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January 19, 2021 10:00 AM, EST

December Classes 4-7 Sales Improve Over 2019

Amazon van E-commerce has fueled sales of "UPS, or Amazon-type vehicles that are smaller, rather than with the traditional Classes 6-7 truck that are more of business-to-business trucks,” Tam says. (Lynsey Weatherspoon/Bloomberg News)

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Classes 4-7 sales in December accelerated overall to clear 24,000 and move 6.2% higher compared with a year earlier, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales in December hit 24,507 compared with 23,068 in 2019.

  • Class 7 sales fell the most in the month, down 18.9% to 4,348.
  • Class 6 sales rose the most, 17.3% to 6,914.
  • Classes 4-5 sales rose 12.1% to 13,245.

Despite December’s overall gains, 2020 could not match 2019’s total.

Year-to-date sales fell 14.5% to 217,753 compared with 254,744 in the 2019 period, according to Wards.

“The demand for Classes 6-7 vehicles [this year] just hasn’t been as strong as for the 4-5 vehicles,” ACT Research President Steve Tam told Transport Topics. “My guess is that [demand] extends even further into the lower end of the [gross vehicle weight] scale.”

Tam pointed to how consumers have changed their behaviors.

“You see a dramatic increase in retail sales that are being initiated online,” he said. “Subsequently, the delivery of those purchases is taking place in UPS, or Amazon-type vehicles that are smaller, rather than with the traditional Classes 6-7 truck that are more of business-to-business trucks.”

Class 7 sales dropped 23.8% to 50,676 in the 12-month period compared with a year earlier, and Class 6 sales fell 32.7% to 52,213.

“If you look at who the customers are in that Classes 6-7 space, a lot of it is the lease and rental companies,” Tam said. “There has been some shifting or movement in terms of the demand as far as their appetite for new vehicles. They really bulked up their fleets in 2017 and 2018 time frame and kind of sat out a little bit in the 2019 period.”

Classes 4-5 sales, compared with the full 2019 period, increased 3.8% to 114,864.

At the same time, Meritor Inc. introduced its first medium-duty Classes 6-7 entries in its Permalube RPL driveline lineup. The RPL10 and RL4 are permanently lubricated and intended for service-free performance.

“What they are going for is an improvement in the cost of ownership and also uptime,” Tam said. “If [Meritor] can build it so bulletproof it doesn’t need service, implicitly it is not going to break as much.”

The new drivelines are engineered specifically for medium-duty applications, such as city delivery, refuse, transit bus and school bus, according to the Troy, Mich.-based company.

Kevin Wright, Meritor vice president of rear drivetrain, said in a release, “The success of the Permalube RPL Series drivelines in the heavy-duty market has created demand for a permanently lubricated medium-duty product.”

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