As most in the RV industry probably realize, a “hurricane bubble” is about to appear in both wholesale shipment and retail sales statistics, RV Business Senior Editor Bob Ashley points in his monthly “Public Domain” column in RV Business.
And efforts to account for their effect have proven to be frustrating. Beginning probably with October wholesale shipments and retail registrations, numbers will appear to have fallen off compared to last year’s pace. Sales of RVs in the final quarter of 2005 were fueled by the emergency purchases of RVs off dealers lots – particularly in the South and Midwest – following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in late August and early September, both of which lambasted the Gulf Coast.
“There is no way to adjust for it because there’s no way to know how many units were involved,” said Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, vice president of administration for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which publishes monthly shipment reports. Bryan estimates that some 37,000 to 38,000 of the total of 384,000 RVs shipped last year probably were the result of private purchases of towable and motorized RVs by people and companies that needed immediate shelter or office space following the two hurricanes.
The result is an anomaly when comparing this year’s shipment and retail registrations to last year. “The numbers will compare negatively,” Bryan said.
Now, we’re not talking about specially built, stripped down trailers purchased through dealers or in some cases directly from the manufacturer by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those units have been segregated from statistics by RVIA as “Emergency Living Units” (ELUs), based on the purchase of special RVIA seals by manufacturers.
On the retail side, Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., a repository for retail registrations in Grand Rapids, Mich., has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking FEMA to turn over the VIN numbers of units it purchased from dealers and manufacturers. “We are trying to get the VIN number to extract them from our data to remove the hurricane factor,” Walworth said.
Should he fail to get the VIN numbers from FEMA, Walworth said Stat Surveys will use historical estimates to make the numbers more meaningful. “That’s all we can do,” he said.