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Class 8 truck sales improve in February — a little bit

By The Trucker
Posted Mar 14th 2008 2:19AM

truck_on_hill.jpgNew heavy-duty truck sales in February were up slightly from the month before but, by just topping the 10,000 units mark, the total rests mired in the shallows of the industry sales tide that rolled out last June.

According to figures provided to The Trucker by Ward’s Automotive, Class 8 sales in February totaled 10,229 trucks in the United States, compared to 9,600 in January, a month-to-month gain of 6.6 percent. The rise continues an up-and-down trend going back to October 2007, which showed the first month-to-month improvement of that year.

That upturn was followed by a return to red in November and a positive swing in December. Those gains, however, came in closer to the 12,000 unit mark (11,769 and 12,034, respectively). The February total is more in line with the 10,020 average registered during the other six months.

Reported sales were 16,471 in February 2007, making for a decline of 37.9 percent compared to the same period. Even so, the February report was best year-over-year comparison since last March, after which the totals routinely were down more than half from the record year sales posted in 2006.

Still, the total marked the slowest February since 2003 — and the 8,124 that year is the lowest one-month report on a spreadsheet dating to January 2000, a period of 98 months.

Historically, January and February are the slowest months on the sales calendar.

Though more severe than generally anticipated, the emissions mandate-driven slump of ’07 could linger, depending on the economy, insiders say. And while manufacturers and industry analysts agree the narrow window ahead of substantial equipment changes required by 2010 standards should mean sales return to peak levels later this year through 2009, there has been some waffling on when the turn around in Class 8 should be expected.

In a closer look at the most recent Ward’s data, Freightliner’s 2,456 units in February paced the OEMs in volume, narrowly besting International’s 2,245 mark — as the traditional industry-leading nameplates continue the recently competitive race for the top spot.

The Class 8 field took substantial hits in the order book compared to the same month a year ago — especially those which, at the beginning of 2007, continued to book strong sales based on a surplus availability of pre-2007 emissions-compliant engines. Freightliner was down 53.6 percent, at the upper end, while International dropped only 5.1 percent.

Among the other OEMS, compared to January 2007, Sterling was down 57.2 percent on Class 8 sales of 527 trucks, followed by Western Star (-51.8 percent, 92 trucks); Peterbilt (-40.2 percent, 1,181 trucks); Mack (-35.9 percent, 848 trucks); Kenworth (-26.0 percent, 1,3,78 trucks); and Volvo (-17.0 percent, 1,489 trucks).

Compared to the month before, only International (down 9.4 percent) and Western Star (down 8.7 percent) lost ground.

Month-to-month figures posted by the OEMs showing gains were paced by Mack (35.7. percent); Kenworth (26.3 percent); Sterling (10.6 percent); Peterbilt (8.1 percent); and Volvo (1.0 percent).

Month-to-month numbers, it should be noted, can vary greatly — especially between quarters or from year’s end — depending on an OEM’s sales incentives and reporting procedures.

With only two months in 2008 to go on, Freightliner’s year-to-date market share is 24.7 percent (4,892 units sold), with International at 23.7 percent (4,701). The sales pie also shows Volvo with a 14.9 percent slice (2,963 units), followed by PACCAR brands Kenworth (12.1 percent, 2,393 units) and Peterbilt (11.4 percent, 2,266 units).

For comparison, Freightliner finished 2007 with a market share of 24.8 percent for the year, with International holding 19.7 percent of the Class 8 total sales in the U.S.  

For addtional coverage of Class 8 industry trends, see the April 1-14 print edition of The Trucker.

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