Buyers are finding outdoor recreational vehicles in short supply due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on imports.
“It took a year to get into this predicament and it will take at least that to get out of it,” said Craig Farr, manager of St. Joe Honda. “It’s a combination of a lot of different things. For Honda, it’s because these parts are sourced around the world. The side-by-side and ATVs are assembled in South Carolina, but they have nothing to put them together with. “
The off-road and recreational commercial vehicle industry reached an eight-year high between 2012 and 2020. The industry hit 0.7 million units for the first time in 2020, and North America accounted for more than half of those sales.
“I bought half a load of side-by-side claws from California in April and May last year,” Farr said. “I bought everything I could get and stored them in our downtown warehouse. But they didn’t sit long before walking out the door. I would buy them now, but they give us one every three months. “
Other local outdoor stores have felt the pressures of consumer demand with no real answers. Honda and Kawasaki have told dealers there could be a wait of two months or more.
“Say you come in here and you want a 520 and three weeks ago I would have said it was due this week,” Farr said. “But the end of the week is coming and they are postponing it for another week. I won’t know what will happen next until the next run (which takes place every Saturday evening). So here I am telling people it should be here this week, but they make a liar of me every week and they just moved it all over again. They say the week of April 21st, but it just never comes. “
Farr said the push last year came from people turning to outdoor activities and closing many other options due to COVID restrictions. While the 2020 business spike helped, Farr is only hoping for an average year in 2021 due to the lack of production.
“We’ve had a record month of having products,” said Farr. “Right now we’re back to average and that’s controlled by inventory and I can’t buy it from other vendors because they don’t have it either – believe me, I’ve tried. We’re going to end with a normal year at the end of the year, and if we do, I’ll be tickled to death. “
There are big changes in the industry as companies work towards a greener future. Polaris will release a new all-electric Ranger UTV, which is expected to be available in late 2021. Farr is keeping an eye on the New Zealand-made UBCO electric bikes.
The past year has been a blessing and a curse for outdoor companies, and Farr said he doesn’t know when they will be overtaken. But he knows the demand is going nowhere.
“Demand will have to slow down, but they expect the demand for weight training to continue to grow over the next five years,” said Farr. “They say this virus was a shot in the arm that got people back into weight training.”