It seems like it was just yesterday that Grand Design was the new kid on the block. It’s hard to believe they’ve now been around for more than a decade. For a company that debuted with a single model (the fifth-wheel Solitude), they were an instant success. While we were following them from the beginning, we were amazed by the flood of requests we received for RV reviews for the Solitude. It’s fair to say it was the hottest fifth wheel of the year, the first year it was produced. We’d never seen anything like -and haven’t since.
At the time, the Keystone Montana had been the best selling fifth wheel seemingly forever and routinely won the Gold for Best Fifth-Wheel in Travel Trailer Magazine’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards. The Montana was -and still is- well built, fairly priced, popular and time tested. It even had its own fan club (Montana Owners Club or “MOG”) and Montana-only rallies took place nationwide -and still do.
Grand Design and the Fifth Wheel Market
The upstart Solitude was also well built, fairly priced and wildly popular. It was loaded with impressive features and its decor and furnishings were both above-average in quality, but also modern and very stylish. The Solitude had a lot of Wow factor. The Montana, on the other hand, suddenly looked a little dated and bland. Grand Design quickly launched a companion fifth wheel to the Solitude, the Reflection. While the Solitude remained the company’s flagship -it is marketed as a Fiver for Snow Birds and Full Time travelers- the Reflection was more modest in size, weight, features, and most importantly, price. Suddenly, lots of people who wanted a Grand Design but didn’t want to pay for -or need- a Premium RV, found they had another option. The more affordable Reflection was as instantly popular as its predecessor.
Despite Grand Design’s earlier insistence that they were strictly a builder of fifth-wheels, their quick domination of that segment caused them to re-consider the travel trailer. Limited to fifth-wheels, Grand Design could only succeed in 50% of the towable market. Aggressive as always, the company tasked their designers with a new travel trailer. Instead of starting from scratch, the company just reconfigured the existing Reflection as a travel trailer. With that move Grand Design became a threat to every builder of towables. Well, except for those building toy haulers. Care to guess what comes next?
From Fifth Wheels to Toy Haulers
Taking note of the rapidly growing toy hauler market, Grand Design designed, built and unveiled the Momentum toy hauler in record time. Furthermore, the company now offers the Momentum in both fifth-wheel and travel versions, as well as a lightweight, entry level version -the Momentum G.
By this point Grand Design was firing on all cylinders. They had rapidly evolved from young upstart to triple-threat, taking on the extremely competitive fifth-wheel, travel trailer and toy hauler markets. Their flagship Solitude knocked the Montana from the best-selling fifth-wheel claim and their follow up models were largely successful and selling well. But then, in a startling announcement, Grand Design announced that it had sold out to Winnebago.
Winnebago buys Grand Design
After going from victory to victory, we’re still not sure what made the company succumb to Winnebago. Grand Design gave off every sign of a solid company. In fact, they were in the middle of adding an addition to handle the increased demand. At the time we would have predicted that Grand Design would buy Winnebago, not the other way around. Winnebago, best known for their motorhomes, had returned to the towable segment a few years prior, with minimal success. We thought that Winnebago was vulnerable. We were wrong.
In Winnebago’s defense, we’ve seen no sign of meddling on their part. They’ve allowed Grand Design to continue doing things their own way. In fact, our Grand Design reviews have remained largely unchanged. On the other hand, we have seen some quality control and fit and finish complaints for Grand Design that are concerning. To be fair, we feel this has become an industry-wide problem in the last couple years. High demand during the pandemic and staff shortages wreaked havoc on the Initial Customer Satisfaction ratings for many RV companies.
We’re still fans of Grand Design and discuss them in depth in The Travel Trailer & Fifth Wheel Comparison Guide. Not only do we discuss their various models, we also discuss their features and build quality. In addition, our easy-to-reference charts enable readers to see how Grand Design reviews compare against their peers.