ll make no bones about it, I’m no legal expert and I don’t have a clue where this lawsuit will go, but should Forest River be successful I’d be interested to know if a company like A-Liner has similar patents on their hard-sided A frame campers. They’ve been around the longest, but other companies have developed their own version….including Forest River’s Flagstaff.

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My final take on this or any similar lawsuits involving RV companies is that it really does nothing to serve the consumer. If anything it eliminates what makes a product better: Competition. When you eliminate your competition because you have a legal machine like Forest River does, it eliminates the competition that forces you to come up with ideas that make your product better than the other guy. If there is no “other guy”, then your product gets stagnant, and quality and innovation exit the building.

I’ll update this story with future posts as additional news develops.

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Update on the Winnebago Winnie Drop

One of the new trailers unveiled at last week’s dealer RV Open House in Elkhart, Indiana was the Winnebago Winnie Drop, as I first told you about on September 24 in this post. I received a batch of photos of the prototype from Winnebago towables dealer Austin Braun of Braun’s Fun Time Campers in Indianapolis.

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The Winnie Drop will come in 5 exterior colors and eventually four floor plans. In an e-mail today, Austin told me, “They have just the one floorplan built, but have 3 others on paper for the December show in Louisville. From what my rep told me they got off to a great start at the open house and received praise and, more importantly, plenty of orders from the dealers.”

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The initial floorplan, the 1780WD, will have an exterior length totaling 20’4″, a generous 6’5″ interior height, a rear 60″ x  74″ queen bed, a large front U-shaped dinette, a slide out for the kitchen, a wet bath, a dry weight of 2780 lbs, a GVWR of 3800 lbs, a 31 gallon fresh water tank, and a 25 gallon black water tank and gray water tank, as well as the usual 6 gallon water heater, all while sitting on a 3500 lbs single axle.

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20150923_110510The Winnie Drop should be available sometime early in 2016 and although an MSRP is not officially been set, Austin tells me it should be somewhere in the upper teens. I’ll provide updates as new details become available.

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Winnebago Debuts the Winnie Drop

This week at the RV Open House in Elkhart, Indiana, Winnebago Industries has debuted a new small, lightweight trailer called the Winnie Drop. Details are thin at this point, but I should be able to get some more info and pics soon. This photo was released by RV Business last week of the new trailer to the Winnebago towable lineup.

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However, what we do know about the Winnie Drop is that it’ll will be available in five exterior colors in four floorplans, including one with a rear hatch featuring an outside kitchen and an expandable hybrid tent model. If the look of the Minnie Drop and these  floorplan descriptions sound familiar, that’s no accident. The Winnie Drop is quite obviously built as a competitor to Forest River’s popular r-pod.

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I should be getting some additional info and pictures soon, so I’ll post an update as soon as that happens.

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