August Truck Sales Rise 28.4%

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  9/22/2014 - August Truck Sales Rise 28.4%

By Michael G. Malloy, Staff Reporter This story appears in the Sept. 22 print edition of Transport Topics. Class 8 truck sales leaped 28.4% in August from a year ago to 19,627, the biggest percentage gain in two years, WardsAuto.com reported. Year-to-date U.S. sales have risen 18.7% to 138,210, the highest eight-month total since 2006, when a pre-buy was taking place ahead of engine emission rules. All truck original equipment manufacturers saw double-digit percentage gains for the month, with three brands posting gains of more than 30% and two over 20%. Monthly retail sales have now topped the 19,000-unit threshold twice this year, with June being the other time. Truck sales have not crossed that mark for a month other than a December since 2006. ?The momentum continues unabated and shows that we?re in a pretty clear up-cycle in the truck space,? said Lawrence De Maria, co-group head of global industrial infrastructure with William Blair & Co. ?It?s being driven by pent-up demand and improving fundamentals, and fleets are actually starting to expand.? Though the ongoing driver shortage could crimp sales going forward, ?as long as the U.S. economy stays relatively healthy, we think there?s plenty of demand for trucks over the next few years,? De Maria said. August?s percentage increase was the highest since 35.5% in May 2012 and was in line with orders for new trucks, which rose 29.6% in August, according to ACT Research Co. Daimler Trucks North America?s Freightliner brand sold 7,027 trucks in August ? a 31.6% jump from the same month in 2013. It held the top market share year-to-date at 35.8%, while DTNA?s niche Western Star brand sold 370 trucks, a 64% jump. David Hames, DTNA?s general manager for marketing and strategy, said, ?Freightliner and the industry?s market growth is indicative of a positive sales environment driven by improvement in the overall economy and our customer?s demand for products with a low real cost of ownership.? Navistar Inc. sold 2,762 of its International brand big rigs, a 26.3% increase, holding the No. 2 spot among individual brands with a 14.1% cumulative market share. ?We continue to receive positive product feedback from the field, and we expect as customers gain more experience with our [selective catalytic reduction technology] products, they will increase their International buy percentage,? said Bill Kozek, Navistar?s president of North American truck and parts. ?The data on our new products is very positive on fuel economy, performance and uptime.? Volvo Trucks sold 2,326 units, a 32.4% jump, with 11.9% market share, while sister company Mack Trucks sold 1,862, up 22.2% with 9.5% market share. ?The need to replace aging vehicles continues to be a factor,? said Magnus Koeck, Volvo?s vice president of marketing and brand management. ?Customers are also beginning to expand their fleets as freight capacity tightens as a result of increased consumer and business spending and strong manufacturing activity.? ?While the overall market continues to be buoyed by replacement demand and the expansion of some fleets to manage capacity constraints, Mack?s increase is a testament to positive customer response to our commitment to improving total cost of ownership through leadership in fuel efficiency and uptime,? said John Walsh, Mack?s vice president of marketing. Paccar Inc.?s Peterbilt and Kenworth brands sold virtually identical numbers ? 2,635 and 2,634, respectively ? with each holding a 13.4% market share. Peterbilt?s sales rose 36.2%, and Kenworth?s increased 13.8% from a year ago. The two OEMs declined comment last week, but a Phoenix-based Kenworth dealership executive said strong freight demand was driving sales, and he noted signs of positive construction growth. ?Fleets are getting healthier, they?re doing better and growing, and that?s a lot of what?s driving the market,? said Greg Sternberg, vice president of U.S. operations for Inland Kenworth, which has 25 locations in three Southwestern states and Canada. And while construction activity has lagged in the Southwest, ?we?re anticipating that to continue to grow slowly over the next couple of years,? he told Transport Topics. ?Particularly in the last six or eight months, there?s a lot more optimism in the market than there?s been in a long time.? ?The market?s changed so much over the last five years,? he added. ?You look at the demise of the long and tall truck and the advent of more aerodynamic trucks ? it?s a big shift in our customer base as fleets have gotten larger.? Blair?s De Maria said that ?there?s definitely some skepticism as to how long [strong sales growth] will last, but as long as the fundamentals are in place, the biggest risk is if macroeconomic conditions offshore dent confidence in the U.S. But ultimately it?s a pretty good story right now.?

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