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Truck market slows as van sales grow

012According to the Truck Industry Council (TIC) monthly report total Australian truck sales for the first nine months of 2013 were 22,827 units, or 2.8 per cent above the tally achieved for the same period in 2012.

The report says the individual month result for September 2013 showed a slight decline in the overall truck market (0.3 per cent) compared with September 2012.  The third quarter of the calendar year was also 1.5 per cent lower than third quarter 2012.

The Heavy Duty, Medium Duty and Light Duty truck segments all posted declines for September, with Light Duty trucks suffering the most, while the Light Duty Van (3,501 kg and above) segment recorded a major gain on recent results.

TIC suggests that while capital equipment finance conditions are quite favourable to operators, the relatively quiet third quarter was affected mostly by the traditional uncertainty generated by a federal election campaign.  With the election result now declared, business conditions are beginning to improve, especially in the housing sector, leading to TIC members being optimistic that 2013’s fourth quarter should see a return to positive gains for the truck market.

The third (July to September) quarter saw total T-Mark sales of 7,753 units.  While this was 117 units less than for the third quarter of 2012, it is worth noting that the most recent result is 22.6 per cent lower than the record third quarter result achieved in 2007, when 10,020 units were sold.   In fact, 2013’s third quarter was beaten by six other years in the past decade.

Market Segments

The September 2013 sales figures demonstrated a decline across all cab-chassis segments, yet a surprisingly strong result for vans.

The Light Duty Truck Segment for September was the worst affected by the softer market, recording sales 8.8 per cent lower than September 2012, and providing a 9-month tally of 6,563 units, which is still a minor gain (0.6 per cent) on the same period for 2012.   The third quarter total of 2,178 units is particularly weak when compared to the past decade; only 2009 showed a lower result, and 2013 was 26.4 per cent lower than the record third quarter achieved in 2005.

The Medium Duty Truck Segment was showing signs of growth over the past 12-18 months, however has slowed recently.  The September 2013 total was 586 units, 5.5 per cent lower than September 2012. Comparing the nine-month tally of each year, the 2013 result remains marginally (1.2 per cent) higher than for 2012.  To demonstrate the extent of the longer term decline of this segment, the third quarter MD segment result of 1,628 units is a significant 38 per cent below the result for the same quarter in 2008.

The Heavy Duty Truck Segment managed to reach 1,000 units for the month, however this is 3.9 per cent lower than September 2012.  HD segment sales for the year-to-date remain higher than for 2012, but the gain has been reduced to 2.2 per cent.   The nine-month 2013 tally came to 8,261 units, which is still quite a strong performance.   The third quarter total of 2,844 units was the fourth best on record, yet 18.5 per cent lower than the record achieved in 2007.

The Light Duty Van Segment has outperformed most expectations in recent months.  The September result of 438 units is 44.6 per cent higher than in September 2012, while the year-to-date figure is 12.5 per cent above 2012’s market.  While a jump of more than 40 per cent is possibly due to one or two large contracts being delivered, TIC notes that most of the gains in this segment are due to a GVM rating change for one of the van ranges recorded here.  The Renault Master was previously rated at 3,500 kg, and so recorded in the Light Commercial Vehicle segment (and therefore not included in T-Mark data). However, the 2013 models are rated at 3,510 kg and above, so are now showing in T-Mark totals.  The 300 Renault Master vans recorded so far in 2013 represent the majority of the 334-unit gain in this segment.

TIC Chief Executive Officer, Tony McMullan, is hopeful that a post-election rise in business confidence will turn around the slowing of the market in the last quarter, and translate to improved truck sales late in 2013, and into 2014.

“The September quarter was the most likely to be affected during an election year.  However, the total truck market and all segments have reached September while retaining small gains compared with the same period in 2012.  A lift in sales in the fourth quarter is probable as capital expenditure in some sectors improves and new housing starts increase.  TIC expects the current year to finish with a small gain over 2012, followed by a positive start to 2014,” Mr McMullan said.

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