Pre-buying drives up Class 8 sales

Sales of heavy-duty Class 8 trucks rose to 14,095 units in July from the same month last year according to statistics compiled by Ward's Communications. The numbers indicate that fleets are pre-buying to avoid the October 1 EPA deadline for diesel engines with reduced emissions. July sales rose 26% when compared to last July's numbers, and marked the highest number of Class 8s sold since December

Sales of heavy-duty Class 8 trucks rose to 14,095 units in July from the same month last year according to statistics compiled by Ward's Communications. The numbers indicate that fleets are pre-buying to avoid the October 1 EPA deadline for diesel engines with reduced emissions.

July sales rose 26% when compared to last July's numbers, and marked the highest number of Class 8s sold since December 2000.

Although sales numbers are on the rise, OEMs and analysts believe sales will drop after October 1 because fleets will attempt to delay purchasing the new engines as long as possible, which could mean the slump in demand will continue through mid-2003.

"Demand for new trucks will be substantially less with the wait-and-see attitude fleets are taking with the new engines," International Truck and Engine Corp. truck group president Steve Keate told Fleet Owner. "The whole industry will be challenged in the fourth quarter."

Analysts have said fleets are skittish about the performance of the new EGR-equipped engines EPA has certified, which is the reason for the pre-buying spree. The new engines also carry a potential $5,000 price increase.

Though the industry has insisted not enough testing has been done on the new engines, Detroit Diesel Corp. said it will have accumulated approximately eight-million test miles on its fleet of test vehicles equipped with prototype engines by October 1.

The pre-buying habits have led to layoff announcements by engine makers. Detroit Diesel confirmed it will lay off up to 700 workers at its Redford, MI on-highway engine plant. Several media reports say that Navistar International Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. will also announce layoffs.

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