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November 10, 2021 4:45 PM, EST

Class 8 Sales Falter in October

Paccar The next-generation Peterbilt 579, which began production in the spring. Peterbilt is a unit of Paccar. (Peterbilt Motors Co. via YouTube)

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Class 8 U.S. retail sales in October fell nearly 10% compared with a year ago as three truck brands grew sales while four could not, WardsAuto.com reported.

Daimler Trucks North America and Paccar Inc. accounted for 67.1% of the market in October, according to Wards. Both truck makers have parked nearly completed trucks, lacking a final part, or adjusted production rates lower. And both saw brand sales fall compared with the 2020 period.

October sales overall fell 9.4% to 17,002 compared with 18,774 a year earlier.

Aggravations continued: COVID-affected labor availability, finding enough semiconductors, supplier-level constraints, the climbing freight cost of bringing parts into the plants, rising prices for key raw materials, and fleets flush with money clamoring for trucks — all remained in place for truck makers.

“It has changed the way, at least temporarily, we all are doing business,” Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research, told Transport Topics. “It is just indicative of the environment we are in today. It’s just really hard to get business done.”

Paccar’s Kenworth Truck Co. dropped 28.1% to 2,055 compared with the 2020 period, good for a 12.1% share.

Paccar’s Peterbilt Motors Co. brand fell 15.9% to 2,270, and notched a 13.4%

“The good news is that we’re starting to see improvements in the supply chain,” said Paccar CEO Preston Feight during the third-quarter earnings call. It’s beginning, he said, as Paccar just completed “the best launch of new trucks we’ve had in our history. And so that foundation is built.”

The market is easily explained by the limits on production, said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR. “There’s only so many pieces coming through. Only so many trucks being built. Only so many trucks being sold.”

Freightliner Cascadias

Freightliner reported an 11.1% decline in sales, but leads with 38.3% market share. (Daimler Trucks North America)

DTNA’s Freightliner brand posted an 11.1% decline in sales to 6,520 compared with a year earlier. That was good for a leading 38.3% market share.

DTNA’s Western Star brand increased sales 16.5% to 564 and earned a 3.3% share.

“It’s been tough, no doubt about it,” said John O’Leary, CEO of DTNA.

He said his team has looked “to secure chips all around the globe with their corporate cards and internet searches and little caches of chips here and there. Trying to keep us running. Certainly we have good weeks and bad weeks in terms of being able to meet our count.”

He spoke via Zoom in a recent separate meeting with North American reporters after participating in Daimler Truck’s Capital Market Day virtual presentation from Germany.

He added: “We have engineered around a couple of different chips. Some of those fixes start coming online in February and March.

And International, a brand of Traton SE’s Navistar, slipped 0.9% to 2,356 sales compared with a year earlier, and that was good for a 13.9% share, the second-highest this month.

Mack Trucks had the highest increase, 18.7%, as sales improved to 1,278. It earned a 7.5% share.

“Robust freight demand and consumer spending remain the primary drivers of a strong Class 8 truck market,” said Jonathan Randall, senior vice president of sales and commercial operations at Mack.

He added: “The Mack order board is progressing well, as fleets invest in Mack trucks with the latest fuel efficiency and uptime-enhancing technologies.”

Volvo Trucks North America inched up 0.8% to 1,959 compared with a year earlier, good for an 11.5% share.

“Our retail sales rose for the third month in a row, and were the highest we’ve seen since April in the U.S. We are pleased with the numbers and are now coming back after the [strike-related] challenges we faced during the summer,” said Magnus Koeck, VTNA’s vice president of strategy. “The industry is still experiencing supply chain constraints and we believe this will continue to be our reality for the foreseeable future. It will take some time before we will see overall improved market numbers.”

Mack and VTNA are units of Volvo Group.

Year-to-date, Class 8 sales climbed 18.3% to 180,685.

Looking ahead at later new truck sales, Feight said clean diesel engines will likely be the dominant powertrain offering “for the next five years to 10 years, at least.”

Power management company Eaton recently announced its vehicle group demonstrated cylinder deactivation as an effective technology for meeting future global emissions requirements for diesel engine-powered commercial vehicles. The technology has been evaluated with a close-coupled selective catalytic reduction aftertreatment system with and without a 48-volt electric heater.

O’Leary said DTNA has built 807,000 Cascadia models, its heavy-duty flagship, since 2007. Fuel economy is up 34% on that product since the launch. “We have 9,000 service bays. Obviously, that’s a large part of our success — taking care of customers.”

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