Truck sales still soft

After a period in which truck sales figures have been depressed, the latest sales numbers for May, published by the Truck Industry Council, are not giving us signs of recovery, and are still down on last year’s figures. After a period where heavy duty showed signs of recovery while medium and light duty remained in the doldrums, the situation now sees all segments staying around the same levels and slightly below where they were 12 months ago.

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Uncertainty about the political situation in the lead up to the latest budget from the federal government may have stimulated businesses to delay making buying decisions until the future was clear. If this is the case, we can expect to see the next next few months to see a glimmer of hope for truck sales figures to begin to rise.

In a relatively flat situation like the one we are currently in, a good month can give one brand or another a boost. In the heavy duty segment one of the better performers in May was Freightliner, who outsold their stable mates, and fierce rivals, Western Star for the first time in quite a long time.

The heavy duty market remains dominated by Kenworth who put in a creditable performance with 187 trucks sold, well down on the same month last year, when 257 were sold. However, on the year to date, the overall sales are only down 190 units. Volvo had a good month with 133 new trucks being registered, considerably more than last year’s 107 in May. Isuzu continue to perform strongly in heavy duty, at 104 sales it was 31 above last year’s mark. This increase reflects the number of FY 8×4 models the Japanese manufacturer now has flowing through the system.

Isuzu’s strong performance was repeated in the medium duty segment of the truck market. 229 trucks sold represents 42 per cent of the medium duty trucks registered in May. This number is also well above the mark they set in May 2013. Close rivals Hino and Fuso dropped both market share and overall numbers for the month. On the other hand UD Trucks seem to be holding their own with the same market share in 2014 as the Volvo-owned truck importer managed in 2013.

Light duty has has a rough time in recent years but numbers seem to be showing signs of recovery. Clear market leader, Isuzu, showed an increase over the May result for last year with 283 trucks sold and over 39 per cent of the market. Number two in the segment so far this year, Hino, slipped behind close competitors, Fuso for the month. However, year on year, Fuso are well down on the kinds of figures the company was achieving with the Canter models.

Clearly, no major changes look likely in the near future as a stable truck market looks to start showing better signs of recovery. Trucking operators are always searching for certainty and it would seem they are not convinced enough about the future to go out on a limb and invest in extra new trucks. The replacement cycle will keep the numbers steady at these levels, but much more confidence will be needed to get the sales figures to climb.