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July 19, 2010 6:30 AM, EDT

Medium-Duty Truck Sales Rise 37.3%

Class 3, 6 Trucks Show Biggest Gains
By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the July 19 print edition of Transport Topics.

The continuing surge in Classes 3 and 6 retail truck sales pushed medium-duty volumes 37.3% above the same month in 2009.

For the month, a total of 23,522 Class 3-7 vehicles were purchased in June, up from 17,132 last year, according to a July 13 survey by WardsAuto.com.

Year-to-date sales are up 19.2% for the five medium-duty groups combined over the first half of last year — 123,596 units, compared with 103,687.

“There’s been improvement, yes, but over the worst truck market in 50 years. The percentage improvements are high, but the absolute numbers are still not robust,” said Navistar Inc. spokesman Roy Wiley.

“Our midrange business is trending up. We’ve cleaned up the trucks from the 2008, ’09 and ’10 model years as buyers have been looking for values,” said Brian O’Donnell of the Valley dealerships in Cleveland that sell Ford and Freightliner trucks.

O’Donnell said his Class 6 business has been particularly good, with small companies making what he called “reactive purchases.”

“It’s been a lot of onesy-twosy deals. A business will say it needs something right now. We’ve seen more of that, rather than large fleets executing on a long-term plan,” he said.

Ward’s said Class 6 U.S. sales rose 77% for the month to 3,070 units, and 50.8% for the six months to 16,097.

Class 3 sales rose by 71.7% for the month to 13,166 vehicles, and 31.6% year to date to 68,720 trucks.

Wiley said he sees Class 6 doing better than Class 7 because the heavier Class 7s are often used as dump trucks and cement mixers and the construction industry is still at very early stages of recovery.

In contrast, “Class 6 is a lot of city-delivery vehicles, and that part of the economy has turned around more,” Wiley said.

O’Donnell and Longhorn International dealer Duane Kyrish described buyers as bargain shoppers making minimal purchases and avoiding 2011 model-year trucks.

O’Donnell said recent sales have been new trucks that sat unsold on for up to 1,000 days. Kyrish said his used mediums are selling well and he has some rental business for them, but neither has made many sales with engines that meet current federal emissions requirements.

Meanwhile, Ward’s said Class 5 was up 12% for the month to 2,613, and 7.9% for the six months to 12,331.

On the other end of the spectrum, Class 7 declined 7.8% for the month to 3,309 vehicles, and by 5.3% year to date to 18,232 units.

Class 4 sales fell 24.6% in June to 1,364 vehicles, and by 18.9% cumulatively to 8,216 units.

Navistar and Freightliner rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in Class 6 and 7 sales, whereas Ford dominates in Classes 4 and 5. Dodge leads in Class 3 sales.