2018 sees record sales of trucks and vans in Australia

New truck sales figures broke records in Australia last year but, what goes up must come down. Expert analysts are worried that 2018 may have been a peak and that a decline in new sales is on the way. The Truck Industry Council reveals which brands of trucks sold best in Australia last year in each of the heavy duty, medium duty and light duty trucks along with the light duty vans.  (Photo: Mitsubishi-Fuso).

New truck sales figures broke records in Australia last year but, what goes up must come down. Expert analysts are worried that 2018 may have been a peak and that a decline in new sales is on the way. The Truck Industry Council reveals which brands of trucks sold best in Australia last year in each of the heavy duty, medium duty and light duty trucks along with the light duty vans. (Photo: Mitsubishi-Fuso).

A new record for truck and van sales was set in Australia in 2018 with 41,628 units sold, according to the Truck Industry Council, which represents all suppliers of heavy on-road vehicles in Australia.

Sales in 2018 were up 13 percent over 2017, according to the Council. Last year’s figures even smashed the pre-global financial crisis record of 38,131 truck sales, which was set in 2007.

Overall sales figures

At 10,027 units sold, manufacturer Isuzu sold the most units last year, accounting for 24.1 percent of all sales. That effort was followed – by some distance – by Hino, which sold 5,646 units, representing 13.6 percent of all units sold. Fuso sold 4,302 units, representing 10.3 percent of total units sold. Those top three brands account for 48 percent of all units sold in Australia across all truck/van sub-market segments. In-depth figures on each of the various Australian sub-segments, along with commentary, are provided after TransparencyWaves 2019 banner below.

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Heavy duty trucks

Heavy trucks are defined by the Council as cab-chassis type vehicles (both rigid and prime mover application) with either three or more axles; or two axles with a gross vehicle mass greater than 8,000 kilograms (kg) and a gross combined mass over 39,000 kg.

Kenworth sold 2,946 heavy trucks, accounting for 20.5 percent of the total volume of 14,344 heavy trucks sold. Volvo sold 2,138 heavy trucks, accounting for just under 15 percent, while Isuzu sold 1,858 heavy trucks, accounting for 13.0 percent of the total volume. These top three manufacturers sold just under 50 percent of all new heavy trucks in Australia.

Heavy duty trucks represent the largest segment of the Australian trucking market. While there were record sales in the final calendar quarter, the Council noted that December 2018 sales were actually down by just over five percent compared with December 2017.

Mark Hammond, Chief Technical Officer at the Council, told FreightWaves that heavy truck brands that tend to sell well in Australia are those brands that are manufactured locally. Although the Australian car manufacturing industry closed down over a 13-year period from 2004 to 2017, truck manufacturing continued in Australia.

Australian-manufactured heavy trucks are customised to local market demand. A peculiarity of Australian trucking is that the vehicles/trailers are typically bigger than found elsewhere in the world. Trucks that are configured to Australian demand therefore have a sales advantage. Hammond commented that Australian-manufactured trucks are configured to cope with a higher combined gross mass than is commonly found elsewhere in the world. The chassis and drive-line are designed for bigger vehicles. Australian heavy-duty trucks also need capacity for “at least” 1,000 litres of fuel. “You burn more running a B-double or a road train. And there’s not a lot of real estate on a prime mover,” he said.

Medium-duty trucks

These were defined as cab-chassis vehicles with a gross vehicle mass greater than 8,000 kg but less than 40,000 kg. Isuzu-branded vehicles accounted for 40.3 percent of the total 8,210 sales, with 3,307 units were sold. Hino sold 2,187 vehicles, which accounted for 26.6 percent of units sold while Fuso sold 1,230 units, accounting for 15 percent of units sold. The top three brands accounted for a shade under 82 percent of all medium-duty trucks sold.

Hammond said that the top manufacturers in this segment “build a pretty solid product.” He added that medium-duty trucks tend to do metropolitan work. Buyers of medium trucks therefore tend to value the visibility the cab-over design offers. The buyers in the segment are price- conscious and seek a “reliable product with a good life expectancy.”

Hammond then pointed to an important influence on the Australian medium-duty truck market – Japan. He commented that the Japanese market is very heavily biased to the medium truck segment. So Japanese manufacturers “produce a lot of good product at a good price point. We get nothing from the U.S. in this range.”

Medium-duty trucks saw “solid growth” over the year with the total tally for 2018 being 8,210 medium-duty truck sales, which is up 12.3 percent on the previous year. But, again, sales in this segment slowed in the final month. December 2018 sales figures were up by 3.9 percent (that’s just 26 trucks) compared to the previous December.

In an interesting comment, the Council argued that sales for this segment are in decline. It points both to the fact that medium-duty trucks have not achieved the same kinds of sales peaks as in previous years and adds that long-term sales trends also point to decline. For instance, the Council points out that 2018 medium-duty truck sales accounted for 19.4% of all heavy vehicles sold that year in Australia, which is “well down” on the 2001 peak of 30.9%.

Light-duty trucks

These were defined as cab-chassis vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 3,501 kg to 8,000 kg inclusive. Isuzu was, again, the market leader with 4,862 units sold, accounting for 37 percent of the 13,139 light-duty trucks sold, followed by Hino at 2,850 (21.7 percent) and Fuso (18.8 percent). The top three manufacturers accounted for 77.6 percent of all light-duty trucks sold.

The light-duty truck segment was dominated by Japanese manufacturers and for much the same reasons as given earlier; in their home market the Japanese make a lot of similar product which leads to a good price.

Hammond added that another key factor in all the sub-segments analysed is the level of dealer support. “The brands that do well are those that have a really good support network. It’s critical for a commercial enterprise as downtime is hugely expensive,” he told FreightWaves.

The Council noted that the light-duty truck segment saw record sales in the final quarter of the calendar year, particularly in December. Light-duty truck sales for the year were “strong.” The final quarter of 2018 beat the final quarter of 2017, thereby setting a new sales record, the Council said. It added that December 2018 sales were stronger than December 2017 sales.

Light-duty vans

These were defined as cab-chassis vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 3,501 kg to 8,000 kg inclusive but with an enclosed van. The leader here is Mercedes-Benz with 2,547 units sold, accounting for 42.8 percent of the segment. Renault was next with 1,278 units sold, accounting for 21.5 percent. And in third place is Ford with 727 units sold, accounting for 12.2 per cent of the segment. The top three manufacturers account for about 77 percent of the segment.

FreightWaves queried why European manufacturers were so dominant in the light-duty van segment. “Primarily because the Japanese don’t build vans,” Hammond was quick to quip. More seriously, he pointed to the long-history of Ford and Mercedes-Benz in Australia, adding that they “have a great dealer network.” Renault has “done well” in recent years too.

The light-duty van segment stayed flat last year compared to 2017, a mere one percent (62 vans) up. December recorded weaker than average sales and the Council remarked that slowing sales have seen this segment “slip to just 11.7 percent of the total Australian new heavy vehicle market, well down on their market peak of 17.8 percent share just 12 months ago.”

Forward-looking

Commenting on the sales results, the CEO of the Council, Tony McMullan, said that it was “pleasing” to see new all-time sales records in Australia that “finally” eclipsed the pre-global financial crisis peak seen in 2008.

Looking forward to this year, he noted that there has been no sign of slowing growth in the light truck segment but, he cautioned, there has been a noticeable slowing of heavy and medium trucks, along with a slowing of van sales.

“This trend and the business confidence uncertainty that always accompanies a Federal Government election points to a receding new truck sales market in 2019. My hope is, that should this eventuate, the drop in sales will be minimal and that the second half of 2019 will see the market in recovery.” McMullan said.

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