(NOTE: I originally posted this on the RV Geeks website as well as IRV2 Newmar Owners Forum in response to a question about a potential purchase of a new Newmar, now that the company has been sold.)
According to early news reports, Newmar will continue to operate as an independent brand under the Winnebago umbrella, with headquarters remaining in Nappanee, IN. But even as an independent brand, Newmar will surely be subject to Winnebago’s corporate “best practices” policies and procedures for success in the RV industry. So to answer your concerns, I think it’s best to ask the question, “Would you be happy purchasing a Winnebago, based upon that company’s customer service?”
Beyond your personal question, my surprise at the sale of Newmar is “why now?” The RV industry as a whole is in recession, with sales down 20% or more across the board this year over last. As an indicator, the industry has always been a canary on the coal mine when it comes to predicting the economy 1-2 years out, and things are not looking good, However, Newmar sales and performance have remained solid, even in the latest slowdown. I think Winnebago saw the acquisition as a great opportunity to snatch a brand with an obvious high-end, high quality reputation, and I sincerely believe they have no intention of breaking that mold.
That said, what should we look forward to as Newmar owners?
From a product standpoint, you should expect to see a Sprinter-based Newmar hit the road sooner rather than later. Fair enough, but personally, I would hate to see a broadening or cheapening of the Newmar line-up to reflect Winnebago’s. That was Newmar in the 1990’s, and I see no reason to go backwards by diminishing the brand.
Back to the a customer service issue, I think Newmar has a lot to gain from Winnebago’s better practices. Don’t get me wrong, Newmar does a lot of CS things very well, but there’s always room for improvement; Newmar is no exception. The reverse is also true: Newmar has a premier dealer network that is a huge value-add for Winnebago. As such, I would expect there to be a renegotiation of Newmar’s dealer agreements to include offering some of Winnebago’s line-up in place of other off-brands (again, read Sprinter).
So where does this leaves us? Winnebago has deep pockets, and they obviously see the value of owning a premier RV brand both now and over the longer term. My hope is Newmar will gain some much needed flexibility in their offerings along with a revitalization of their customer service model, and that Winnebago will learn what it really takes to build/sell/support a premier high-end product.