February truck sales continue fine start to year

Light-duty trucks lead the charge in boom-like conditions


Pandemic? What pandemic? Headwinds in the economy? Where? Well, certainly not in commercial vehicle sales.

Perhaps the economic stimulus the federal government used last year to ward off both a significant Covid-19 contraction and a surge in structural unemployment will dissipate and with it the rising tide in sales seen in Truck Industry Council (TIC) T-Mark figures for February.

But with employment close to full recovery and tax receipts bolstered by mining’s resurgence, there are reasons for optimism all around.

That is what total commercial vehicle sales for last month of 2,769 appear to indicate.

This is up from 2,448 the previous February, when the national economy was barely coasting, and less than 100 units behind February 2019’s 2,826, when the most recent truck sales boom was still reverberating.

For the sake of completeness, the boom-time 2018 figure was 3,001.

Of course, the extra numbers have to belong somewhere.

Whatever the situation, Isuzu leads the pack on total numbers, last month at 714 units compared with the previous year-on-year monthly figure of 606 and besting its best by two units on 2018’s figure.

And the Hino chase is unabated, the challenger making 447 sales, up YOY from364 and a good 20 units up on 2018.

Not to be outdone, relatively, Fuso proves the incoming tide is lifting the leading trio at the same time with 301, 70 up on 2020 and knocking over 2018 by 20 units.

Which begs the question: Is this the start of a new boom? And, if so, is it even?

Heavy duty

For the biggest trucks, the picture is OK rather than astounding and shows the overall growth isn’t really being driven from here.

Total sales are at 805, up 25 YOY but with much clear daylight between it and February 2019’s 962 and February 2018’s 973.

Kenworth franks this form – its 163 is above last year’s 121 but not 2019’s 186 and 2018’s 176.

But things are quieter for the placegetter, with Volvo dead-heating with Isuzu on 109.

For Volvo, that is down from the segment leading 137 it recorded that month last year, when its abortive challenge to Kenworth was underway, and a long way off 2019’s 152 and 2018’s 136, when it was bested by Isuzu’s 154.

The Japanese make has also seen a steady slide since then.

The picture is a bit more intriguing in the next levels of this segment.

While Scania eased 10 units YOY to 78, Mercedes-Benz stole something of a march, jumping 34 to 84.

For the big German, that doesn’t rate against 2019’s 101 but is only one unit off 2018 but the Swedish make keeps plugging away with a figure that’s still above 2019’s 72 and 2018’s 41.

Read about how January kicked of what looks like a good year, here

For those makes regularly under the 50-unit mark in any given February, there is solace that that heavy plunges were mostly but not completely missing. Though, on those numbers, losing or gaining units looks more serious on a percentage basis.

So, YOY, UD being up five to 41 is a nice 10 per cent lift, while Mack losing 11 to 37 is around a 20 per cent drop. However, Iveco’s halving its February form, 40 to20, looks disturbing.

Medium duty

It would be a mistake to think that where the big three Japanese makes rule is where the grand total moves are reflected, at least where mid-range is concerned.

Here, the performance shadows the bigger trucks, with 494 in February up YOY on 2020’s 475 but down on 2019’s 546 and 2018’s 589.

However, Isuzu is showing its iron grip.  After falling short by between five and 14 units in the previous four years, it burst through the 200 level to 205.

For now at least, Hino’s three-year run in the mid-170s has faltered, slipping back to 164, two above February 2017.

But Fuso has emulated Isuzu in notching 89 sales, rising from 62 YOY and a solid 15 up on 2019 and six up on 2018.

Light duty

Alright, get ready to see the engine room of the big total truck sales numbers – a place looking eerily like it did early- to mid-last decade.

Total in February: 1,011. Total in boom-laden February 2018: 936. Total in the previous February: 746.

If we were AFL commentators, we would be tempted to exclaim: “And Isuzu goes bang!”

The market leader hit 400 sales las month, up 95 units from a year before, 78 a year before that, 35 a year before that and 30 in February 2017.

Though it struggles to make consistent inroads on the segment and market leader, Hino is back above the 200 level for the month at 251, after dipping to 155 last year from 227 and 207 the preceding two years.

Fuso continues to battle away – it’s 176 up on last year’s 134 and 2019’ 155 but not 2018’s 181.


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