Heavy-duty truck sales dipped 7.9 percent in August, not quite matching July’s best total of the year. Still, sales were up a respectable 23.5 percent from the year before — and expected to go higher.
According to figures provided to The Trucker by Ward’s Automotive, August Class 8 sales totaled 8,834 trucks in the United States, down from 9,589 trucks the month before. But the improvement compared to August 2009 was the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Of course, the comparisons for 2010 versus 2009 should be put in perspective: last year was the worst for big trucks on Ward’s books going to be 1985. Indeed, other than in 2009, fewer trucks were sold last month than in any August since 1991.
Compared to the 2006 record year in which 186,439 Class 8 trucks were sold in the first eight months, sales this year are still off 64 percent, on 67,680 trucks year-to-date.
However, a strong rebound in net margins for publicly traded truckload companies in the second quarter is expected to fuel continued improvement in demand for heavy-duty vehicles, according to the market analysts at ACT Research Co.
In the latest release of the ACT North American Commercial Vehicle Outlook, ACT projects full-year Class 8 production will be up 26 percent compared to 2009 — and accelerate into 2011.
“Trucker profitability rebounded sharply in the second quarter, fueled by tightening capacity and rising freight rates,” said John Burton, vice president-transportation sector with ACT Research. “Even with modest economic growth, commercial vehicle demand should continue to rise as carriers appear to be replacing an aging fleet but not adding capacity. Demand for new heavy-duty vehicles continues to be well below normal replacement levels, meaning overall fleet capacity is shrinking due to scrappage and export of used tractors. This will allow truckers to retain pricing leverage and profits.”
In a brand-by-brand look at the most recent Ward’s sales figures, Daimler Trucks North America sold 2,630 Freightliners to top all Class 8 nameplates in August, edging Navistar’s International brand, with 2,628.
Freightliner’s total was down 15.2 percent from July and up 40.6 percent from the year before, while International’s Class 8 sales were off 11 percent from the month before and up 41.7 percent from August 2009.
PACCAR nameplates Peterbilt and Kenworth, respectively, sold 957 trucks (up 8.5 percent from July, and down 23.7 percent from 2009) and 1,060 trucks (up 23.8 percent from July, and up 15.5 percent from 2009). August was the best month so far this year for Kenworth.
Volvo Group’s Mack Trucks Inc. was down 12.6 percent from the previous month on 613 trucks sold in August, and up 15 percent from the year before, while Volvo Trucks North America was down 17.1 percent compared to July and up 86.2 percent compared to 2009, with 810 Class 8 trucks sold.
DTNA’s Western Star brand improved in August, registering sales of 126 Class 8 trucks, up 13.5 percent in July and up a notable 162.5 percent from the year before.
Month-to-month numbers, it should be noted, can vary greatly — especially between quarters or from year’s end — depending on an OEM’s sales incentives, large fleet deals and reporting procedures.
The U.S. market share pie chart through the first seven months shows Freightliner as the top selling brand with a 31.8 percent slice of Class 8, followed by International at 29.3 percent. Peterbilt’s share is 11.2 percent and Kenworth holds 10.1 percent, followed by Volvo (8.4 percent) and Mack (7.6 percent).
Freightliner has been the big gainer so far this year, with its share improving 547 basis points from 26.3 percent 12 months ago. Kenworth has slipped 153 basis points from its 11.4 percent share last August, and Peterbilt is off 162 basis points from last year’s 12.8 percent market share.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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