Production of Heavy Duty Class 8 trucks in the USA, which was originally projected to be off record highs from 2019 by 30 per cent, will be in free fall with manufacturing plants closing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Research, suggested estimated 2020 production of new prime movers and trucks at around 224,000 as recently as February, but since then the estimate dropped to 209,000 earlier in March. Most recent projection is 170,000, based on expectations of a U-shaped economic recession. However this estimate may not be low enough according to Kenny Vieth, senior market analyst at US industrial research company, ACT Research.
Vieth says forecasts were now modelling an L-shaped recession, in which a dramatic drop would result in lower demand without a return to higher production levels as opposed to the U-shaped recession model that produced the 170,000-unit estimate which would see a steep drop in the second quarter followed by a nearly equally strong rebound in the fourth quarter.
In the last four US economic recessions, dating back to 1979-1982, peak-to-trough production was 52 per cent-53 per cent, Vieth said.
“As a rule of thumb, each one percentage point increase or decrease in the gross domestic product [GDP] equals 10,000 trucks above or below replacement demand in the USA,” Vieth said.
Based on a projected 15 per cent drop in GDP in the second quarter, the industry would shed thousands of units, most of which would not be recovered in the near term.
“The US truck industry built so much capacity in 2019 and this helped burn through inventory to get the market to equilibrium, but it’s hard to do when no one is ordering new trucks,” Vieth said. “It’s a good time to take a stay-cation.”
As of last week, no U.S. Class 8 production had been cancelled. In Pennsylvania, where Mack Trucks builds all of its highway and off-highway models for North America, state officials considered ordering all non-essential businesses to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Given where the industry is with inventory, it is hard to see production of heavy-duty trucks as an essential business,” Vieth said.
In Europe, TRATON Group’s Scania subsidiary said it was halting production. TRATON parent Volkswagen AG said it would stop producing cars in Europe. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Toyota unit followed suit.
A spokeswoman for industry leader Daimler Trucks North America said last week that “it’s hour by hour at this point.”
Volvo Group said its Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) and Mack assembly plants in Virginia and Pennsylvania were running, along with its engine plant in Maryland. A new Mack facility in Virginia where it plans to build the MD Series of midsize trucks has not started production yet.
AB Volvo in Sweden issued a profit warning because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Detroit-based carmakers were shutting down production following discussions with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which demanded a two-week hiatus to stall the spread of coronavirus.