Polk: Drop in registrations reflects global slowdown

The 7% decline in global commercial vehicle registrations during the first quarter this year compared to the same period in 2011 is but a reflection of the wider slowdown in the global economy, according to Gary Meteer, account director for commercial vehicle solutions at Polk.

Meteer told Fleet Owner that the biggest drop occurred in China, where vehicle registrations declined a whopping 18.2% year-over-year. Yet he cautioned that the sheer size of China’s truck market can tend to distort the overall global vehicle registration picture to a degree.

“You’ve got to take into account that China alone represents 45% of all global heavy commercial vehicle registrations, so increases and decreases can tilt the global picture a bit,” he explained.

Meteer added that China and India rank as the two largest markets for heavy commercial vehicle registrations – positions held by those two nations since 2010 – and accounted for nearly 58% of global commercial vehicle registrations in the first quarter this year. However, while registrations decreased 18.2% in China compared to the first quarter 2011, they grew 5.1% in India, he noted.

In markets with more than 10,000 new retail registrations during the first quarter of this year, the largest year-over-year increases were achieved in Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., while South Korea and Germany both experienced declines, according to Polk’s data, while Brazil remained steady with first quarter 2011 registration levels.

Yet Meteer said the important thing to glean from the registration data is that the numbers confirm the continuing economic slowdown occurring across much of the world.

“The drop in heavy commercial vehicle registrations confirms the softness in the global economy,” he pointed out. “Trucks are used no differently outside the U.S. as they are inside the U.S. – to move goods, help build infrastructure, etc. So the decline in registrations reflects the growing economic uncertainty and the increasingly conservative approach being taken to purchasing new vehicles.”

One potential silver lining in this decline in that Meteer believes it’ll continue to bolster the used truck market in the U.S.

“We’ll still see a robust market for used trucks this year, though not to degree we saw in 2011,” he said. “Even though we’ve finally hit ‘the wall’ in terms of the availability of late model, low mileage equipment, new truck prices remain far higher than they were four or five years ago. Used trucks still provide a good alternative.” 

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