Buyers are finding outdoor recreation vehicles in short supply thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on imports.
“It took a year to get into this predicament and it’s going to take at least that to get out of it,” Craig Farr, manager of St. Joe Honda, said. “It’s a combination of a lot of different things. For Honda, it’s because these parts are sourced all over the world. The side-by-sides and ATVs are assembled in South Carolina, but they don’t have anything to put them together with.”
The all-terrain and recreational utility vehicle industry hit an eight-year high from 2012-2020. In 2020, the industry reached 0.7 million units for the first time, and more than half of those sales came in North America.
“I was buying semi loads of side-by-sides, (Talons) out of California in April and May of last year,” Farr said. “I was buying all I could get and storing them in our warehouse Downtown. But they didn’t sit for very long before they were out the door. I would buy them now, but they’re giving us one every three months.”
Other local outdoor stores have felt the pressures of consumer demand without any real answers. Honda and Kawasaki have told dealers there could be a wait of two months or longer.
“Say you come in here and you want a 520 and three weeks ago I would have said that it was due this week,” Farr said. “But the end of the week comes and they move it back another week. I don’t know until the next run (which is every Saturday night) what happens next. So here I’m telling people it’s supposed to be here this week, but they make a liar out of me every week and they just moved it again. They say the week of April 21st, but it just never comes.”
Farr said the push last year came from people moving toward outdoor activities with many other options shut down due to COVID restrictions. While the spike in business helped in 2020, the lack of production has Farr just hoping for an average year in 2021.
“We had record months when we had products,” Farr said. “Right now, we’re back to just average and that’s controlled by inventory and I can’t go buy it from other dealers because they don’t have it either — believe me, I’ve tried. We’re going to end up at the end of the year with a normal year, and I’ll be tickled to death if we do.”
There are major changes coming to the industry as companies work towards a greener future. Polaris will release a new all-electric Ranger UTV that likely will be available at the end of 2021. Farr has his eye on the UBCO electric bikes made in New Zealand.
The past year has been a blessing and a curse for outdoor businesses, and Farr said he doesn’t know when they’ll get caught up. But he knows the demand isn’t going anywhere.
“The demand is going to have to level off, but they’re projecting that the demand for power sports is going to continue to climb over the next five years,” Farr said. “They’re saying that this virus has been a shot in the arm that got people back in power sports."