Euro-zone debt crisis hitting trailer market

The uncertain economic outlook in Europe looks set to hit sales of heavy trailers in 2012. Demand for new trailers is now forecast to fall below the level of 2011, according to some market analysts. As a consequence the sales figure for 2012 will be 10,000 trailers less than was forecast in May this year.

The company behind the data, Clear, reports that here are two overriding factors driving this new forecast. The first is that business confidence is being undermined by the uncertainty as to whether one or more of the European economies is going to run into difficulty either paying its debts or selling government bonds to raise new finance. Secondly, every economy in Europe is now forecast to have lower levels of business investment in 2012 than was forecast at the beginning of the summer. A third factor is that some transport companies cannot finance trailer purchases at reasonable levels of interest as banks see transport companies as high risk.

According to Clear, these factors will be enough to choke off what was a promising recovery. Although there will only be a small fall in trailer demand, the forecast assumes that there will be no sovereign default on debt, other than that which we know about in Greece. Should further problems emerge in Italy, Spain, Portugal or (less likely) Ireland, then all bets would be off and we could see falls in the trailer market of 10 per cent or more, Clear representatives explain.

Looking further forward, Clear is optimistic about 2013/14. Gary Beecroft, managing director of Clear commented, “Trailer demand has been well below the long-term trend level since 2009. Even with a good level of growth in 2013/14 we will only just get back to trend at the end of 2014.”

In the meantime a backlog of replacement demand is building. Because the level of new trailer sales is still low, the trailer parc (fleet size) is both ageing and shrinking.

Context

77 per cent of goods in Europe are moved by road and most of that proportion is transported on a trailer pulled by a truck. The last severe downturn in the heavy goods trailer market was in 1993 – but 2009 was worse. In 92/93 the demand for trailers fell by 31 per cent or 37,000 trailers. In 2008/9 the fall was 51 per cent or 107,000 trailers. The fall in trailer production was worse as exports fell faster than domestic demand plus there was a massive destocking of finished vehicles.

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