Charge of the light brigade in January truck sales

Promising first month of the year sees only medium duty lagging

Charge of the light brigade in January truck sales
Light-duty trucks are back in the groove


As January traditionally signals a new beginning and the lowest-selling month of the year, the caution against overstating the meaning of the commercial vehicle sales during it is naturally high.

The only clues – and they are rough ones, given volatility in the numbers are common later in the year – tend to be yearly comparisons.

Even so, taking what we have of the Truck Industry Council’s (TIC’s) T-Mark figures for last month, the market is off to the third-fastest start in a five year period that encompassed the boom of 2018 and 2019.

At 1,998, January 2021 is bested only by 2018’s 2,227 and 2019’s 2,196 and is ahead of 2017’s 1,920 and 2020’s 1,852, when the boom ran out of puff for the economy and the market.

Isuzu kicks off with a cracking 500 units, its best start in five years, as did Fuso at 246, where its next best is 203 in 2017, while Hino had its second best, falling shy of best by just five units.


It is a similar story within the heavy-duty crowd.

The January 2020 total of 597 falls beneath 2018’s 756 and 2019’s 768 but is above 2017’s 479 – a pretty tough year for the segment – and 2020’s 588.

This pattern is repeated, more or less, with the individual makes.

Kenworth leads the segment on 112, five down on last year and a long way under the boom years.

Volvo returns to the sort of form that eluded it in the second half of last year. Its 93 is up on last year’s 85, holding the second place it ceded to Isuzu last year, which come in this year at 81, down from 88 last year.

Read how the market looked at the start of last year, here

The eye-catching push is being made by Mercedes-Benz, shooting up to 70 from 38 last year, just eight behind its 2018 showing and its second best over five years.

More surprising is Freightliner, which has burst into fifth place with 34, more than doubling the next best of 16 last year – and to think, it sold just 12 units in January 2019.

That put it one unit above Scania, whose January all but halved from last year’s 61, and Iveco, up five.


The next rung down and it is a different story, one of an ark that begins in January 2017 on 360 and ends last month on 366.

Notable again is the Hino’s titanic struggle over the past few years to overhaul segment leader Isuzu.

It looked just about game over in January last year, when Isuzu came close to doubling its rival, 184 to 100. But more regular service has been resumed at 143-128, more in line with 2019’s 156-146 and 2018’s 131-118.

Fuso’s efforts to break through the 80 mark for the month remain just that and three figures look aspirational only unless big inroads can be made. But it’s in a better place at this stage than MAN, which recorded just one unit sold in January 2017, rose to third place over Fuso in 2018 with 83 and returned to one last month, after 45 just 12 months earlier.


No such issues in light-duty trucks, with last month’s 729 the best in five years by a convincing margin over 2018’s 646 and a strong rebound from last year’s 510.

The big three of the small trucks lead the charge, all at five year highs. It is a performance reminiscent of mid-last decade, when light duty heralded the end of the global financial crisis malaise in this country.

On basic figures, Isuzu’s 276 covers Hino’s 172 comfortably but Hino is bouncing back from a drubbing the year before of 196-92. Still Hino has its work cut out bridging the solid gap its rival maintains.

Fuso, with 160, bursts back into three figures for the first time since 2018’s 107.


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