CLEAR International anticipates a 'significant' fall in European trailer demand in 2023, dropping below the level of 2021.

European trailer market set for decline: CLEAR International

Nov. 29, 2022
The war in Ukraine will result in at least a technical recession in many European countries, leading to a larger decline in trailer demand in 2023

While the threat posed by COVID-19 has declined, the war in Ukraine and the cost of energy plus general price inflation have replaced the virus as the principal threats to growth in trailer demand, according to the forecast for the West European heavy trailer market by CLEAR International.

Nevertheless, the coming winter may lead to increases in influenza and COVID cases, the market tracking firm notes.

And economic forecasts for countries in Western Europe have already taken a hit. As a result, the forecasts for trailer demand in 2023 and subsequent years have been scaled back by over 4,000 units. In contrast, the outlook for 2022 has improved as the year progressed, with West European trailer demand remaining somewhat insulated from the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Economic forecasts for 2023 have been downgraded in every country, the “most significant change” since the last forecast in May, though the impact on the 2024-26 period will be “less pronounced,” noted Gary Beecroft, CLEAR director. 

“A slowdown in trailer demand in 2023 was forecast over two years ago,” Beecroft said. “However, the war in Ukraine will result in at least a technical recession in many European countries. Inevitably this will lead to a larger decline in trailer demand in 2023, and to a lesser extent, in subsequent years.”

Similar to the challenges in the U.S. trailer market, increased costs caused by high inflation combined with some continued problems with sourcing vehicle parts are making manufacturing difficult. A European war plus a difficult economic situation “cannot help but dent business confidence” and reduce companies’ willingness to invest in new transport equipment, the report continues.

CLEAR anticipates 6.7% growth of trailer demand by the end of 2022. Considering the issues faced by the industry, this would be “a reasonable outcome.” However, a significant fall in demand is assured in 2023, dropping trailer demand below the level of 2021. 

Subsequent growth in the forecast period will eventually bring the sales level back to that of 2019, but not until 2025.

Production of trailers was at the third highest level on record in 2018 (though well short of the 2007 figure). The total fall in registrations from 2018 to 2020 was 23% and the fall in production was 32%, partly due to a large fall in German trailer exports, according to the CLEAR report.

There will be a decline in exports of trailers to Eastern Europe affecting 2022 and 2023 as well. This will have a disproportionate impact on German trailer builders who are the largest exporters. During the forecast period, production will recover to the level of 2019.

The forecast period from 2022 to 2026 will be a time of declining replacement demand for trailers, a result of low trailer registrations in the 2009 to 2014 period, per the report. Therefore, the forecast growth in trailer demand will call for significant levels of investment in new trailers over and above the replacement level.

The report outlines when, where and how quickly the trailer market will develop through to 2026.

The West European Trailer Market Report (November 2022), with forecasts to 2026, can be obtained from CLEAR using the contact details below.  A new report for the East European market was issued in October 2022.  A Global Trailer Market Database is also available and was updated in August 2022.

The European market reports and forecasts can be obtained from CLEAR by contacting Gary Beecroft by email at [email protected] or telephone at +44 20 8892 8379. A Global Trailer Market Database is also available.

CLEAR International is a consulting group working with companies active in automotive and transport markets.