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January 13, 2021 2:15 PM, EST

December Class 8 Sales Reach High Mark for 2020, Down 7.4% Compared With 2019

Kenworth trucks on a sales lot Kenworth trucks on a sales lot. Year-to-date sales were 191,900, down 30.6% compared with 276,348 a year earlier. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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U.S. Class 8 retail sales in December cleared 21,000 to reach the high mark for the year, but were off 7.4% from a year earlier, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales hit 21,402 compared with 23,119 in the 2019 period.

One analyst said December’s volume was weaker than expected.

“This year, the market seemed to be on its way up. I’m going to say the December number was about 5% below expectations,” Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, told Transport Topics.

Don Ake

Ake

“Maybe the market paused in December because the situation with the virus got worse. I know it sounds too simplistic, but there’s no [other] reason. The [freight] market is on the upturn. The sales number should have been higher. The production is supposed to increase significantly in the first quarter. The Class 8 orders are very high. So that’s why you would have expected this to be higher, but it’s not,” Ake said. “It’s not a bad number, but I wouldn’t consider it a good number, either."

Another industry expert said the December number revealed the staying power of consumers despite the nation’s harrowing experience with COVID-19.

“Consumption is an interesting animal,” ACT Research Vice President Steve Tam said. “As it turns out, we are spending a little differently today than we would have were it not for the pandemic [more on goods, less on services], and that ultimately supported our industry through the crisis.”

One truck dealership recently expanded through an acquisition.

Kriete Truck Centers acquired Scaffidi Truck Centers, a Mack Trucks dealership, adding two locations to its footprint for a total of 10 locations, all in Wisconsin.

“The acquisition grants us access to a very large and untapped truck sales market that has a lot of potential,” Kriete Group CEO David Kriete told TT. “There are mature and well-established customers in central and north Wisconsin that we will now have an opportunity to build relationships with.”

Expanding service bay capacity, investing in brick-and-mortar and growing the skilled technician base is critical to long-term sales success, Kriete said. “Adding rooftops, service bays and tenured, first-class technicians is the key aspect to this acquisition.”

Meanwhile, Freightliner, a brand of Daimler Trucks North America, remained December’s sales leader, at 6,979. That was down 8.6% compared with a year earlier.

Only three truck nameplates posted increased year-over-year sales in the month, led by International, a unit of Navistar Inc., which rose 33.5% to 2,272.

Kenworth Truck Co., a unit of Paccar Inc., rose 1.7% to 4,218 units, the second-highest total in the month.

Volvo Trucks North America, a unit of Volvo Group, notched a 1.3% increase to 2,018.

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Western Star, the smallest truck maker and a DTNA brand, fell the most in December, down 36.3% to 494 units compared with a year earlier.

Mack Trucks, also a Volvo Group brand, fell 28.8% compared with a year earlier to 2,150.

Peterbilt Motors, also a Paccar brand, fell 14.8% to 3,270.

Year-to-date sales were 191,900, down 30.6% compared with 276,348 a year earlier that had the highest volume since 2006, according to Wards.

Cumulative sales in 2020 included the single lowest monthly volume since February 2011. In May, sales hit 9,165, reflecting the broad disruption to the economy, fleets and truck production the coronavirus pandemic brought.

All truck makers posted double-digit declines for 2020 compared with the 2019 full-year period.

In terms of market share for the full year, the results compared with the 2019 period were mixed. Four brands improved market shares, and three posted declines.

  • Freightliner was the leader with a 37.4% share, up from 36.5% in the 2019 period.
  • Kenworth was next highest in 2020 with a 15.7% share, up from 15.2%.
  • Peterbilt followed with a 14.7% share. That was down from 15.2% in the 12-month 2019 period.
  • International had a 12.1% share for the year, down from 13.7% the year before.
  • VTNA increased its share to 9.7% compared with 9.2% a year earlier.
  • Mack saw its share slip to 7.5% compared with 7.7% in the 2019 period.
  • Western Star notched a 2.9% market share. A year earlier, it posted a 2.5% share.

“2020 was predicted to be a challenging year,” said Richard Howard, DTNA senior vice president of on-highway sales. “But it certainly became a year unlike any other in my tenure.”

Looking ahead, there are clear indications for a strong Class 8 sales year in 2021, Kriete added. “The only thing that could slow Wisconsin down in 2021 is the political or social unrest that continues to haunt us all.”

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