Strong Start

Truck production and sales are off to a strong start in 2004, based on manufacturers’ reports, and it appears more growth is in store.

U.S. sales were up for all truck classes, and Class 8 sales rose 33 percent from a year ago, according to a National Truck Equipment Association report. Heavy-duty truck production jumped 51 percent in December and nearly 30 percent in January.

“A rebound in the heavy truck market is just around the corner,” said Global Insight, a company that provides economic analysis, in a January report. Sales and orders have improved, motor carrier business is expanding, and 2004-2005 is expected to be a good period for NAFTA economies. Carriers will need to replace older trucks, and some will expand fleets.

Global Insight predicts U.S. heavy truck sales will increase to 180,000-190,000 units this year and 240,000-250,000 units in 2005.

In its first quarter report this year, Navistar International Corp. increased its forecast for 2004 total industry sales in the United States and Canada. Navistar expects heavy truck sales to increase to 208,000 units this year. In December, it had estimated sales of 191,000.
The company recently announced plans to double in size, which includes a $150 million capital investment to introduce a new Class 8 truck.

“This is one of the first notable steps in our goal to reach $15 billion in sales and revenues,” said Daniel C. Ustian, Navistar chairman and president. “We expect this product to be as revolutionary as our new 7000 and 8000 models have been and to make clear our intention to be the product leader.” The new truck is scheduled to be introduced in 2007.

Volvo Trucks reported Feb. 19 that truck deliveries to date this year increased 5 percent for Mack Trucks and 19 percent for Volvo Trucks over last year. In May, Volvo will add a second shift to its Dublin, Va., plant, which serves the North American market. Volvo stated it had “very strong deliveries in North and South America” from the end of 2003 through January 2004.

Mark Pigott, chairman and chief executive officer of Paccar, which produces Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, estimated in a Feb. 2 financial statement that “the North American Class 8 truck market will improve 10-15 percent in 2004 as customers replace aging trucks and benefit from a gradual economic recovery.”