September truck sales break 13 year U.S. record

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Preliminary U.S. Class 8 truck retail sales totaled 28,200 units last month, according to FTR – 4% higher than the previous record from December 2006. Sales were up 20% month-over-month and 20% year-over-year with all OEMs reporting robust activity for the month.

Sales had been strong for the previous five months and September was expected to be similar, but FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake said last month should be considered a fluke as fleets delayed taking some deliveries during the summer and the sales all closed in September.

“It will be a much tighter market going forward as fleet expansion slows due to the weaker freight environment,” Ake added. “The market is slipping back to replacement level, but fleets are still profitable, so this should stabilize sales.”

The record activity was a surprise, even more so with fewer sales days in the month. 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.