Medium duty trucks are seeing robust sales growth, especially at Ford and Navistar’s International brand even as some segments of the commercial vehicle market start to slow.
Sales of medium duty trucks – not including buses and recreational vehicles – for the first half of this year are running 14 percent ahead of the same period a year earlier, according to industry data.
“It will be a solid year for medium-duty as the broad-based economic growth and municipal spending due to tax growth have generated sales opportunities,” said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR Transportation Intelligence.
Although Congress and the Trump administration have failed to craft a federal infrastructure program, building is brisk at the state and local level, said Steve Gilligan, vice president of product marketing for Navistar.
Sales of Class 6 and 7 trucks – the medium duty segment – move in step with the economy. The big question is when will it slow down, Gilligan said.
“Construction, beverage and utility sales are up for us. We are up for leasing,” Gilligan said. “It looks to be a very good year for medium duty for us and for the industry.”
Much of the gain has come from sales of both Ford and International trucks, according to industry data and vehicle manufacturers.
Ford sold 9,131 F-650 and F-750 trucks during the first six months of this year. That’s up 53 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Those sales fueled a huge jump in market share for the Dearborn, Mich., automaker according to vehicle registration data for the first five months of 2019. Ford’s market share in the segment rose to 18.6 percent of the U.S. and Canadian market from 16 percent logged for all of 2018.
The automaker now trails only market leaders Freightliner and International in medium-duty truck share.
“Ford is going gangbusters with the 650s and 750s. It is selling a lot of trucks for landscaping, delivery and the beverage, moving and storage industries,” said Antti Lindstrom, an analyst with IHS Markit.
Ford equips its trucks with gasoline and diesel engine options and that’s helped sales, said Kevin Koester, Ford commercial truck brand manager.
“Gas gives us pretty good ingress into the segment if you don’t have a need for the durability and more miles at a higher load,” Koester said. It also shaves more than $9,000 off the price of a truck.
A gasoline engine, F-650 regular cab starts at $57,515. The diesel version starts at $66,880.
It is only truck maker to sell a vehicle with a gasoline engine in this segment.
Ford also has ramped up its network. Fewer than 100 Ford U.S. dealers serviced its medium duty trucks in 2015. Now more than 500 Ford dealers do so. And the number of dealers selling the trucks is up 25 percent year over year.
GAINING ON FREIGHTLINER
International also is making strong gains.
It is in second place after Freightliner with 26.1 percent of the U.S. and Canadian market for the first five months of this year, according to registration data. But it is gaining fast. For 2018 the International brand had a 23 percent share. Paccar’s Peterbilt and Kenworth brands are fourth with a combined 13.3 percent share. They are followed by Hino with 9.9 percent.
Much of Navistar’s growth at International has come from Freightliner. The Daimler Trucks division share of the market has dropped a full 3.1 percentage points to 30.9 percent.
Sales of the International’s new MV model are driving the growth.
The MV offers a choice of two Cummins engines, including a 6.7-liter six-cylinder that produces up to 360 horsepower and 750 pound-feet of torque. The 9-liter engine option has up to 350 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It can go up to 450 for fire and rescue applications.
The MV includes a proprietary electrical system called Diamond Logic, which allows buyers to add custom safety controls for their specific industries.
When Navistar launched the MV series in 2018 it focused on building the highest volume configurations. But now it has filled in building all the models used for niche markets, rounding out sales, Gilligan said.
Navistar wants the MV to enable the company to regain its former stature in the marketplace.
“Our hope is that we get back to parity if not ahead of Freightliner,” Gilligan said.