2018: Boom times for the big boys

By: Steve Brooks

Record results in a record year: That’s how 2018 will likely be remembered by truck suppliers across the length and breadth of the country. Yet while some are justifiably jubilant, others may well remember the year with pangs of regret and remorse for opportunities lost

2018: Boom times for the big boys
Kenworth T610. Huge acceptance in 2018


There has never been a bigger year for truck sales than 2018 and specifically, never a better year for suppliers of heavy-duty trucks.

In fact, the 2018 Australian truck market saw a staggering, if not bewildering, 14,344 new heavy-duty units delivered to operators around the country - everything from six-wheeler and eight-wheeler ‘round-town rigids to big bangers pulling roadtrains through the back of beyond.

Most remarkable, though, the heavy-duty sector actually outsold both the light and medium-duty categories which contributed 13,129 and 8,210 units respectively.

All up, 35,683 trucks were delivered across light, medium and heavy-duty categories.

Predictably, Isuzu was the overall market leader for the 30th year in succession, followed by perennial bridesmaids Hino and Fuso.

Among record results by many brands in 2018, none were greater than Isuzu’s breaching of the 10,000 barrier for the first time, delivering a total of 10,027 units across the three weight divisions.

Read Isuzu's reaction to three decades of market leadership, here

However, in the corporate contest for heavy-duty domination, the VGA triumvirate – Volvo, Mack, UD – retained leadership with 26.5 percent of the class, with Paccar’s Kenworth and DAF accumulating 23.9 percent. Third in the three-horse race for corporate ascendancy, Daimler’s Freightliner, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz trio gathered just 14.7 percent.

In individual rankings, it was Kenworth again topping the heavy-duty class. The Paccar flagship took 20.5 percent of the category, amassing its best ever figures with delivery of 2946 trucks.

Meanwhile, Kenworth stablemate DAF delivered a modest 492 heavy-duty and 33 medium-duty units.

In a record year for the big Swede, Volvo also cracked through the 2000 barrier, delivering 2138 trucks to capture 14.9 percent of the heavy-duty class.

Yet pushing ever closer and easily retaining third place in the category was Isuzu, notching 1858 units for a 13 percent stake.

A long way behind Isuzu’s heavy-duty haul were its Japanese rivals, though each wasn’t too far from the other. Hino, for instance, delivered 609 heavy-duty trucks, Fuso 598 and UD 535.

Well behind Isuzu in the heavy-duty rankings was Mack with 7.9 percent of the market on the strength of 1134 deliveries.

The only other heavy-duty contender to break the 1000-truck mark was Mercedes-Benz, scoring 1097 deliveries for a 7.6 percent slice as the new breed of Benz trucks continued to make significant inroads.

Second Half

Best of the ‘others’ in the heavy-duty class was Scania, with 6.2 percent of the category on the strength of 891 deliveries.

Simply put, particularly after a 2017 result which saw the brand reach 1000 trucks for the first time, 2018 was a year of lost opportunities for Scania Australia due to difficult supply issues from Europe.  

Meantime, Iveco can’t blame supply issues for its lack of achievement in 2018. Sure, the delivery of 631 heavy-duty trucks in 2018 was better than the previous year’s 558 units, but the brand’s slice of the heavy-duty category actually fell from 4.6 percent in 2017 to just 4.4 percent last year.

As for the performance of its International partner, a paltry 61 ProStars were delivered in 2018, equating to just 0.4 percent of the heavy-duty sector. Given the scant number, it appears neither Iveco nor International’s parent company, Navistar, are able to tap the truck’s true potential.

At least Iveco’s numbers were notably more positive in the light-duty and van sectors where the brand’s accumulated sales of Daily models was more than 1500 units. 

Further down the heavy-duty hierarchy was Freightliner, gathering just 2.9 percent of the category on the delivery of 412 units.

Freightliner is, however, largely in run-out mode. The Argosy cab-over is close to extinction, along with most of the current Century Class conventional models, as Freightliner’s local leaders clear the decks for the arrival late this year of the highly anticipated Cascadia.

Results for the Penske portfolio of MAN, Western Star and Dennis Eagle were markedly different. 

Buoyed by the ongoing delivery of military trucks, MAN improved marginally on its 2017 performance by delivering 520 units for a 3.6 percent slice of the heavy-duty business and a respectable 698 deliveries in the medium-duty market.

However, the results were nowhere near as good for that former favourite of the conventional class, Western Star. In fact, despite an absolute boom year for heavy-duty truck sales, Star’s numbers were marginally down – from 363 units in 2017 to just 349 in 2018, equating to a poor 2.4 percent stake of the heavy-duty market.

Hardly causing a blip on the radar was waste truck specialist Dennis Eagle with an underwhelming 57 sales.

Last on the heavy-duty ladder was Cat trucks with just 16 delivered, and perhaps finally bringing to an end arguably the most ill-conceived exercise ever concocted by two allegedly astute corporations, Caterpillar and Navistar.

So that was 2018. Will 2019 be better, worse, or simply a repeat performance?

In what is probably a wise message, the Truck Industry Council warns, ‘…history shows a definite cooling off in the lead-up to a Federal Election and judging by the downturn in sales in the final quarter of 2018, this trend seems sure to continue as Australia heads to a Federal Election around May.’

Whatever the market, though, the well-structured and well-managed brands will continue to excel while others will, it seems, simply exist.


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