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Truck manufacturer CEOs see flat 2013, but stronger sales ahead

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The North American truck market will remain flat this year, with better prospects for growth in the coming years, according to truck manufacturer and supplier executives who dared make a prediction at this year’s...


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The North American truck market will remain flat this year, with better prospects for growth in the coming years, according to truck manufacturer and supplier executives who dared make a prediction at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show.

But perhaps the most honest projection came from Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.

“There are two things I absolutely know for sure for 2013,” he said. “Number one is that any number I give you now is wrong. The real number will be either higher or lower. That’s the thing I know for sure. Everything else has certain uncertainty.”

Joking aside, Daum said early indications are that industry-wide NAFTA Classes 6-8 sales are on pace to be 15-20% lower than last year. He said Daimler’s official estimate for industry demand is plus or minus 10% from last year’s totals.

Still, he said there’s reason for optimism.

“We have about 200,000-250,000 units of deferred demand,” he said, adding this is especially the case in the vocational markets.

Andreas Renschler, the outgoing head of Daimler Trucks globally, noted: “NAFTA was one of the pillars of growth in 2012, and a major reason Daimler Trucks did well in spite of a challenging global environment.” He added: “The business remains a growth business. By the end of this decade alone, the global truck market is expected to grow by another 2.2 million units.”

Other OEM executives who commented on expectations for 2013 shared Daimler’s sentiment that this year will be flat.

Gary Moore, general manager of Kenworth, and Bill Kozek, who holds the same position with Peterbilt, both estimated the Canada/US Class 8 market will total 210,000-240,000 vehicles this year, compared to last year’s tally of 225,000 trucks.

Moore said this year’s sales will be “driven by the ongoing replacement of aging fleets.”

Kozek noted that if sales come in at the higher end of that range, at 240,000 units, “it would be the fourth largest market in US and Canadian history.”

Kevin Flaherty, president, Mack Trucks North American Sales and Marketing, said his company also is projecting industry-wide sales to be in the same range as last year’s.

Joe McAleese, president and CEO of Bendix, has been known to be more conservative than some of his peers when projecting total commercial vehicle sales. But he shared the sentiment that sales will be steady this year, and expressed optimism that the market will strengthen significantly in the years ahead.

“I see the commercial vehicle industry overall being very well positioned for a few great years ahead,” McAleese said. “I believe we’re on the verge of posting better years – better than those seen in some time – beginning as early as 2014.”

McAleese cited the average age of the fleet, a driver shortage that will force up rates, and increasing truck tonnage as indicators that the industry is poised for a rebound. He said the Class 8 market this year will be flat, to down 5%. However, over the next two years he expects a 10-15% improvement. And that’s based on GDP growth of just 2-2.5%.

“If you had a robust economy, you could see much bigger numbers than that,” he said.


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