Strong start to year has truck OEMs rethinking expectations

Strong start to year has truck OEMs rethinking expectations

Following a strong 2014 performance, medium- and heavy-duty truck deliveries in the U.S. started 2015 with even better gains, showing a 12.2% jump in year-over-year sales for January, according to the latest data from Fleet Owner sister publication WardsAuto.

Compared with recent data from FTR and ACT Research, the strong start to the year has several of the major truck manufacturers altering their expectations for this year.

Wards said that Class 8 deliveries jumped 18.1% to reach 17,373 units in January, with broad growth from all OEMs except International, which dropped 19.4%.

Classes 5 and 7 also posted gains, of 6.3% and 8.8%, respectively. Class 4 was also up, climbing 30.3%. Only Class 6 saw a decline, down slightly at 1.9%.

Overall, 30,689 units were delivered across the classes in the month.

WardsAuto has previously said that 2014 was the fourth-best year on record with overall medium- and heavy-duty sales up 13%.

For a deeper dive into WardsAuto’s data, including individual manufacturer performance, visit: http://wardsauto.com/sales-marketing/us-big-trucks-start-year-gain.

WardsAuto is not the only organization reporting a strong start to the year. Last week, FTR indicated that Class 8 net truck orders came in at 35,060 units, the best January performance since 2006.

“Even though orders were their lowest in the last four months, the market remains very robust,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are now trying to determine their requirements for the entire year and then place orders accordingly.  With limited build slots available, they have to be more strategic in their buying decisions. We should see more normal ordering cycles for the next few months. The orders this month continue to support the strong FTR forecast and are right in line with our expectations.”

ACT Research reported that Class 5-8 orders totaled 53,200 units, a 5% improvement over January 2014.

“Similar to Class 8, January’s medium duty orders don’t live up to the strong Q4 pace, but rise above year-ago activity,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president & senior analyst. “At 17,800 units in January, Classes 5-7 orders rose 11% compared to year-ago levels, but fell 22% from December’s second best month of the cycle order volume. January’s MD orders fell slightly below build expectations, suggesting that backlogs are likely to be 1,000 to 2,000 units lower when the complete data set is compiled mid-month in ACT’s SOI: Classes 5-8 Vehicles report.

Several major OEMs are already adjusting their forecasts for 2015. Volvo Trucks had previously forecast sales of 280,000 heavy-duty trucks in North America this year, but in its global financial report last week, upped that projection to 310,000 units.

As of its earnings report on Jan. 30, Paccar, parent to both Kenworth and Peterbilt, was forecasting slightly lower demand, more in line with Volvo’s original estimate.

“Class 8 truck industry retail sales in the U.S. and Canada were 250,000 units in 2014, compared to the 212,000 vehicles sold in 2013,” said Dan Sobic, Paccar executive vice president.  “Truck demand is being driven by the improving economy and fleet expansion.  In 2014, Paccar achieved a Class 8 retail market share in the U.S. and Canada of 27.9% as customers benefited from Kenworth and Peterbilt vehicles’ excellent fuel efficiency and outstanding vehicle performance.  Estimates for U.S. and Canada Class 8 truck industry retail sales in 2015 are in the range of 250,000-280,000 units, driven by further expansion of truck industry fleet capacity and economic growth.”

Daimler AG, parent company of Daimler Trucks North America, which markets Freightliner and Western Star Trucks, said that it anticipates a “significant increase” in global truck sales in 2015.

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