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January 16, 2019 1:15 PM, EST

Medium-Duty Sales in December Continue Upward Trend

Medium-Duty Sales A Freightliner medium-duty truck. (Daimler Trucks North America)

Single-digit increases defined U.S. retail sales of medium-duty trucks in December and for the full year compared with year-ago periods, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales of Class 4-7 trucks reached 22,045 in December, up 4.1% compared with 21,179 a year earlier.

Year-to-date, sales rose 6.5% to 237,303 compared with the 2017 total of 222,790.

“We are still in an expansion cycle in the medium-duty space. We have just had very moderate, sustainable growth since 2010,” said Steve Tam, vice president of ACT Research Co.

Municipal fleets have been one of the dark-horse growth drivers over the past year, he said.

“There was quite a bit of pent-up demand as a result of the housing bubble implosion [in the earlier Great Recession],” he said. “That demand, quite honestly, is still getting worked out, but it is probably about at the end of its run.”

Rising real estate values have pumped money into government coffers. “That facilitated clearing the backlog of demand,” he added.

Sales of Class 7 trucks were up 1.4% for the month and 3.6% for the year — posting totals, respectively, of 5,519 and 63,828.

Class 6 sales were the exception to the modest gains. All truck makers but one in the crowded space posted increases for the full year.

These sales rose 10.1% in December and climbed 12.9% for the 12 months — to 5,913 and 71,626, respectively.

The biggest year-over-year gain in Class 6 sales occurred at International, a unit of Navistar Inc. It saw sales climb to 16,118 compared with 13,232 a year earlier.

“So many of these medium-duty vehicles are service-based. If you look at the economy this year, just the top line, the service portion of the economy actually outperformed goods-based performance,” Tam said.

Sales of Class 4-5 trucks inched up 2.4% in December to 10,613 and 4.2% in the 12-month period to 97,715.

Medium-Duty Sales

Peterbilt 200EV. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

In related news, Peterbilt Motors Co., a Paccar Inc. brand, gave attendees at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the first look at its all-electric medium duty Model 220EV.

The Class 6-7 220 was originally launched in 2014, according to the Denton, Texas-based truck maker.

The new EV version features a range of more than 100 miles and a recharge time of a few hours, and is targeted at local pick-up and delivery operations.

Peterbilt will begin delivering the 220EV this summer.