Winnebago will open an innovation center in the Twin Cities next year | So Good News


Eden Prairie-based Winnebago Industries Inc. will build a new innovation center in the Twin Cities next year.

The 40,000-square-foot center is dedicated to the Advanced Technologies Group, established in 2019 to research and develop new innovations across its brands.

Winnebago created the Advanced Technology Group in 2019 to research and develop new innovations across its brands, which include Winnebago, Newmar and Chris-Craft.

“Our ability to excel in the market and our industry leadership will depend on our ability to advance the customer experience through technology,” Winnebago CEO Michael Happe said in a press release.

Each Winnebago business unit has its own product developers and engineers for new models and features. Advanced Technology Group, however, takes a long-term view of innovation for recreational vehicles and boats.

“We want the advanced technology team to look at technologies that are five, seven, 10 years out and work very collaboratively with the business units,” said Ashis Bhattacharya, senior vice president of business development.

The company has not yet disclosed the cost and location of the center as negotiations are still ongoing, but it will include laboratory and office space, as well as space for vehicles, Bhattacharya said. It should open in May or June.

The first major public demonstration of Advanced Technology Group’s work was this year’s introduction of the Winnebago electric RV concept vehicle. This car has been faithful throughout the years as Winnebago has brought it to various shows across the country and completed a 1,300 mile road trip with it from Washington, D.C., to Eden Prairie.

The group has a core team of 10-15 employees and draws from people with specific skills from inside and outside the organization. “We have a large ecosystem of partners that we work with,” Bhattacharya said.

According to Bhattacharya, the company looks for inspiration from the RV industry as well as other transportation sectors. Winnebago also conducts consumer research on how people will participate in the outdoors in the future, which informs what features and even products can be developed.

Some of this research will be public.

“I’m a big fan of systematic customer research and I’m passionate about customers.” Bhattacharya said. “Since I joined Winnebago six and a half years ago, I’ve been a big sponsor of customer research across the company.”

This latest study examined how long the pandemic-induced interest in outdoor activities would last.

Data released earlier this week from two summer consumer surveys of 3,500 people showed that 89% of respondents plan to participate in the outdoors as much or more in the next six months to a year.

Amber Holm, Winnebago’s chief marketing officer, said, “More and more, we’re seeing people consider the outdoors as a core part of their lifestyle.


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