Slow start to 2014 for truck market

Despite the economic stats telling us there is some real growth out there, the truck buyers of Australia remain cautious. According to the latest figures released by the Truck Industry Council, February 2014 saw 2,178 trucks sold, representing a fall of 6.7% (-156 units) when compared with February 2013. These numbers are disappointing as a slow start to 2014 follows a year of mixed fortunes for the truck makers.

“While economic growth is somewhat patchy, the latest figures showed that Australia’s economy was stronger than expected in December, with GDP rising 0.8 per cent,” said Tony McMullan, CEO of the TIC. “Unfortunately this economic growth is not resulting in new truck sales at the moment. While the expectation is that the economy will slowly grow over the next few months, my concern is that new truck sales are not keeping pace with this growth. A further concern is that should this trend continue the age of the nation’s truck fleet will increase.

The heavy duty segment saw 784 trucks sold, nearly ten per cent down on 12 months ago, all of the brands seemed equally affected by the result, with market shares remaining the same across the board. However, both Freightliner and Cat picked up to their normal number after a very slow start to the year in January. Medium duty trucks sold relatively well in February but were still 5.5 per cent down on 2013. This contrasts with the longer term trend where numbers in the segment have been declining steadily, relative to the heavy and light duty markets.

Light duty was over ten per cent down on 2013 in February, contrasting with the continuing bouyancy of the van market, covering similar weight classes. Van sales continue to climb with another 8.5 per cent increase on 2013 numbers saw the market travelling in the opposite direction to the truck sector. This appears to suggest a structural change as customers look to vans to fulfil some of the tasks previously the domain of the light duty truck.

This growing van segment also sees Mercedes Benz consolidate their dominance of the market. They outsold their closest rivals by a factor of four and hold over 50 per cent of the market. Ford are now consigned to fourth place on the ladder as part of a following pack also including Volkswagen, Renault and Fiat, all of whom are sitting around the 10 to 12 per cent market share. Each of these, but probably not Ford, will be hoping to break out of this group and start to make a dent in the continuing Benz control of the segment.

This general lethargy in the truck market is not a good sign for the general economy. Often when economic growth has real depth the truck market picks up quickly, as all new economic activity stimulates transport activity. Hopefully, the more optimist noises coming out of the trailer market where orders remain good indicates there is some real improvement out there.