April Medium-Duty Sales See 16.2% Rebound
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U.S. retail sales for medium-duty trucks grew 16.2% in April compared with the year-ago period, according to data from Wards Intelligence.
Total retail sales for Classes 4-7 trucks increased to 19,098 from 16,439. The results were the first year-over-year increase since a 3.8% gain in January. The only increase last year occurred in August. It still was down 3.7% sequentially, with 19,822 units sold in March.
Every class saw an increase in sales from the prior-year period. Class 7 experienced a 4.5% gain to 3,905 units from 3,736. Class 6 reported the biggest rise at 22.4% to 6,840 units from 5,586. Classes 4-5 collectively saw a 17.4% increase to 8,353 from 7,117.
“Pretty much in line with our expectations is probably the best way to categorize the situation,” ACT Research Vice President Steve Tam said. “There certainly is lumpiness between the classes, and I haven’t looked at it on an OEM-by-OEM basis, but what I can envision underlying all these top line numbers is exactly what we’ve talked about, somebody got a giant shipment of something that they’ve been waiting on for a long time, and so they’re able to clear some of those inventory and get those trucks delivered to customers.”
Freightliner, a brand of Daimler Truck North America, sold the most in Class 7. Ford sold the most in the Class 6 category at 2,333, as well as in Class 5 at 3,260. Isuzu led the pack in Class 4 with 1,020 units sold.
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“The performance is fitting very well with where we see things going,” Tam said. “We’re pretty, I think, eye-to-eye in terms of our expectations for the market this year with the OEMs in the medium-duty range, more so than we are on the Class 8 side. I think the OEMs continue to be a little bit more optimistic than we are, though we have notched up our forecast a little bit on the Class 8 side.”
Tam also has noticed the parts shortage has led manufacturers to prioritize the larger classes of trucks. They can’t make all the trucks they need to meet demand, so they lean toward the more profitable ones. But demand for the smaller classes has been strong because the driver shortage has led some carriers to seek out vehicles that don’t require a commercial driver license.
“I don’t really see any signs of it easing up at this point,” Tam said. “As much as the heavy side of the market has been frustrated by not being able to get equipment, the medium-duty side is just livid. They’re really being denied in a much greater way, I think. And so that backlog of orders that are on the books is a bit stronger than what we see on the Class 8 side. And they remain frustrated.”
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