U.S. retail sales of medium-duty trucks inched up in a normally flat month, clearing 17,000 units in February, WardsAuto.com reported.
Sales in Classes 4-7 were 17,543, up 4.6% compared with 16,768 a year earlier.
Year-to-date, sales rose 7.1% to 33,789, according to Ward’s.
Sales mirror the economy, which is operating better than it was last year at this time, one analyst said.
“In general, the economy is better off. We have this lingering psychological [post-election] bump that got a punctuation mark with tax reform finally getting passed. I think we are seeing early fruits of that [tax reform] with investment in equipment, especially by small businesses,” ACT Research Co. Vice President Steve Tam told Transport Topics.
Tam suggested truck lease/rental companies could be buying earlier than usual to meet demand by businesses that need trucks to get work done but don’t want the commitment of a purchase.
“It just kind of snowballs,” he added.
One truck rental company agreed that something good is going on with the economy.
“As we look at our Penske Truck Leasing business, our rental is really off the charts, we have never seen January come through like it has been,” Penske Automotive Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Roger Penske said on a Feb. 8 earnings call.
Penske Truck Leasing Co. provides full-service truck leasing, truck rental, contract maintenance and logistics services.
In February, sales of Class 7 trucks jumped the most, rising 7.8% to 4,411.
Freightliner, a unit of Daimler Trucks North America, held a 51% market share in Class 7 with 2,262 sales.
Combined sales by Paccar Inc.’s two truck brands rose 40% year-over-year to 902 Class 7 units. Paccar is the parent company of Peterbilt Motors Co. and Kenworth Truck Co.
Class 6 volume rose 3% to 5,819 compared with a year earlier, and was led by sales at Freightliner, International Truck and Ford Motor Co.
International is a unit of Navistar International Corp.
Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc. announced that production of its new entry in the Class 6 segment, the 2018 Isuzu FTR, will begin in May.
The truck is powered by the Isuzu 4HK1-TC 5.2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine. The company sold 77 Class 6 trucks in February, or 6% of its Classes 4-7 volume of 1,282.
Sales for Classes 4-5 rose 4.1% to 7,313 — led by Ford in Class 5 and Isuzu in Class 4.