A good end to the year

After a poor first six months, the last quarter of 2014 saw truck sales pick up, virtually across the board at the end of last year, according to the latest figures released by the Truck Industry Council. The TIC numbers for 2014 show the grand total of all trucks sold at just 15 lower than the 2013 total, at 30,630, recovering after a very slow start to the year.

The last month of 2014 saw truck sales outstrip those from the same month in 2013 in heavy, medium and light duty truck sales, only light duty vans went backwards in the same comparison. Medium duty increased 16 per cent on its 2013 numbers, and light duty 12.4 per cent. Heavy duty lagged behind, as it has done all year, with just a 5.5 per cent increase on December 2013.

“In all the 2014 finish is about what we expected,” said TIC CEO, Tony McMullan. “Consumer confidence has been low all year while business performance and investment has been patchy at best and with coal and iron ore prices approaching a five year low, the mining sector is particularly slow.

“If you consider that truck sales were well down on 2013 results for the first two quarters of 2014, the recovery of the market in the third and particularly the fourth quarters was quite heartening. We can only hope that these second half results will carry over into 2015 and we will see growth in new trucks sales. Without reasonable new sales growth in 2015 the average age of the Australian truck park will likely exceed fourteen years.

“An old truck fleet is less productive, does not employ the latest safety technologies and of course has poorer environmental outcomes. TIC has long called for an incentive program that would see truck operators encouraged to replace the oldest trucks in their fleets with new vehicles.”

Looking at the individual brands, a couple of trends appear. Isuzu looks set to continue its inevitable rise, with more truck sales in 2014 than in 2013 and an increased overall market share up to 23.3 per cent. The rest of the five top selling brands in Australia all saw a lower overall truck sales figure.

A few brands saw overall growth in their numbers, setting them apart from the crowd who achieved similar results to the year before. Mercedes Benz saw market share rise from 2.5 to 3.6 per cent, while Mack gained a more modest rise from 2.9 to 3.2 per cent with increased sales.

In the heavy duty segment, with a rise of 127 in overall sales, Scania moved from 5.9 to 7.3 per cent of the heavy market, including a massive 126 sales in December alone. Isuzu’s ongoing success in the twin steer market, saw the Japanese brand sell a total of 1116 heavy duty trucks in 2014.

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Isuzu also performed well in the medium duty sector with a 41.7 per cent share of sales, at the expense of all of rivals, Hino, Iveco, Benz and MAN. Although remaining number one in light duty sales, Isuzu did reduce market share in 2014, losing out to Hino and, surprisingly, a doubling of sales by Mercedes Benz.

The van market seems to work on a different cycle to trucks and a general decline seems to have seen the Japanese light truck importers clawing back overall sales, lost to the van makers in previous years. However, both the Mercedes Benz Sprinter and Renault Master managed to increase sales in 2014, while other brands lost more ground.

Overall, the outlook looks stable. The truck market is not seeing the wild swings apparent earlier in the century. The truck makers are looking at a steadily developing market with a good deal of stability, with no major regulation changes likely until the end of the decade.