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July 13, 2020 12:30 PM, EDT

Class 8 Sales in June Drop 43.5%

However, Number Does Rise From May's Nine-Year Low
Class 8 Freightliner trucks on a lotClass 8 Freightliner trucks on a lot. The brand remained the market leader in June with 4,732 sales, good for a 35.6% share. (Freightliner)

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U.S. Class 8 retail sales in June fell 43.5% year-over-year to just above 13,000, WardsAuto.com reported, as the nation worked to reopen businesses while COVID-19 cases climbed.

Sales reached 13,276 compared with 23,500 a year earlier. All truck makers posted double-digit declines compared with the 2019 period.

The year-over-year drops ranged from a low of 21.6% at Western Star, a brand of Daimler Trucks North America, to the steepest decline of 51.9% at Peterbilt Motors Co., a unit of Paccar Inc.

However, June’s volume rebounded from sales in May that fell 62.5% to 9,165, the lowest number since February 2011.

Year-to-date sales sank 38.7% to 82,648 compared with 134,832 a year earlier.

ACT Vice President Steve Tam

Tam

“From our perspective, June’s sales were better than expected. OEMs and dealers alike must be working very hard to put trucks into customers’ hands, and it appears they are starting to see the fruits of their labors,” ACT Research Vice President Steve Tam told Transport Topics.

Another analyst said two “enormous unknowns” loom over the retail economy in the next few weeks.

“Once resolved, they should provide some clarity about the retail outlook for the rest of the year. First, how restrictive will new rounds of stay-at-home orders spread, how many people or states will they cover, and how long will they last? Second, will there be another round of fiscal or monetary support to the economy, and if so, what is the scale, timing and fine print of that support?” said Aaron Terrazas, director of economic research at digital freight network Convoy.

He expects truck sales to strengthen by early to mid-2021.

“The June retail sales volume becomes a very important indicator because it shows some fleets need trucks,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. “They are buying at a low level, but it is still, under the circumstances, a fair level of activity.”

In June, Freightliner, also a DTNA brand, remained the market leader with 4,732 sales for a 35.6% share. Sales dropped 42.4% compared with 8,215 a year earlier.

Richard Howard

Howard

“We’ve certainly started a bit of a climb back from late-spring lows in Class 8 sales, and we remain cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the year as we have seen steady order recovery continue into June, and expect similar customer demand given the New Cascadia’s leading market performance,” said Richard Howard, DTNA senior vice president of on-highway sales.

International, a brand of Navistar Inc., saw sales fall 49.9% to 1,729 compared with a year earlier. That was good for a 13% share.

“There were a lot of dealer sales, and some of that was what I would call larger national accounts,” said Steve Gilligan, Navistar vice president of product marketing.

Kenworth Truck Co., also a Paccar brand, experienced a 48.7% drop in sales to 1,899 compared with a year earlier. Its share in June was 14.3%.

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Meanwhile, truck dealers in different regions reported mixed conditions.

“California may be a different monster. We are still very slow, and many counties, especially in the Bay Area, never went past Stage 2 in reopening,” NorCal Kenworth Vice President Tom Bertolino said. “Now with over 7,000 new [COVID-19] cases a day the state is starting to shut down many other counties. We are seeing an uptick in calls and request for quotes, including for over-the-road — but still, overall, very slow.”

Multisite truck dealership Worldwide Equipment still is taking orders and selling stock trucks from its lots in the Southeast, an executive there said.

“Our customers still need trucks, and we are going to look for ways to help them either save money or make money,” said Robert Gomez, Worldwide executive vice president of sales. “Yes, we have seen a reduction in sales. But it’s another day that we have to call on customers. Another day that we have to find a way to structure a deal that’s good for them and our company. Another day to understand those customers’ needs. We are diverse [multiple truck brands and classes], so maybe we are fortunate.”

He added: “I put a smile on my face, and it’s not because I have to, it’s because I want to.”

Mack Trucks sold 1,287, down 31.8% compared with the 2019 period. It earned a 9.7% share.

Volvo Trucks North America sold 1,452, off 30% compared with a year earlier. Its share was 10.9%.

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