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W. European trailer forecast downgraded

June 13, 2024
Trailer registrations were even weaker than previously forecast in the first three months of the year—particularly in March, according to CLEAR International

Economic forecasts for countries in Western Europe remain pessimistic for 2024, so the trailer demand outlook in this and subsequent years have been downgraded, but only slightly, according to CLEAR International’s June 2024 forecast for the West European Heavy Trailer Market.

There is likely to be a general lack of GDP and investment growth in the first half of the year, but there is “reasonable hope” for an upturn in the second half, the report noted.

A positive development is the announcement on June 6 of a cut in interest rates by the European Central Bank (ECB). The main rate is down 0.25% to 4.25%. Other countries not in the eurozone that have also cut rates are Canada, Sweden and Switzerland.

However, trailer registrations were even weaker than previously forecast in the first three months of the year—particularly in March. As a result the forecasts for trailer demand in 2024 and subsequent years have been downgraded, but only slightly. Registrations were up marginally in April.

Following a 10.9% fall in trailer demand in 2023 and a much smaller fall in 2024, growth in the forecast period will bring the sales level close to that of 2022 by 2025. 2025 is expected to be more positive in terms of both the West European economy and trailer registration growth.

CLEAR suggests that most published economic forecasts for 2024 are excessively gloomy, with a stronger bounce back from the lows of 2023 likely, though the economic outlook for Germany in 2024 is noticeably weaker than other counties at the moment.

By way of background, 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.

After a strong production recovery in 2021/22, output has now been flung into reverse. Not only are West European registrations still 11% below the level of the first half of 2023, but in addition, the large numbers of West European trailers that were previously exported to Russia (and Belarus) have been severely cut back, according to CLEAR.

Instead, most of the trucks now sold in Russia are thought to be supplied from China. In addition China has huge capacity for the manufacture of trailers and can easily supply demand previously met from elsewhere in Europe.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that West European trailer output is being severely cut back as a consequence in 2024. This particularly affects large exporters in Germany and elsewhere.

A European and a Middle Eastern war plus a difficult economic situation, a lack of business confidence, low replacement demand for trailers and lower road transport demand which fell by 3.2% in 2023 (almost as much as the covid-19 year of 2020), cannot help but dent business confidence and impair companies’ willingness to invest in new transport equipment.

“Trailer market sales for 2024 will be slightly lower than the previous forecast but production will be more seriously affected,” said Gary Beecroft, managing director of CLEAR International.

This report outlines when, where and how quickly the trailer market will develop through to 2028.

The West European Trailer Market Report (June 2024), with forecasts to 2028, can be obtained from CLEAR by contacting Gary Beecroft by email at [email protected]. A new report for the East European market was issued in April 2024. A Global Trailer Market Database is also available from the consulting group.