North American Class 8 retail sales ended the year on a good note, rising to a six-month high of 21,281 units, according to final numbers from ACT Research.

With December in the books, Class 8 truck orders for all of 2016 totaled 249,952 units while Class 8 production hit 228,347 units. ACT noted a seasonal weakness in production, with a  reduced December build amounting to only 14,145 units for the month.

Strong December sales and modest production reduced the industry’s inventory overhang by 6,300 units, bringing the full-year inventory correction to nearly 21,000 units. Last year ended with a 36-month low 44,865 inventory units.

“Going forward, the big inventory pulldown into the end of the year, and the full-year inventory correction, will allow industry production to more closely align itself with demand,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT Research president and senior analyst.

Thanks to school buses and recreational vehicles, the Class 5-7 truck market had a banner year for the second consecutive time, with December medium-duty orders rising above 20,000 units for only the second time since April. Net orders for the month totaled a nine-month high of 22,083 units.  While the consistency in medium-duty vehicle orders the past two years is almost unheard of, ACT Research expects to see the trend continue for 2017.

“Full-year 2016 saw orders fall 0.7% from 2015 to 229,403 units. School bus and RV orders were up incrementally in 2016, while trucks and step vans saw volumes fall incrementally,” said Vieth. “Given that consumer-related MD economic drivers remain largely unchanged, our expectations are for more of the same in terms of MD demand in 2017.”