It had been thought that the European market for heavy-goods vehicle trailers would take a breather in 2006, but helped by a buoyant German market in the first half of the year, a new sales record of 138,000 will be set for the seven largest economies, or 168,000 units for Western Europe as a whole.
That’s the word from CLEAR, a consulting group working with companies active in automotive markets.
Economic forecasts for GDP, and in particular, investment growth, have varied: Germany is looking stronger but Italy's economy has weakened and its trailer market has suffered. As the trailer-replacement cycle is on a downturn, CLEAR believes “it is slightly surprising that the market is performing as robustly as it is. One important support factor is the inclusion of the new East European markets in the EU, which is giving a boost to international transport and vehicle demand.”
Looking forward, 2007 to 2009 are forecast to be record years by CLEAR, but with lower growth levels than in either the late 1980s or 1990s.
According to Gary Beecroft, Managing Director of CLEAR, "Outside of France and Italy, which both have their problems, the industry seems confident, at least as far as sales are concerned. However, the problem of low margins, caused by rising costs and static prices, remains."
At a conference in Frankfurt last week, it seemed clear that the industry intends to push for bigger vehicles on the road as a solution to both traffic congestion and emissions. There will likely be some announcements at the IAA Trade Fair in Hanover in September.
Trailer manufacturers are proposing an 82-foot vehicle combination as the future for Europe's crowded roads. It features a truck pulling two trailers - two of these combinations could replace three existing trucks, thereby reducing traffic congestion. Trucks like this are already used in Sweden and parts of the Netherlands near Rotterdam.