By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
In an interesting coincidence, sales figures for the first quarter of 2012 for on-road heavy-duty vehicles arrived as we are assembling the July-August issue of ACTION magazine. That’s always our HD and off-road issue, so the sales stats for both North America and Europe provided some interesting market insights.
In the U.S., sales of new Class 3-8 vehicles increased more than 26 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the data-meisters at R.L. Polk & Co. The 129,755 new registrations represent significant sales growth, but still don’t approach the “glory days” of 2005-07 when 170,000 or more vehicles moved during the first quarter. In this period, Class 8 led the way, with an averaged increase of 44.9 percent across the first three months of the year.
In Europe, the story was just the opposite—the HD and commercial market was mostly down with very few high points. ACEA , the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, reports that combined sales are down 10.1 percent overall compared to last year.
The details vary by country, but the trends reflect the larger national political and financial atmospheres as well. Countries in financial trouble, notably Spain and Italy, showed the steepest drops at 24.1 and 36.7 percent respectively.
Truck sales in more-stable economies also dropped but not as much: France, 4.7%; Germany, 1.2%, and UK, 9.8%. Interestingly, sales of “heavy goods vehicles” (trucks over 16 tonnes) increased in the UK by nearly 15 percent. The only segment to show a general increase in sales was “Bus and Coach” (over 3.5 tonne) which increased by less than one percent against last year’s numbers.
Back in U.S., Polk’s data shows that diesel was the favored engine choice, appearing in nearly 85 percent of all new Class 3-8 vehicles. Only Class 4, where Ford uses gasoline engines, bucked the trend. Another trend does continue unabated – regardless of the number of sales for any given year, the highest number of new registrations can be found in the South, usually about 30 percent of the total. Next on the list is the Central U.S, at just under 30 percent, then the Northeast followed by the West. The proportions have held mostly true since at least 2001.
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