When Winnebago Industries Inc. set out last year to differentiate its Itasca line from the legendary Winnebago brand name, the Forest City, Iowa, company faced two challenges.
"The first thing we wanted to do is build the Itasca identity," said Ron Buckmeier, Winnebago Industries' vice president of product development. "Within the industry, it's pretty well known. Beyond that, it's not that familiar of a name.
"Second, we wanted to position the Itasca slightly off from the Winnebago identity. We wanted features, looks and appeal that a different brand offers."
The most aggressive example of Winnebago Industries' effort to differentiate the Itasca and Winnebago brands is the 2000 Horizon, Itasca's flagship diesel pusher — even though it features the same body panels as the newly released Winnebago Journey.
New for 2000, the Horizon, with a sleek bus-like front end, is built with 34- and 36-foot floorplans on a Freightliner XC chassis. The Horizon, which retails for $140,000, about $10,000 more than its companion Winnebago Journey, is powered by a 275hp Cummins ISB 9.5-liter turbocharged diesel engine. A six-speed Allison MD3060 World Transmission is standard and a 300-hp Caterpillar 9.5-liter diesel turbocharged engine is available as an option.
The Horizon is equipped with Winnebago Industries' trademark features such as the new TrueAir Residential Central Air Conditioning, which relocates the condensor to the motorhome's basement and is controlled by a wall thermostat, and the OnePlace Systems Center, which puts controls for the generator, thermostat, power system and other functions in a recessed galley control panel.
"We've created a look that when anyone steps into the entrance, they will know they are in an Itasca," Buckmeier said. "One of the easy things to see is the treatment in the galley area in the Horizon. Winnebago customers expect a window in that area. The mirror treatment in the Itasca gives it a different look."
Upgraded standard features, including FlexSteel UltraLeather furniture, Maytag sealed-burner ranges and an Everpure water purification system, add to the refined Itasca Horizon theme.
"A lot of it has to do with designs that give the Horizon a noticeably different look," Buckmeier said. "You will get a consistent first impression. We did a variety of things. Typically, you will find the standard Itasca has a higher number of standard features than the standard Winnebago."
While Winnebago Industries forges a separate identify for the Itasca, Buckmeier said both brands will continue to evolve.
"One of the things we are not going to do is deny the Winnebago features that we consider industry standards," he said. "Some of the things that have been well received in the Itasca will be put across all the lines. We will then take the Itasca line and differentiate it further."