September Class 8 preliminary U.S. retail sales were 28,200, 4% higher than the previous record of December 2006, according to FTR. Sales were up 20% month-over-month and 20% year-over-year. All OEMs reported robust activity for the month, FTR added.
Sales had been strong and steady for the previous five months and September was expected to be similar, so the record activity was a surprise, FTR says. Despite slowing freight growth, some fleets are still expanding and need more trucks. Sales were also boosted by fleets taking delivery of some large orders that had been sitting on OEM lots during the summer. In addition, carriers have cash to spend to replace older units. Reports indicate some OEMs are offering discounts to reduce record-high inventories, so now might be the ideal time to trade trucks in.
Sales are expected to pull back considerably in October and November as the industry adjusts to the softer freight environment. FTR expects sales volume to drop more than 20% in 2020.
“September should be considered a fluke as fleets delayed taking some deliveries in the summer and the sales all closed in September. Still, it was great sales month for Class 8 trucks,” Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles, said. “It will be a much tighter market going forward as fleet expansion slows due to the weaker freight environment. The market is slipping back to replacement level, but fleets are still profitable, so this should stabilize sales.”