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U.S. retail sales of Classes 4-7 medium-duty commercial vehicles in September revealed a largely flat market compared with a year earlier, WardsAuto.com reported.
Sales were 19,873, down 1.9% compared with 20,268 a year earlier.
Class 7 posted the only drop. Sales fell 12.8% to 3,935 compared with 4,511 in the 2020 period.
Class 6, with the second-highest volume, rose 0.5% to 4,570 compared with 4,549 a year earlier.
Classes 4-5 ticked up to 11,368, or 1.4% higher compared with 11,208 a year earlier.
Within that combined segment, sales of Class 4 trucks rose to 2,798 compared with 2,412 in the 2020 period.
Class 5 sales fell by 226 trucks to 8,570 compared with a year earlier.
Year-to-date sales were up 13.1% to 177,348 compared with 156,846, according to Wards.
“Our forecast for Classes 4-7 U.S. retail sales in 2021 is for just over 250,000,” said ACT Vice President Steve Tam.
“That’s about 10% above 2020. It seems like every month this year a little bit of that year-to-date improvement gets whittled away as we lose traction relative to where we were last year.”
In August, the eight-month sales total was 15.3% higher compared with a year earlier, Wards reported.
“So we are somehow able in this medium-duty market to keep pushing units down the assembly line, get them completed and out to the customers who purchased them,” Tam said.
Part of that is the higher profit margin found with commercial vehicles compared with light trucks and passenger cars for manufacturers in all those markets, Tam said
The problems and issues on the passenger car and light truck side, such as semiconductor shortages, don’t seem to be the same problems on the medium-duty space, he added. “It is easier for them to focus on [the smaller market of] commercial trucks, and the problems get more attention.”
In related news, Navistar announced Penske Truck Leasing agreed to take delivery of five International eMV series medium-duty trucks — marking Navistar’s first U.S. delivery of battery-electric trucks from its International brand.
The trucks are available in Classes 6-7.
Penske plans to operate these units at various locations to evaluate electric trucks operating in real-world situations as it moves to support a zero-emission commercial vehicle future, according to Lisle, Ill.-based Navistar, a unit of Traton Group.
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“Large swaths of customers are clamoring for electric vehicles,” Tam said. “The more we look at them, the more we study them, they are just increasingly complex compared with internal combustion engines.”
How much do you charge the batteries?
“Are you using all of that electricity in the truck the next day? If you’re not, you may not have to fill it up so to speak,” Tam said. “You can just put in as much as you need plus a buffer; yet, as students of battery technology we know there are only so many recharge and discharge cycles in a battery. It behooves a company to get a couple of them into the fleet and learn about how they work and what we are going to have to do to support them.”
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