Vans and light duty segment put heavier vehicle sales in shade
Record light van sales and healthy light truck market shine as 2015 ends
The commercial vehicle sales action in 2015 was centred on the lighter end of the market, the final tally and December results show.
At 5,515 units, light van sales broke the annual record, according to the Truck Industry Council’s (TIC’s) T-Mark figures.
The strong segmental performance helped push the overall commercial vehicle total to 32,003 units, the highest this decade and second only to 2008’s boom-time figure of 36,620, was a significant improvement on 2014’s total of 30,630.
Even heavy-duty trucks came to the party, bouncing back vigorously last month to 1,011 from November’s 802 and allaying somewhat fears of a further month-on-month decline there.
With total commercial vehicle sales of 3,070 units, last month was the second best December on record, only eclipsed by the pre-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) December of 2007 of 3,509 sales.
TIC is banking on the figure indicating "business confidence is on the way back up and that we might see stronger sales in 2016", with TIC CEO Tony McMullan hoping that the stronger December results are an indicator for improved truck sales this year.
"In all the 2015 finish is about what we expected," McMullan says.
"Business confidence continues to be low when it comes to the high dollar investments that are required to purchase new heavy trucks, while companies obviously feel more comfortable with the smaller outlays required to upgrade the light end of their vehicle fleets.
"We can only hope that the renewed sales confidence shown by transport businesses in the light truck and van segments will carry over into the heavy truck segment in 2016.
"With the strong December 2015 result, albeit biased still to the light end of the market, a positive sign is that business confidence continues to grow and we will hopefully see this trend continue into 2016.
"Of course, we face a federal election year this year and I note that in past election years we tend to see business taking a cautious approach to new investments, particularly larger dollar expenditure."
The heavy duty segment’s annual result of 9,895 sales to the end of December, down 7.5 per cent or 805 trucks on 2014, which was down 3.8 per cent or 419 trucks over 2013.
"Only during the post-GFC years of 2009 to 2011 have lower sales been recorded by the HD segment in the past decade," the TIC notes.
This decline has been a regular point of comment for McMullen.
"As TIC has detailed for some time now, without reasonable new sales growth across all segments, but particularly in the heavy duty segment, the average age of the Australian truck park will continue to grow," he says.
"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" and McMullen wonders if such a plan is offered in the run-up to this year’s election.
With their models ranging across the truck segments, the Japanese makes continue to the numbers roost.
Market leader Isuzu’s 7,442 total was its best performance for the decade, as was Hino’s 4,443 and Fuso’s 3,453.
Prime mover builder Kenworth continues to bear the brunt for the segment at 1,470, a low rivalled only by 2009’s 1,536 or 2011’s 1,766.
With 153 unit sales, it faced the added indignity of Volvo pushing it off its top perch for December with 184.
Against that, the segment leader retains a market share for the year at about the middle of the recent range with 20.4 per cent.
The medium duty segment recorded 6,725 in sales for the year, the highest this decade.
At 2,026 for the year, Hino has made inroads on Isuzu’s lead and has breached the 30 per cent market share mark for the first time this decade with 30.1 per cent.
However, Isuzu, though down a smidgin on market share this decade, refuses to be much assailed in the light-duty segment at 35.4 per cent, a good 15 per cent on rivals Fuso and Hino.
Its 3,496 was only out done by 2010’s 3,661 and the segment’s 9,868 only by 2008’s 11,766.
One firm happy with the state of the vans market is Renault.
The French marque finishing first in the compact category for sales in December, second for the full-size Master and third, mainly due to supply constraints, in the medium segment.
"We are enjoying record demand in Australia for our van range," Renault LCV model line manager Lyndon Healey says.
In 2015, Renault LCV delivered 3,758 vans in the Australian market, up from the 3,393 delivered in 2014.
Renault is now Australia’s front-running challenger for primacy among European-sourced vans.
"By carefully studying the market and conversing with customers we have delivered vehicles in the correct specification, at the right price and with above-average back-up," Healey says.
"A key factor has been the impressively low running costs delivered via efficient, frugal, modern engines.
"All business users understand the benefits of reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
"We have successfully communicated to the van-buying market that Renault understands these are tool-of-trade vehicles not fashion accessories, and our business-friendly focus has been well received.
"While we have been supply constrained on the new Trafic we have made a very impressive start with this excellent vehicle.
"The Kangoo light van has also been in exceptional demand."