Truck sales up nearly 16 percent in first quarter

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Updated Apr 22, 2021

New commercial truck sales rose to new heights in the first quarter, reported the American Truck Dealers (ATD) in its recent Truck Beat industry report.

NADA Chief Economist Patrick Manzi writes in this month's issue that commercial truck sales totaled more than 98,000 units in the first quarter — 15.8 percent higher than the same period last year. Heavy-duty truck sales were up 14 percent to 47,515 units; medium-duty sales rose by 17.4 percent to 50,889 units. 

Manzi cites growing demand from carriers and the downswing the market took last March due to COVID-19 as reasons for the strong opening quarter. He adds, "The pandemic's impact is clearer when looking at total commercial truck sales this March, which were up by 36.7 percent from March 2020. Expect similar jumps in sales in Q2 2021, as the industry will certainly post significant gains compared with the lows seen in the initial months of COVID-19."

Freightliner maintained its market dominance in Q1 with 41.2 percent of Class 8 new truck sales, followed by Peterbilt, Kenworth, Volvo, International, Mack and Western Star. Freightliner and Volvo were the only OEMs to see their marketshare rise in Q1. The medium-duty space was slightly more competitive. Ford and Freightliner maintained the market's top two spots at 34.7 and 23.5 percent, International, Dodge and Isuzu rounded out the top five. 

In the Class 8 market, truck orders have surpassed 40,000 units for six consecutive months, one of the longest stretches in market history. Manzi also notes orders are more than doubling replacement demand of 19,000 units. "Class 8 demand should be strong for at least the next few months as freight companies place orders in response to customer demand and elevated freight rates," he writes in Truck Beat.

Unfortunately, manufacturers are struggling to deliver units at a similar pace, as the global semiconductor shortage and other supply chain bottlenecks are delaying or outright shutting down production.

RELATED: Bottlenecks at California ports wreaking havoc on truck parts supply chain

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) recently called on President Biden's administration to divert a portion of semiconductors intended for automotive and other industries into truck production. Manzi notes shortages of rubber resin also has had an impact on production.

"These supply chain issues sting a little more, given strong demand for freight amid the economic recovery from the pandemic and just as the Biden administration has landed $1.9 trillion in new stimulus spending," Manzi says, also accurately noting the impact production delays are having on the white-hot used truck market.

But Manzi says new truck dealers shouldn't be too discouraged the slow deliveries. Market factors continue to point upward for new equipment sales through the rest of the year. "Despite these challenges, look for continued sales improvement throughout the rest of the year. For 2021, we expect medium-duty truck sales of around 240,000 units and heavy-duty truck sales of some 250,000," he writes.

Truck Beat March 2021 Blog1

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