2017 – 2021 trailer registration growth forecast higher than any 5-year period ever

The UK not expected to follow growth trend

Clear International has just issued its latest forecast for the West European Trailer Market, which suggests that trailer registrations between 2017 and 2021 will grow at a faster five-year period than any other on record.

Since the last report there has been a further improvement in the short term outlook for some West European economies. As a consequence, the forecast of a slowdown in demand for trailers in the region during 2018 has changed.

Instead of demand dropping by approximately 4 per cent in 2018 an increase in demand of 1 per cent is now forecast. Although seven of the 15 West European countries will see small declines in trailer registrations the remaining eight will see some growth particularly in the first half of the year.

Nevertheless, Clear still expects a 10 per cent fall in trailer demand in 2019 with a wide variation across the countries of region from -2 per cent to 22 per cent. Often the size in the decline in 2019 will be in proportion to the increase in the market in 2017/18. The most obvious exception will be the UK which will have a shrinking market in all three years.

Given that the economic outlook for Europe continues to improve, why is the trailer market forecast down in 2019? The catch up demand that has been pushing the market is now over. The trailer parc is fully replenished despite the fact that road transport demand has yet to return to 2006 (pre-GFC) levels. Furthermore it is nine years since the decimation of the trailer market in 2009 and the market has never gone ten years without a slowdown.

In addition, trailer demand will reach a very high level in 2018, only rivalled by 2007 and 2008, both these years having had an unnaturally high level of trailer sales largely brought on by the number of countries that joined the EU in 2004-07. All these factors point to a fall in demand for new trailers. Fortunately for the industry, the fall will be relatively modest and short-lived.

So should the industry be panicking over the forecast fall in the market? Arguably not. From 2017-21 trailer registrations are forecast to be higher than any five year period in history, even though that will include 2019 when demand is forecast weaker. The previous record breaking five year period was from 2004-08.

Not only will registration set a new record during the forecast period but trailer production will achieve the same result. The industry is therefore facing both high levels of output and relative stability in what is traditionally a volatile sector of the vehicle market.

The outcome of these changes is that over 30,000 trailers have been added to the forecast during the 2018-22 period, more than half of that number in 2018/19. Most of these extra trailers added to the forecast will be sold in Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium. Ireland is likely to feel the negative impact of the UK Brexit in the short term.

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