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July 26, 2011 8:00 AM, EDT

Purchases of Classes 4-7 Vehicles Rise 23.8% in June

By Frederick Kiel, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the July 25 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

U.S. retail sales of Classes 4-7 trucks totaled 12,819 units in June, 23.8% more than the 10,356 units sold in June 2010, WardsAuto.com reported.

Sales for the first half of 2011 totaled 66,459, up 21.1% from the 54,876 sold a year earlier. However, that percentage gain is well below Class 8 sales of 72,068 units, which are up 46.3% from the 49,257 units sold in the first six months of 2010, (7-18, p. 1).

“This [Class 6-7] market segment will continue to face headwinds due to record-low activity in the construction industry and reduced government spending,” David Hames, general manager of marketing and strategy at Daimler Trucks North America, told Transport Topics.

“June’s numbers are basically in line with general expectations, though just a tad weaker than forecast,” Eric Starks, president of transportation consulting firm FTR Associates, told TT. “We think that medium-duty will continue to struggle all the way out to the end of the year, though we expect to see a slight improvement in sales in the second half.”

Manufacturers sold 3,450 Class 7 trucks June, 4.3% higher than the 3,309 trucks sold last June, Ward’s said. Year-to-date, sales totaled 20,414, up 12% from 18,232 in 2010.

Similarly, Class 6 sales were 3,797 units in June, up 23.7% from 3,070 sold in June last year. For the year through June, 20,844 trucks were sold, up 29.5% from 16,097 units for the first half of 2010.

Trucks in Classes 4-5 also rose in June to 5,572, or 40.1% higher than the 3,977 sold in June 2010. Year-to-date sales were 25,201, up 22.7% from 20,547 a year earlier.

Freightliner Trucks, a division of Daimler Trucks, sold 1,229 Class 7s in June as the market leader, followed by Navistar Inc.’s International Trucks at 1,206 sales. Ford Motor Co. was third at 489 sales, followed by the two brands of Paccar Inc. — Peterbilt Motors Co. and Kenworth Truck Co.

International held a slim lead in Class 7 sales for the year through June at 7,848, followed by DTNA’s 7,794.

International also sold the most Class 6 trucks in June at 1,390 units, followed by DTNA at 1,022 and Ford at 902. It was also tops in the first six months of the year in this class, selling 7,543 Class 6s, followed by Daimler’s 6,794 units.

“Companies that run these trucks have a lot of cash on hand . . . and their vehicles are getting older, but they have been very reluctant to part with that cash so far,” Starks said. “The big question is how long can they go on running these aging trucks before the repair costs get significantly higher than the costs of a new vehicle?”

“Most medium-duty trucks come home at night where maintenance servicing can be performed,” he added. “Many Class 8 owners don’t have that choice of getting their trucks home every night.”

One dealer also saw continued challenges in medium-duty.

“From our business viewpoint, Class 8 sales have clearly outdistanced the market in Classes 6 and 7,” Jim Hartman, dealer principal of Truck Enterprises, a Kenworth and Volvo dealer in Harrisonburg, Va., told TT.