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Class 8 sales post best June since ’06, but slowdown coming


Friday, July 13, 2012
by Kevin Jones

Through June, 99,246 Class 8 trucks have been sold in the U.S. — a 37.7 percent improvement over the first six months of 2011. Mack Trucks' June sales total was the brand's best month since December 2006. Here, the Bulldog takes its place on a new Mack being built in Macungie, Pa.
Through June, 99,246 Class 8 trucks have been sold in the U.S. — a 37.7 percent improvement over the first six months of 2011. Mack Trucks' June sales total was the brand's best month since December 2006. Here, the Bulldog takes its place on a new Mack being built in Macungie, Pa.

Heavy-duty new truck sales last month posted the best June in six years, and the second best total of 2012 — but the latest numbers also support the opinion of industry analysts who suggest that the market has peaked.

According to figures provided to The Trucker by Ward’s Automotive, Class 8 sales totaled 17,484 trucks in the United States, up 19.4 percent from June 2011 but down 2.9 percent from May. And while the year-over-year improvement was the 30th consecutive, the June gain was the smallest since December 2010.

Year to date, 99,246 Class 8 trucks have been sold in the U.S. — a 37.7 percent improvement over the first six months of 2011. That total is 128 percent higher than the sales for the same period in 2009, the worst year in a generation. The first half of this year still trails 2006, but the industry has closed the gap: Truck makers are now 29 percent behind the boom times.

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Truck orders, however, have trended downward.

June preliminary orders, at 16,195 units, were 8 percent  lower than May, dropping to 23 percent lower than the same month last year, FTR Associates reported. Class 8 truck orders “continue to disappoint,” FTR added, with annualized rates coming in well below 2011 levels. For the three-month period including June, orders annualize to 202,700 units.

“Truckers are operating in a modestly positive environment, but not strong enough to elicit higher demand for expensive new vehicles,” said Jonathan Starks, FTR’s director of transportation analysis, noting that freight volumes and rates slowed noticeably during late 2011 and into 2012. “Despite expectations that both will improve as we finish 2012, equipment markets will have to contend with the effects of last year’s slowdown. Additionally, truck manufacturers continue to build at rates well above incoming orders. This will eventually lead to a significant reduction in new truck output.”

ACT Research posted a similar June order estimate, and continues to suggest that “a lack of confidence,” especially among smaller fleets, is playing a big role in the slide in truck orders.

“The explanation for the soft patch remains of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ variety,” said Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst, ACT Research. “As has been the case since late February/early March, the issue appears to boil down to credit-buying truckers’ confidence in the economy relative to the risk of taking out a sizeable loan to buy a truck. To that end, risk, economic or political, domestic or global, remains high, and memories of 2009 are still fresh.”

In a brand-by-brand look at the June sales figures, Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner nameplate once again led the field, selling 5,139 trucks, a 7.1 percent slip from May and a 34.4 percent improvement from the year before. DTNA’s Western Star nameplate tallied 202 Class 8 sales in June, down 5.6 percent from the previous month and up 15.4 percent from June 2011.

Navistar in June sold 3,010 International brand trucks, a 9.8 slip percent from May and down 8.8 percent from the same month last year.

For the Paccar Inc. brands, Peterbilt sold 2,687 trucks (up 3.9 percent from May, up 18.7 percent from June 2011) while Kenworth sold 2,493 trucks (down 7.8 percent from May, up 19.7 percent from June 2011).

Volvo Group’s Mack Trucks Inc. was up 14.4 percent from the previous month on 1,744 trucks sold in June (up 32.4 percent from the year before), while the Volvo brand was up 4.2 percent for the month, on 2,208 trucks sold (up 31.4 percent from June 2011). Mack’s June sales total was the best single month since December 2006.

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 and reporting procedures, or more recently, supplier shortages and production line issues.

The U.S. market share pie chart for the first six months of 2012 shows Freightliner with a 31.3 percent slice of Class 8, topping International’s 19 percent. Kenworth’s share for the year so far is 14.8 percent, followed by Peterbilt at 14.3 percent. Volvo holds 11 percent and Mack 8.4 percent of Class 8 sales.

So far in 2012, Kenworth and Peterbilt have posted the big market share gains, improving by 1.8 percentage points and 1.1 percentage points, respectively. Those gains come at the expense of International, which has lost 1.8 percentage points of market share, compared to its 20.8 piece through June last year.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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