The commercial vehicle market in 2016 was a tug of war between gaining medium-duty and declining heavy-duty sales, according to analysis from IHS Markit. In 2017, however, medium-duty sales may be high enough to stabilize the commercial vehicle market. 

Class 3-7 medium-duty registrations in 2016 increased compared to the previous year, contrasting with the Class 8 market which declined throughout the year. This led to a decline overall in the commercial vehicle market last year. 

IHS expects the commercial vehicle market to stabilize in 2017, due primarily to gains in the medium-duty segment. With the medium-duty market set to grow again in 2017, gains in the Class 4-7 range could increase enough to offset expected softness in the heavy-duty end.

Combined Class 4-8 commercial truck sales are projected to settle in the range of 400,000 units for the year, virtually flat from 2016.

“The market for commercial vehicles in GVWs 3-8 has performed in line with IHS Markit expectations during the 2016 calendar year,” said Gary Meteer, director, commercial vehicle solutions for IHS Markit. “The decline in GVW 8 new registrations by large (501+) fleets was first identified during the middle of the 2015 calendar year and the subsequent decline continued throughout the 2016 calendar year.”

A large factor in the sales decline was that new commercial vehicle registrations were down among large fleets operating more than 501 vehicles. These large fleets registered 8.7% fewer new vehicles over an 11-month period in 2016 compared to the year before.

“These large fleets accounted for less than 40% of new GVW 8 registrations prior to the 2008 calendar year and reached a peak of over 50% during the 2011 calendar year,” said Meteer. “The recovery in GVW 8 new registrations will need renewed activity by these large fleets if the annual volume is to remain in the 225,000-250,000 unit range annually.”

Ford was the top-selling brand in the commercial vehicle market last year, with new registrations up 10% year-over-year as a result of strong performances in the Class 3-5 segments.

In the Class 8 market, Freightliner remained the segment leader with a 34.4% share, followed by Kenworth with a 14.9% share and Peterbilt with a 13.9% share, according to IHS Markit.

Regionally, sales were better in the West and Northeast U.S. last year, contrasting with declining sales in the South and Central regions of the country.