Truck sales lost traction through 2013

Truck Industry Council hopes buyer confidence returns this year after market lost steam steadily last year

Truck sales lost traction through 2013
The Truck Industry Council is looking to better times this year

Truck sales are in the doldrums and a move upwards is more a hope than a certainty for the Truck Industry Council (TIC).

Exactly 100 trucks fewer were sold last year than in 2012, the latest TIC figures show. And, some promising aspects in the medium-duty truck and light duty van segments were not enough to brighten a disappointing performance.

Truck makers will hope that buyers will find it impossible to put off vehicle upgrades much longer.

For his part, TIC CEO Tony McMullan hopes that business confidence is rising after a trying year on the Australian political scene and this renewed confidence will translate to improved truck sales this year.

"While TIC was aware that the business climate was not that favourable in the second half of 2013, due to the traditional disruptions generated by a federal election campaign and a change of government, the continued mining sector slow down and relatively flat housing and retail growth, we were hopeful that quarter four would see business renewing their aging truck fleets with greater vigour," McMullan states. 

"This however did not eventuate. We do take heart in the December results that showed a growth in the Medium truck segment compared to same period in 2012 and that the strong growth in Vans is continuing.

"I remain optimistic that 2014 will see renewed business investment and positive gains for the Australian truck market."

Total Australian truck sales for the 2013 calendar year fell of 0.3 per cent to 30,645 units.

But the quarterly breakdown tells a story of confidence gradually ebbing away.

While the year started well, by the end of the second quarter (Jan to June), the total truck market was up by 5 per cent over the same period in 2012, it had slumped to a gain of only 2.8 per cent by the end of quarter three (July to September) and by the end of December, total sales were down on last year, the TIC notes.

Focusing on the results for the fourth quarter (October to December), T-Mark results show sales of 7,818 units. This was some 715 units, or 8.3 per cent, less than for the same quarter of 2012, giving a clear indication just how much the market slowed in the back half of the year.

Looking at December 2013 in isolation, the total truck market of 2,666 units was just 2 per cent lower than December 2012, giving some hope that business confidence is on the way back up and that we can expect stronger truck sales in 2014.

The heavy duty and light duty truck segments posted declines for December, with light duty trucks again suffering the most, while medium duty continued its 2013 resurgence coming in almost 2 per cent up over December 2012 results and the light duty van (3,501 kg and above) segment continued to recorded good gains over last year’s results.

As far as general  trends for trucks are concerned, several makers looked set to top 10 per cent of the market and breach the 1,000 unit mark, including Western Star, Mack, Iveco and Isuzu, with only Western Star making it past 1,000 units in 2012 before dipping last year to 950.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is in strong decline: after holding unit sales above 1,000 in 2010 and 2011, it slipped to 883 in 2012 and 779 last year.

In the heavy duty segment, Kenworth has made steady market share ground in the past three years after dropping from 23.6 per cent in 2010 to 18.9 per cent the next year, to push back to 21.5 per cent last year. In unit terms, it is at the highest sales this decade with 2,392, 32 up on last year.

Second-placed Volvo has hung tough around the 12 per cent mark over the past four years while unit sales suffered gyrations of 200-300 vehicles ending last year with 1,433, while Scania has made steady progress in percentage and unit terms, up from 4.2 per cent to 5.9 per cent and 373 units to 652 units.

Volatility has also been the story with Cat, which, like many others, lost the gains of last year, recording figures of 159, 310 and 115 since arriving in the market.

Amongst the van makers, Mercedes-Benz has consolidated its grip at the head of the market and is threatening the 2,000 unit level at 1,927. This appears to be at the expense of Ford, sales of which has dropped almost exactly 40 per cent in four years, from 1.006 to 602.

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