Demand for new commercial vehicles continues to grow

Demand for new commercial vehicles in the western European market (European Union plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) increased for the 11th consecutive month, according to the latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

Overall CV registrations increased by 17.8% in November 2015 compared to the previous year, with growth sustained across all market segments. Spain (+52.2%) and Italy (+28.4%) recorded the largest increases.

Heavy truck registrations (16 tonnes GVW and over) have increased year-on-year by 18.3% in the first eleven months of 2015. Spain’s heavy truck market showed the largest gain, up by more than 42% (from an extremely low 2014 base.

ACEA figures for the “medium and heavy” (over 3.5 tonnes GVW and excluding buses and coaches) western European commercial vehicle market show similar growth. Between January and the end of November 2015, registrations grew by nearly 15% to 267,039. Again, Spain led the way with an increase of more than 40%, with, the UK and France also recording increases.

Demand for new buses and coaches (over 3.5 tonnes GVW) and light commercial vehicles in western Europe is also growing. The market for buses and coaches is up 18.7% year-to-date in 2015 against 2014, while registrations of vans and chassis-cabs up to 3.5 tonnes GVW grew 11.4% in the first eleven months of 2015.

No definitive figures on western European heavy trailer sales are published by ACEA or any other body, but signs suggest that this market is also improving.

French trailer-maker Fruehauf, which was acquired by the Wielton group of Poland earlier this year, is one of several in Europe reporting surging demand. Speaking in November at the Solutrans show in Lyon, France, Sales Director Jan Hulsman said that his company’s main assembly plant was at full stretch in a market showing more growth than it had for at least seven years.

Increasing demand is likely to continue into 2016, according to Clear, a London-based consultancy specialising in the trailer market. In its latest report on the European trailer market, Clear forecasts that sales next year will reach the third highest figure on record.
Gary Beecroft, Clear Managing Director, says, “Trailer demand will exceed the 2006 level, though it is unlikely to reach the levels of 2007 and 2008.”

Year-on-year trailer sales are up by 22% in the, 61% in Italy and 42% in Spain, Beecroft reports. “What we are seeing in these markets is basically catch-up demand. In many European markets the demand for new trailers has been below the long-term trend level for many years. Once companies regain the confidence to invest in new assets, the floodgates open and two or three years of exceptional increases are possible.”

For truck-making groups with global operations, increased demand in Europe is welcome as it comes at a time of weakening markets in other parts of the world. In its third quarterly report of 2015, Volvo Group describes truck market conditions in Brazil as “severe”, down 53% so far this year. Demand is said to be slowing in the North American truck market, albeit from a high level, and Asia is said to be “on a low level throughout the region, with the exception of Japan and India.”

Demand for trucks in the huge Chinese market is declining, especially in the construction sector.

The UK truck market (above six tonnes GVW) looks set to reach a twelve-month total of around 42,500 registrations this year, up about 22.5% on the 2014 figure, according to Ray Ashworth, DAF Trucks Managing Director. He forecasts that next year’s UK truck market will settle at around the same total as this year, which he describes as “the new norm.” With the UK economy in good shape and no significant new European road transport legislation set for 2016, Ashworth expects the UK and European truck markets to enter “calmer waters” next year.

One factor threatening to inhibit continued UK truck market growth is limited bodybuilder capacity in the wake of the introduction of the final phase of European Whole Vehicle Type Approval, according to Ashworth. This was one of the reasons why DAF introduced its “tip, skip, grab and hook” pre-bodied truck scheme in October.

“Of course, customers will continue to prefer to spec their vehicles from the ground up,” says Ashworth. “But equally, immediate availability might be required where contracts suddenly crop up or where a specific truck is needed to fill a gap in existing work.”

The Light Commercial and HGV sectors in Ireland also experienced year on year increases up 42% and 9% respectively.