By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Last Sunday we published a piece comparing wholesale shipments of RVs to actual registrations of RVs. We covered a six-month span, March through August, comparing statistics for both 2020 and 2021. The title of the story suggested that the RV industry might be blowing some hot air. If you poke somebody with a stick, you can expect a reaction. On Monday, an official from the RV Industry Association (RVIA) requested we take a closer look at our statistics and print a correction. It took a lot of time and number crunching, but the correct figures have shed new light on our premise.
Please consider this a formal apology to you, RVtravel.com readers, and to the RV industry. This is truly a case of, “some people, when they mess it up, really mess it up big.” I, Russ, admit to being no statistician. But with my trusty 10-key, I labored through stacks of industry-provided numbers and, well, bottom line, really messed up my addition and subtraction. The information we provided you was just plain wrong. I’m embarrassed, to say the least. The thought of misleading readers – even though not in any deliberate way – troubles me deeply.
So to set the record straight, I’ve gone over the whole thing again – double and, in some cases, triple-checking. The correct figures shed a new light on the matter of wholesale shipments versus retail registrations. In the end, they’ve left us with plenty of questions, as we’ll show you.
2020 – a most unusual year
We’ve taken a six-month run of figures, beginning with March and ending with August. The latter is the most recent month that we have full figures for both shipments and registrations. Our first chart, comparing month-by-month, year-over-year comparisons for 2020, is a bit of an eye-opener.
It’s not hard to recall that 2020 was a most unusual year for everyone, including the RV industry. COVID-19 came calling, and the industry was virtually shut down in March. Less than 7,400 rigs were shipped out of RV plants to dealers. At the same time, that month saw better than three-and-a-half times that number of RVs registered with licensing agencies. That trend continued right on through August 2020 – far more rigs registered than shipped.
Now take a look at those same months of 2021. The RV industry came roaring back in terms of production. However, the number of RVs registered continued to outpace the number of rigs shipped to dealers. That ran from March through July, but August turned the tide. Then the number of rigs shipped out to dealers actually exceeded those registered. What will happen next month remains to be seen.
But comparing those same six months, totaled together and looking at 2020 next to this year, is where things really are apparent. Less than 200,000 units shipped in those six months of 2020, while a whopping 316,000 plus NEW RVs were registered. No, these figures are NOT showing RV registration renewals. The folks who produce these stats, Statistical Surveys, assure us these are new rig registrations. Correct figures shed new light, indeed.
When 2021 is brought to the table, things look a little more realistic. Nearly 303,000 new RVs go to market, but only 40-some-thousand new rigs are registered. What’s the explanation? We can only hazard a guess. Perhaps in 2020 dealers had been “sitting” on unsold RVs from earlier production months. People across North America got some sort of bug to buy a new rig, and snatched up the existing inventory.
So what’s the explanation?
Looking at 2020 on a month-by-month basis, another hypothesis rises: June through August saw a huge difference, oh-so-many-more registrations. Could it be folks bought RVs during the height of the pandemic, but figuring they couldn’t go anywhere, simply sat them in their yards and waited to register them until later? Maybe their DMV offices were shuttered, so registrations had to wait. We just don’t know.
In any event, the RV industry is indeed shipping a lot of RVs. And apparently, they’re selling once they hit the dealerships. Will the situation hold? Shipped numbers are sliding down. Wholesale prices for many categories of used RVs have likewise slipped. We’re living in interesting times. We’ll try and stay on top of it to keep you informed. Thanks for your patience with our imperfection.