Commercial vehicles

    Covid crisis exacerbates decline in new registrations of heavy commercial vehicles

    In 2020 new registartions of heavy commercial vehicles slumped across the entire European continent compared to the previous year. The market is slowly recovering.

    In 2020 new registartions of heavy commercial vehicles slumped across the entire European continent compared to the previous year. The market is slowly recovering.

    Heavy commercial vehicles: Covid crisis exacerbates decline

    In the Western European market for heavy trucks of over six tons, the covid crisis furthered a broad-based cyclical downturn that had already began in the second half of 2019. In 2020, new truck registrations fell by just over a quarter (-26%) compared with 2019, to 228,200 vehicles. This was the lowest figure in the market since 2014, although it should be noted that in 2019 the market had reached its highest level since 2008, with over 300,000 new trucks registered. The overall decline in 2020 as a whole was thus less than was feared during the second quarter, when truck sales plunged by more than half (-55%). Lockdowns, manufacturing shutdowns, and border closures affecting freight traffic did the rest. Demand then returned to normal in the remaining quarters (Q3 2020: -2%; Q4 2020: -5%).

    All major Western European markets saw a double-figure decline in sales in 2020. The United Kingdom suffered the most significant slump, down by about one-third (-32%), to 32,900 new registrations. The markets in Germany (-25%, to 68,200 trucks), France (-24%, to 41,000 vehicles) and Spain (-23%, to 18,400 units) each fell by around a quarter. Italy saw the smallest drop in sales, down 12% to 18,800 vehicles, so that Italy replaced Spain as the fourth largest market in Western Europe in 2020.

    Heavy commercial vehicles in Germany: Around one quarter decline

    In Germany, a total of 68,200 new heavy commercial vehicles over 6 tons were registered in 2020. The market thus shrank by 25%, or 23,300 trucks, compared with the previous year. It should be noted that 2019 saw the highest sales volume since 2008, with 91,400 heavy trucks. However, there was an extremely high demand for trucks in the first half of 2019, followed by a downturn in the procurement cycle during the second half of the year. This high previous-year level, along with the coronavirus crisis, is one significant reason for the significant declines of 24 and 52% in the first two quarters of 2020. The market normalized somewhat at the beginning of the second half of 2020, with a single-figure decline of 9%. In the final quarter of 2020, the German truck market had just about returned to the level of the previous-year period (-1%).

    Broken down by weight class, 2020 showed fairly uniform developments. At 17,800 vehicles, sales in the medium-weight segment of between 6 and 16 tons were 24% below the previous year's level. The segment above 16 tons saw a decline of 26%, corresponding to 50,300 new trucks registered. This meant that the heavy-duty segment over 16 tons had a 74% share of the German market for heavy commercial vehicles over 6 tons. This meant it was thus above the corresponding figure in the USA (48%) and well below the figure in China (91%).

    Truckers did not have to dig as deeply into their pockets at the gas pumps in Germany in 2020. At 1.11 euros, the annual average price of a liter of diesel was a good 15 cents, or 12% lower than in the previous year. Over the course of the year, the price of diesel reached its lowest level in October, averaging 1.04 euros.

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