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February 18, 2020 11:00 AM, EST

January Medium-Duty Sales Mixed

Only Classes 4-5 Show Gain
Ford F-750Ford remained the leader in Class 5. Ford F-750 by Ford Motor Co.

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Medium-duty sales in January dropped 10.4% compared with a year earlier, but were saved from a more severe overall decline by strong gains in the lighter two classes as sales in Classes 6-7 slumped, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales in Classes 4-7 reached 16,269 compared with 18,154 a year earlier. At the same time, January’s overall sales were nearly identical to 16,246 for the same month in 2018, according to Wards.

Sales of vehicles in Classes 4-5 surged 34.5% to 8,129 compared with 6,043 a year earlier — and have risen steeply since November.

“As far as Classes 4-5 performing better, these buyers tend to be more small-business oriented, and that market is still feeling and acting confident despite some slippage in indices as of late,” ACT Vice President Steve Tam told Transport Topics.

“Pickups continue to sell well in the light-duty market, even more so among fleet customers, and I believe strong Class 4 and 5 sales growth is a natural extension of that optimism,” he added.

The leader in Class 5 remained Ford Motor Co., which increased sales to 4,484 compared with 3,549 in the 2019 period. Overall sales in the segment hit 6,551.

Ford recently emphasized its telematics services.

“Ford Commercial Solutions significantly grew its data and telematics subscriptions in 2019, building out the portfolio of services. We are leveraging those services in our large, profitable and expanding commercial truck franchises, which includes a sizable fleet market,” Ford CEO James Hackett said in the company’s latest earnings report.

In Class 4, sales nearly doubled from a year earlier, rising to 1,578 compared with 890 a year earlier.

Sales at Freightliner rose to 226 compared with 69 in the 2019 period. General Motors sold 287 and Ford sold 198, each basically doubling the totals from January 2019. Isuzu Commercial Truck of America retained its large lead in Class 4 with 802.

Freightliner is a unit of Daimler Trucks North America.

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Class 6 sales fell the most, down 41.1% to 3,961.

Class 7 dropped 22.5% to 4,179.

“My sense continues to be that the slowing in Classes 6 and 7 is coming as a result of lease and rental fleets being a meaningfully smaller portion of the market this year,” Tam said. “If you look back at January 2017 and 2018, you will see numbers that are more in line, particularly for Class 7, with what we are seeing for 2020. 2019 was truly an outsized year.”

He suggested on the municipal front, pent-up demand may be close to being met.

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