OEMs in the U.S. sold a total of 22,666 Class 8 trucks in August, according to Ward’s Automotive, which represents a 24.3% jump over the same month last year.
Year-to-date, 164,762 Class 8 vehicles were sold—a 31.4% leap over the 125,417 sold during the same period last year. August sales expanded 7.7% compared with the 21,043 sold in July.
According to Chris Brady, president of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting (CMVC), high replacement demand, coupled with economic factors are propelling the year-over-year boost—not any substantial pre-buy in advance of 2007 engine requirements.
“The number-one factor right now is replacement demand,” Brady told FleetOwner. “Aging vehicles need to be replaced to meet the fleet operating environment. You had fleets putting off replacement cycle from 2001 to 2003 because their balance sheet weren’t strong enough to support major equipment purchases.”
Although pre-buying to avoid the EPA 2007 emissions rule is a factor, it is simply too early for carriers to replace pre-’07 tractors.
“Pre-buy won’t begin until ’06,” Brady said. “The whole point of pre-buying is to delay operating ‘07 engines for as long as possible. If everyone could get their way they’d buy their [pre-’07 trucks] in December 2006 so that they could delay replacing that fleet with post-’07 equipment for as long as possible.”
Indeed, at the Great American Trucking Show (GATS) in late August, Volvo Trucks North America noted strong truck sales had little to do with pre-buy, adding that the OEM is ramping up production.
“The demand we are seeing now is mostly for replacement equipment, with some to handle fleet expansion,” said Scott Kress, Volvo’s vp—sales & marketing said at GATS.
But pre-buy is expected to ramp up as orders for ’06 engines begin to close, which will put carriers into a balancing act of delaying purchases as long as possible before OEMs fill their last order slots.
“To be confident you’ll receive your equipment, the latest to wait is sometime in late March,” said CMVC’s Brady. “But it also depends on how strong the pre-buy is. If it’s strong, orders could be closed out by the end of February. If it’s moderate, you could wait even until April.”