Although overall U.S. wholesale RV shipments of 168,884 units were up 6% year-to-date through May, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) latest shipment report released Thursday (June 25) indicated that total shipments in May slipped 5.8% versus the same month in 2014.
That, of course, was a wake-up call for a resurgent industry so accustomed to consecutive monthly shipment gains.
But don’t jump to conclusions regarding that latest report, cautions Tom Walworth, president of Grand Rapids., Mich.-based Statistical Survey Inc. He says the 5.8% slippage mostly has to do with increased wholesale purchases that took place at the end of last year on the part of dealers concerned about a repeat of the 2013/2014 winter’s transportation glitches when bad weather and driver shortages left thousands of units stranded in manufacturers’ yard.
The bottom line, according to Walworth, is that dealer inventories — despite some concerns to the contrary — are pretty much in line.
”I don’t see the May shipment numbers as being a red alarm,” Walworth said. ”What we are going through right now is normal.”
He noted that shipments in May 2014 were the highest in eight years and that the decline in month-to-month comparison could have been anticipated.
Comparing wholesale shipments to retail sales through April, Walworth said, dealer inventory was up by a total of only four units — 33,841 this year compared to 33,837 in 2014.
However, there was a carryover of approximately 9,000 more units in dealer inventory at the end of 2014 compared to 2013 due to heavy buying by dealers in September 2014 during the Elkhart County RV Open House.
That and higher used RV inventories may have contributed to the drop in May shipments.
”For the first four months of the year, manufacturers are shipping and consumers are buying at the same number,” Walworth said. ”The thing that is not normal is that we were 9,000 more units in inventory at the beginning of this year.
”Early last year with the weather and driver shortages, manufacturers could not get product shipped to dealers,” Walworth said. ”Shipments were later in the year, which led to May 2014 being the largest May for shipments in eight years.
”Because of those early shortages in 2014, dealers ordered heavier during Open House to get more product in the last quarter. That involves the 9,000 difference.”
Walworth noted that the 33,647 RVs shipped in May was more than the 32,650 average for the four previous Mays.