2017‑2021 trailer demand could set five-year record

Following the news that West European economies have had their forecasts for economic growth downgraded for 2019/20, analysts have concluded that suggestions of a slowdown in demand for trailers in the region during 2019 are likely to be correct.

However, according to analysts at Clear, the forecast for 2018 is an increase in trailer demand of 2.7 per cent. Although six of the 15 West European countries will see small declines in trailer registrations – they opine – the remaining nine will see some growth, with first half of the year being much stronger than the second.

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 ‑20 per cent. Often the size in the decline in 2019 will be in proportion to the increase in the market in 2017/18.

Clear has forecast a cyclical slowdown (but not a recession) in European economies for some years. The catch-up demand that has been pushing the trailer market is now over. The trailer parc is fully replenished despite the fact that road transport demand has yet to return to 2006 (pre-global financial crisis) levels. Furthermore, it is nine years since the decimation of the trailer market in 2009 and the market has never gone 10 years without a slowdown or worse.

Clear also believes it is likely that trailer demand will fall in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared with Q42017 heralding lower sales in 2019 as a whole. Nine out of 15 markets are currently forecast lower in Q42018. This scenario is supported by weakening heavy truck demand at the end of 2018.

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 in 2018 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.

According to Clear, the main changes to this forecast are that the outlook for trailer registrations in 2018 for France and the UK has improved whereas for Spain and Portugal it has declined.

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