Headwinds ahead in 2023 after record start to truck sales

truck sales

Total new truck sales for January jumped to a record 2785 units, 22.9 per cent up on the previous best mark for the month recorded in 2008, according to the Truck Industry Council (TIC).

But TIC CEO Tony McMullan said that although pleasing to see, the industry should not read too much into the record numbers.

“We are facing ongoing headwinds, supply chains remain fragile at best, inflation is still too high, there are potentially more interest rate rises on the way in 2023 and the Australian and global economies are cooling quickly,” cautioned McMullan.

“There is even some talk of a potential economic recession.”

McMullan believes the industry will have a much better indication of how the market is tracking at the end of the first quarter and sales have had a chance to “normalise”.

“January and even February sales, are subject to fluctuations and some inconsistencies due to the transition of supplying trucks from one year to the next and the summer holiday period.”

McMullan cites the last record January in 2008 as a prime example of how a year can get off to a stellar start, then quickly go sideways.

“Truck sales continued at record levels until just after the mid-year point when the Australia economy succumbed to the effects of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and new truck sales slowed considerably thereafter.

“Truck OEMs, body builders and equipment suppliers alike, will be hoping that scenario is not repeated in 2023, as the 2008 GFC downturn led to significant job losses in the manufacturing sector.”

Cautions aside, it was certainly an encouraging start for leading manufacturers in the heavy-duty sector.

Coming off the record sales final quarter of 2022, it was expected that heavy truck sales would slow a little coming into in 2023 due to ongoing supply chain issues.

But the segment also set a new record of 944 sales, up 130 trucks, or 16 per cent, on the 2008 mark.

As in most months, Kenworth again topped the charts, notching an impressive 197 sales and a market share of 20.9 per cent.

Volvo wasn’t far adrift with 175 (18.5), followed by Isuzu on 150 (15.9).

The leading trio gapped the rest, 88 sales clear of a cluster headed by UD Trucks with 62 units sold in January.

Fifth-placed Scania was a noticeable casualty of the seasonal impacts highlighted by McMullan with just 58 sales.

A breakdown of heavy-duty sector sales in January. Photo: TIC

In the medium duty race, Isuzu was immune to supply chain issues besetting others, notching an impressive 261 sales, 180 more than nearest rival Fuso.

The segment was also up over the 2022 January result, with 445 medium truck deliveries for the month of January 2023, verses 421 trucks in January 2022, a gain of 5.7 per cent.

This result is well short, 106 trucks, or just over 19 per cent, of the best ever January deliveries of 551 medium trucks achieved in 2008. However, as TIC has reported previously, the segment is a shrinking market, so it is unlikely that we will ever see new medium truck sales rewriting the record books.

Light-duty trucks set a new sales record for the month of January 2022 and went on to set a new sales record for the sector by the end of last year.

That growth has continued into 2023 with January light-duty truck sales setting a new record of 989, up a significant 28.8 per cent over January 2022, which recorded the previous high mark of 768.

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