Tom WalworthThe nation’s RV dealers are clearing out their motorhome inventories at such a rapid pace that  a shortage of motorized units could develop in the near future.
 So says Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., reflecting on the latest retail  buying data his Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm collects from retail registrations.
 Retail sales in February again outpaced wholesale deliveries, continuing a trend that now  reaches back to last spring, he said.
 Commenting on the complete results, which will be released this week, Walworth noted that  dealers sold 1,407 Class A and C motorhomes in February, while manufacturers delivered just  700 units.

 In January, dealers sold 1,070 units, while taking delivery of only 600 units.
 “Now, February being better than January is not unusual,” said Walworth, who also monitors retail sales for the manufactured housing, cargo trailer and marine sectors. “It would go up anyway due to the time of the year. The story is the fact that the retail is outpacing wholesale, and the gap widened in February.” 
“That wave started in 2008 and continues through February of this year,” he said, adding that he doesn’t recall another year starting out with such an imbalance between retail and wholesale.
“Yes, I would say we’re getting our inventory in line. We may have shortages of motorhomes out there.”
“Year-over-year, retail sales are down,” he added, “but they are still exceeding wholesale and it’s growing.”
For an industry just starving for good information, Walworth noted, this is encouraging news.
For all of 2008, dealers bought 26,490 motorhomes and sold 27,671, a difference of 1,181 units or 4%.
Specifically, Walworth noted, this disparity began in late spring and accelerated most of the rest of the year. Wholesale exceeded retail sales by 3,200 units through May 2008. Starting in June, however, that trend reversed itself and retail sales began to exceed wholesale.
The message for lending institutions, Walworth said, is that there is a demand for these types of discretionary purchases right now, and that sales in many cases are indeed getting financed. The trend is nationwide, as far as he can discern. “Retail sales are taking place; demand continues to be out there,” he said. “We have been begging for people to ease up credit and help floor these units. Here’s a great example of why we say that.”