Dec. truck sales highest in two years

NEW YORK, (Feb. 5, 2004) — Preliminary data indicates December Class 8 truck orders were the highest since spring ’02 when the industry was in the midst of the ’02 pre-buy to avoid new EPA-mandated engines, say analysts at Merrill Lynch.

Excluding pre-buy effects, December could be the highest order month since June 1999. Citing data from ACT Research, analysts note that heavy truck orders in Dec. reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000. The average for ’03 was 202,000.

Analysts say one reason for the boost could be what they called the “Swift Effect.” Some fleet execs may have been prompted to move by Swift Transportation’s 4,000 truck, 2-year order recently placed with Volvo Trucks North America.

Merrill Lynch is forecasting North American Class 8 production at 212,000 for 2004; and Class 5-7 at 205,000. But analysts say strong heavy truck orders in December could suggest something even higher.

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