Updated: ‘An excellent position to set records’: Peterbilt GM

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Class 8 truck sales are on the rise against the backdrop of a strong economy.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Peterbilt general manager Jason Skoog is understandably bullish about the state of North America’s truck market.

“Industry orders have been robust to say the least,” he said during a briefing with industry media at the Paccar Innovation Center. “This year is in an excellent position to set records.”

The company that brands its trucks with the famed red oval currently projects between 265,000 and 285,000 Class 8 truck sales for Canada and the U.S. this year. Class 8 orders have pushed beyond 30,000 units for six consecutive months, after all. And Peterbilt expects to maintain the record 15.3% market share it achieved in 2017.

“I’m pleased with where we’re at in our production,” he added, when asked about component shortages that have slowed the output of several other manufacturers.

Jason Skoog, Peterbilt GM

As of July 2, that production will also include the Model 579 UltraLoft, as the assembly line puts a new robotic manufacturing cell to work. Buyers have already placed orders for 2,500 of those trucks.

It’s an important addition to the product family. The UltraLoft has helped Peterbilt secure deals with customers who had drifted away over the last three to four years because of the lack of an integral sleeper, Skoog said.

Meanwhile, Peterbilt has been able to maintain prices in the face of recently introduced steel and aluminum tariffs. “We work very closely with our suppliers to manage costs as best as we possibly can, regardless of what environment we’re in,” Skoog said. “We have long-term agreements with them.”

But the value of used trucks is certainly on the rise. Act Research findings recently showed that the average price of used Class 8 trucks had increased 11% year over year as of May.

Meanwhile, Peterbilt continues to expand the dealer network that sells and services its trucks. In the last four years it has added 100 facilities, and now has 372 overall. “The dealer body continues to expand and invest in the network,” Skoog said. By the end of the year, the company expects to have 390 locations.

It all continues against the backdrop of a strong economy, which began to surge in the second half of 2017. Business investment and capital spending are on the rise, consumer confidence is high, e-commerce is growing, and construction is booming. The energy sector is expanding with oil around US $70 per barrel, and low unemployment rates could lead to higher wages and even more spending, he added. Freight tonnage is at record levels, while carriers are securing higher rates, too.

“Taken as a whole,” he observed, “the economic environment is very healthy.”

  • Peterbilt’s Class 8 market projections are actually 5,000 units higher than originally reported in this article. The content has been updated to show the correct figures.
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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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