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August 19, 2021 3:15 PM, EDT

July Class 8 Sales Are Second-Lowest of 2021

Volvo VNR Volvo VNR. Volvo Trucks North America experienced a production interruption due to a strike. (Volvo Trucks)

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Class 8 retail sales in July neared 17,000 and improved 16.3% compared with a year earlier, but landed at the year’s second-lowest level, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales hit 16,824 compared with 14,462 in the 2020 period, according to Wards. July sales surpassed only the 2021 low of 15,369 reached in February.

The specter of widely reported supply chain issues and shortages of semiconductor chips and other components hangs over the market, noted Steve Tam, vice president of ACT Research.

Freightliner Cascadia

Freightliner posted a 34.7% share on top sales of 5,845. (Freightliner)

“It doesn’t even feel like we are making progress,” he said. “I guess we are, but it’s very hard to see. The industry talks about how many partially built trucks there are — like a fish story, every time that gets told, that gets bigger.”

Class 8 production in July sank to a 15-month low as truck makers paused for days and, in some cases, weeks to compensate for component shortages, according to ACT.

Right now, there simply is not sufficient inventory for fleet buyers, said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR. “The truck dealers are very short,” he said. “Their sales are being impacted.”

Ake added, “It’s one of those things where you had situations worsen in July” compared with every month this year but one.

That said, most truck makers saw improved sales compared with last July. The exception was Volvo Trucks North America, which experienced strike-interrupted production by members of United Auto Workers Local 2069 in Dublin, Va. That ended in July with a new, narrowly approved contract.

VTNA’s sales fell 37.3% to 888 in July compared with 1,416 a year earlier. It pulled down a 5.3% share.

“The lengthy strike situation at our manufacturing plant in Dublin, Va., cost us many production days, which affected timely deliveries to our dealers and customers and heavily impacted our July retail numbers,” said Magnus Koeck, vice president of strategy at VTNA.

Mack Trucks saw sales climb 33.9% to 1,252, good for a 7.4% share. Mack, like VTNA, is a Volvo Group brand,

The general supply chain constraints, especially over semiconductors, are sending the total U.S. retail market lower than anticipated, Koeck said.

“We expect that will continue for months to come,” he said. “It will take quite a while before demand, supply and deliveries to the market are back in balance.”

One fleet executive and longtime VTNA customer is being affected by the supply chain challenges.

“We are professionals in what we do and are just trying to balance it out, and work through the scenarios,” said Pete Nativo, vice president of fleet solutions at Oakley Transport. “We were notified in August that of the 50 trucks we were supposed to get built by the end of this year, we are only going to be able to get 10.”

Lake Wales, Fla.-based Oakley is a bulk carrier that specializes in liquid and food-grade transportation. It operates about 725 trucks, all Volvos.

Nativo said VTNA informed him that the Bendix VADA advanced driver assist systems spec’d on the trucks requires a semiconductor chip. The system automatically slows down or speeds up a truck based on traffic conditions ahead, among other features. VTNA told him it could deliver the trucks without the system, and install it later when chips are more plentiful, but Nativo said he’d rather wait.

“We have enough trucks at this point to keep us flowing,” he said. “We also have a slight inventory of new trucks with Volvo. We are pulling from these. But if by the end of the first quarter they don’t have these new trucks ready for us, it is going to get really tight.”

Meanwhile, the pursuit of top market share heated up.

Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner brand posted a leading 34.7% share on sales of 5,845. Western Star, also a DTNA brand, pulled down a 2.7% share on 450 sales — giving DTNA the leading 37.4% share overall.

Paccar Inc. notched a combined 34.3% share. Its Kenworth Truck Co. brand had an 18% share on sales of 3,031. Paccar’s other brand, Peterbilt Motors Co., sold 2,735 trucks, good for a 16.3% share.

In July, Kenworth announced its T680 Next Generation on-highway flagship is now available to buy with the Cummins Westport ISX12N near-zero emissions natural gas engine.

International climbed the most, rising 44.5% to 2,623 and a 15.6% share. It is a brand of Navistar, a unit of Germany-based Traton Group.

When the merger with Traton was completed on July 1, Navistar noted it will now be in a better position to meet the growing requirements of the market and to improve its customer offering, especially with respect to the transition to electric mobility and the establishment of autonomous driving.

Year-to-date Class 8 sales rose 32.2% to 128,376 compared with 97,110 a year earlier, Wards reported.

U.S. Class 8 retail sales improved 16.3% in July to nearly 17,000, but still landed at the year’s second-lowest level, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales reached 16,824 compared with 14,462 in the 2020 period, according to Wards.

July’s sales surpassed the 2021 low of 15,369 in February.

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