A recent North American Truck market update issued by the Stifel Transportation & Logistics Research Group, a division of Stifel Capital Markets, indicates that “conditions are setting up well for a strong 2019-2020,” especially for the Class 8 segment, though the medium-duty side of the market continues to “underperform” and is expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Michael Baudendistel, vice president of the Stifel Transportation & Logistics Research Group, noted that demand continues to be strong for heavy-duty trucks, with April orders of 23,900 units – up 3% month-over-month and up 75% year-over-year – the latest marker on a “steady climb” that’s been observed over the last six months.
“While orders were in line with our expectation to be roughly flat sequentially from March, the strength continues to lead industry fundamentals in the over-the-road market, atypical of fleet buying patterns,” Baudendistel said in a statement.
In fact, since the “order season” for 2017 opened last October, Stifel said that the industry has booked net orders of 147,281 units; up 7% year-over-year, which is far better than the firm’s expectations at the start of order season.
He added that the current volume of heavy-duty truck orders translates to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 290,000 units based on April order data and 236,500 units based on year-to-date figures since October 2016 – both of which are well above Stifel’s production forecast of 215,000 Class 8 units for 2017.
“If orders maintain strength in May, and do not decline seasonally by 5% to 10% as we expect, we would likely increase our 2017 outlook,” Baudendistel pointed out.
However, on the medium-duty side of the truck order ledger, things aren’t so rosy.
Baudendistel said that though Class 5-7 orders were well above expectations last month, the decline to 18,500 units in April – down 25% month-over-month and down 10% year-over-year – is a “step back” in his words.
“Orders have been relatively steady at 23,000 units in the four months prior; however, and we do not believe the step down in [April orders] is yet cause for concern,” he explained.
Baudendistel reiterated Stifel’s medium-duty production forecast for 2017 of 235,000 units, which is up 1% year-over-year; a forecast he said is “below consensus.”