Looking at truck sales figures is a way of keeping a finger on the pulse of trucking. The figures put out by the Truck Industry Council every month give us a broad brush picture, with truck sales broken down into brands and market segment (although the heavy duty section does cover everything from a 6×2 22.5 tonne GVM delivery rigid to a tridrive capable of pulling over 200 tonnes GCM).
Looking at these sales going up and down month-on-month is probably not a very good way of seeing a picture of what is going on in trucking. Big orders come though and skew the figures, truck brands may have a supply bottleneck.
However, looking at the number historically can be quite illuminating. Over the years, the figures reflect changing attitudes of truck buyers and their perception of how well business is going. There are also structural changes in the industry which are evidenced by changes in the numbers of truck sold in segments and brands.
So what do the latest numbers, which sum up 2017, tell us about what’s going on? Well, number one, trucking isn’t doing too badly. There is optimism out there and this is reflected in improved sales across the board.
“The final tally was the best result for new truck sales since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), but fell shy of the 2007 Australian market peak of 38,131 sales by 1,306, or approximately 3.5 per cent lower,” said a statement from the TIC. “While a new overall market record was not set last year, a number of long standing records were broken.
“December 2017 saw record monthly sales in both the Light Duty Truck and Van segments, with both segments also logging record fourth quarter (October to December) sales. When added to strong performances throughout 2017, the record fourth quarter results saw these two segments break existing sales records for all previous calendar years.”
Within these figures are some other indications of what is going on. Looking at the figures from 2009, when truck sales were well and truly in the post-GFC doldrums, every brand was scraping the bottom.
Since then, a change has happened in the structure of the heavy duty market. Yes, Kenworth are still there at number one and had a great second half of 2017, when the new T610 models came on strong to support the, always strong, K200. In the rest of the market we are seeing a falling away of some North American prime movers and the rise and rise of the European prime mover.
Kenworth’s rise since 2009 has been strong, but Volvo’s has been stronger. There has also been a strong rise for Scania, even breaking the 1000 truck barrier in 2017. Mercedes Benz have also joined the party with strong sale of the new Actros, and the older run-out Actros, in the past couple of years. There are more and more new European cabovers coming into the fleet.
Looking for a cause of this change can be difficult. Is it due to included safety systems? Is there a generational change in trucking companies and a move away from the US conventional? Is fuel consumption finally being taken seriously? You can mount an argument for all of the above.
One thing which has not changed is Isuzu in the number one slot. Isuzu has topped truck sales numbers for the 29th successive year in 2017. The numbers do not lie and the Japanese brand has strengthened its position in every segment in recent years. The result in heavy duty looks particularly strong. This can probably be put down, to a large extent, to strong sales of the 8×4 product Isuzu introduced a couple of years ago.
We can make one prediction about this next year’s figures. Isuzu will be making a lot of noise this time next year when they celebrate 30 years at number one. The company has dominated the truck market for a long time and doesn’t look like letting its grip slip any time soon!