Improvements in the national economy and consumer sentiment are having a positive impact on shipments of most consumer and commercial turf products. Riding mowers experienced a double-digit increase of 11.1 percent for the 2003 model year, and walk-behind mowers grew by 3.5 percent. Walk-behind rotary mower shipments soared in the first quarter of model year 2004 (September to August), compared to a weak period in the previous year, and are expected to continue growing at a slower pace during the year and end with an increase of 5.7 percent. Growth should continue through 2005 at a steady pace of about 3.5 percent per quarter.

Shipments for all consumer riding mower categories started the 2004 model year at a fast pace and has a growth rate of 5.4 percent for the entire year. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) projects that expansion will continue through 2005 with a 3.1 increase in consumer riding unit shipments. Rear engine riders, following a strong rebound, will remain positive to slightly flat though 2004 and 2005. Front engine lawn tractor shipments posted increases during the 2002 and 2003 model years and more growth is anticipated in this category with 5.8 percent in 2004 and 2.7 percent in 2005.

Following a great year in 2003, the growth is expected to continue for commercial turf riding mowers with a model year 2004 increase of 17.4 percent with another 8.1 increase in 2005. Commercial turf intermediate mowers will expand by 2.1 percent in 2004 and 3.0 in 2005.

Unit Shipments Model Year Basis (September — August)
Model 2003 2004 2005
Walk-Behind Mower 5,999,999 6,340,074 6,548,260
Rear Engine Riding Mower 142,375 146,369 150,666
Front Engine Lawn Tractor 1,494,936 1,581,880 1,624,443
Commercial Riding Mowers 141,867 166,517 180,061
All Riding Units 1,807,898 1,905,131 1,963,689
Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)

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