Automotive Industry and Markets

The situation for commercial vehicles, trailers, bodies and buses

Commercial vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, and offer solutions to every transportation task.

Heavy commercial vehicles

The global market for heavy-duty commercial vehicles over 6 tonnes grew strongly in 2017. A good 3.3 million trucks were sold worldwide, which was 16 percent up on 2016. The expansion was driven by the keen demand in China, although the markets in Europe, the US and India also recorded increases. In addition, Brazil and Russia returned to the growth zone.

Four out of ten heavy commercial vehicles around the world were sold in China. This took the Chinese market to a volume of 1.35 million vehicles. The year-on-year growth of 40 percent represented 384,000 additional units. The strong market development was due principally to the sales brought forward in anticipation of the nationwide introduction of the Chinese National Standard 5 in mid-year, and to stricter controls on overloading with the resulting additional demand for heavy trucks. In India, too, sales of heavy commercial vehicles increased markedly in 2017. There the market expanded by 13 percent to reach 295,000 trucks.

After two years of double-digit growth, new registrations in Western Europe added 2 percent last year, totaling 291,000 heavy-duty commercial vehicles. This is the highest figure since 2008. Among the large volume markets, the strongest growth rates were seen in Italy (+8 percent) and France (+7 percent). While the German market slightly exceeded its 2016 result (+0.3 percent), the Spanish market recorded a tiny contraction (-0.4 percent). The market in the United Kingdom lost rather more ground (-3 percent); despite positive developments in the first half-year, the final result fell further and further short of the previous year’s level.

The US truck market picked up a lot of speed in the second half of 2017, which made up for losses at the beginning of the year. The market finished the year with a rise of 4 percent, on 415,000 heavy trucks sold. The heavy-duty segment over 15 tonnes in particular put in a final growth spurt.

Last year the Brazilian truck market began consolidating at a low level. Following three years of double-digit contraction, new registrations increased by 3 percent to 48,000 units. This is still less than one third of the record result in 2011. Recovery was much speedier on the Russian market for heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which had also sustained marked losses in recent years. Here sales added nearly 50%.


After three years of double-digit growth, new registrations of commercial vehicles up to 6 tonnes in Western Europe expanded again in 2017, albeit more slowly. Last year 1.93 million vans were sold (+4 percent). The major drivers of this market development remain the boom in online sales and mail order, and the vans needed to deliver the goods to the customers’ homes. In addition, most of the fleets in southern Europe are still being renewed. With the exception of Italy (-4 percent to 195,100 units) all the individual markets in the southern part of Western Europe enjoyed double-figure growth. In France, the largest individual market, new registrations added 7 percent and rose to 439,500 units. Germany’s 276,100 vehicles set another new record (+4 percent). The Spanish market grew by 16 percent to 199,500 light commercial vehicles and overtook the Italian market (195,200 units). New registrations slumped only in the United Kingdom, falling 4 percent to 368,000 vans.


In 2017 the Western European market for buses over 3.5 tonnes was not quite able match its volume from the previous year – a total of 36,300 buses were registered (-3 percent). In Germany sales stagnated at around 6,700 vehicles (±0 percent). Over 80 percent of these registrations (5,600 units) were of buses over 8 tonnes. Here above all the deregulation of the long-distance bus market in 2013 helped push demand to a high level. Growth is continuing in this young sector as the network of services is expanded further. Increasing quality requirements for local public transport and tighter emission and environmental standards require continual fleet replacement, and this effect was also seen in new registrations in other Western European countries last year.

Markets for trailers and bodies

In 2017 the German manufacturers of trailers and bodies once again benefited from the economic recovery in the EU and the growth on the commercial vehicle markets.

Last year sales of trailers exceeded 300,000 units for the first time. New registrations rose by a good 4 percent to 306,900 trailers. Demand for semi-trailers showed especially dynamic growth of 6 percent and rose to 36,400 units.

The companies in this manufacturer group can also look back on a successful year as measured by turnover. Their revenue hit a new record level. Compared with 2017, overall turnover added nearly 5 percent to reach 11.8 billion euros. The firms set new records both in Germany and abroad. Domestic turnover increased by 6 percent, totaling 5.9 billion euros, while revenues from exports showed slightly less growth of 3 percent and reached almost 6 billion euros. Domestic turnover actually set a new record. This reflects the increasingly international nature and international competitiveness of German makers of trailers and bodies, who are often niche manufacturers. Turnover in business outside the euro zone expanded especially strongly, rising by 8 percent to around 2.9 billion euros. The 3.1 billion euros of revenue within the euro zone narrowly failed to match the 2016 result (-1 percent).

The healthy business development for trailer and body manufacturers also boosted the regular workforces at their facilities in Germany. The annual average for 2017 was 35,200 employees. This was an increase over the previous year of 2 percent, or 600 employees, and took employment in this manufacturer group to its highest level since 2004.

Eckehart Rotter
Eckehart Rotter Head of Department Press

Tel: +49 30 897842-120 Fax: +49 30 897842-603
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