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WA slump leads way for nation

The only truck issue worth noting in today’s State election is the resolute determination of the current Government to finish the Perth Freight Link and the Opposition’s just-Was-resolute determination to abandon it after polling day.

One way or another, later tonight the incomplete Roe Highway will know its fate.

In the meantime, the truck market here has led the way nationally for all the wrong reasons. During the course of this slump many solid, business-centred transport operators have stayed in the black but many have suffered badly and recognising well-known nameplates and sign-writing on trucks at the auctions is telling.

It reflects no one is immune from the consequences of economic forces, particularly where critical business practices such as credit management are unsound.

With all of that, it’s no wonder the WA market took a solid hit in 2016. The drop in the over-8000kg GVM heavy-duty sector was a whopping 24 per cent compared with 2015 and shifts in market share were just as significant.

In every other State, Kenworth dominates this end of the market but here it’s Phil Winkless’ Truck Centre WA standing out with the advanced FH16. More than one in five prime movers was a Volvo in 2016 — adding the Mack brand’s sales, Truck Centre WA delivered a quarter of the heavy-duty sales.

It didn’t seem to mean much so far this year though, as the Volvo/Mack partnership was outsold by Scania and nearly matched by Freightliner.

Scania is well ahead in the prime mover stakes this year.
Scania is well ahead in the prime mover stakes this year.

In 2015, Kenworth was fourth in market share behind Volvo, Isuzu and Scania; in 2016 it slipped back to fifth, with Freightliner joining the trio as a Kenworth beater.

The first two months of this year however have looked better for the US brand and its new T610 series due soon will no doubt make a difference.

Two other brands in particular have shrunk into insignificance recently. With Navistar committed to bringing the International brand back to Australia, the CAT Trucks people appear to be walking away from the retail market.

The move echoes Caterpillar ditching the on-highway engine business without notice a few years ago, forcing some major truck brands to scramble for engine replacements.

Western Star has also declined dramatically. Despite having one of the most savvy truck dealers in the State, the brand has delivered only two trucks in the last five months.

Meanwhile, Scania’s 19 per cent share in December is trumped by 29 per cent last month.

In the medium-duty sector, UD has had its best start to a year since I can remember, outselling Iveco, Fuso and MAN. Isuzu creamed it, again, with 55 per cent share.

Light duty wasn’t such a good place for the two major brands in February. They’re both well down on volume and share compared with last year, while the small players have inched up. Finally, light commercials were in retreat in February. Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi were the only ones among 20 manufacturers that improved on last year.

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