Editor’s Note: The following article appearing in the March issue of RV Executive Today by Jeff Kurowski reports on a recent survey by Robert W. Baird & Co showing strong dealer sentiment heading into 2017. Kurowski is director of industry relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
Results from the latest RV Dealer Sentiment Index show that dealer confidence has reached an all-time high, says Robert W. Baird & Co., the Milwaukee-based investment firm that conducts the survey.
Baird polled dealers during late January and early February and found that RV sales were so strong that dealers are becoming concerned about product shortages later this year. They’re also concerned about the possibility of declines in product quality, because production workers are under pressure to build units at a furious pace.
In terms of days supply, towable inventory declined to 99 days as of early February, compared with 107 days a year earlier. For motorhomes, the days supply was 110, essentially the same as it was a year earlier, when it was 112 days.
One dealer told Baird, “Based on the first two shows, I’m worried I won’t have enough [towable] inventory at the right time.” Another dealer noted, “The greatest challenge is dealing with the long pipeline from order to delivery from manufacturers.”
Other towable dealers worry that declining product quality will hurt their sales long-term. As one dealer said, “The quality of the product – and this is with every brand that comes through our dealership – looks to have a lower standard than we were used to. The quality of the sidewalls and the plastic parts that are put on trailers, the overall workmanship of the units, have been getting worse.”
Motorhome dealers are more comfortable with their inventory levels, with 62% of those surveyed saying their inventories were “about right.”
If a scarcity exists, it’s with Class C motorhomes, which have gained in popularity since the Great Recession at the expense of Class A’s. Class A motorhome shipments now are only 49% of what they were in 2004, their most recent peak, while Class C motorhome shipments are 22% above 2004 levels.
Used motorhome inventories are lean, with 59% of dealers saying they’re too low. Likewise, 50% of dealers say their used towable inventories are too low.
Some dealers expressed concerns about the country’s political environment. As one dealer said, “The retail picture is great, but I have never, in 40 years, had less confidence in our government to ensure a stable business environment.”
But other dealers believe the administration’s pro-business approach will help. “I think that the administration is going to help us out, reduce regulations, etc.,” said one dealer. “We are looking to build a new building and expand.”
Another dealer said he was hoping that the administration’s policies would bring more jobs to his state.