Automotive Industry and Markets

The situation for commercial vehicles, trailers, bodies and buses

Commercial vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, and offer solutions to every transportation task.

Heavy commercial vehicles

The world market for heavy commercial vehicles over 6 metric tons grew strongly in 2017. Global sales of trucks were all of 3.3 million. That was a 16 percent increase on 2016. The growth was driven by strong demand in China but markets in Europe, the USA and in India also posted growth. Brazil and Russia also resumed a growth trajectory.

Four in every ten commercial vehicles worldwide were sold in China with the commercial vehicle market there reaching a volume of 1.35 million vehicles. The 40 percent increase on the year before translates to 384,000 units. The strong market growth is primarily attributable to the advance purchase effect to do with the introduction nationwide in China of the China National Stage 5 Emission Standard in the middle of the year. There was also a significant tightening up of checks to prevent overloading, which triggered additional demand for heavy trucks. India also saw a significant increase in heavy truck sales in 2017. The market grew by 13 percent to 295,000 trucks.

After two years of double-digit growth, new registrations in Western Europe last year were up only 2 percent to 291,000 heavy commercial vehicles. That is the highest level since 2008. Italy (plus 8 percent) and France (plus 7 percent) enjoyed the strongest growth among the volume markets. Whereas the German market slightly outperformed the previous year’s level (plus 0.3 percent), the Spanish market minimally undershot it (minus 0.4 percent). The market in the United Kingdom contracted more markedly (minus 3 percent).

The US truck market in the second half of 2017 picked up significantly, offsetting the first-half losses. The net effect was market growth of 4 percent, with 415,000 new heavy truck registrations. The Heavy Duty Segment above 15 metric tons was particularly dynamic.

The Brazilian truck market in 2017 is bottoming out at a low level. After three years of double-digit falls, new registrations rose 3 percent to 48,000 units. That is less than one third of the record level of 2011. The recovery in the Russian market for heavy commercial vehicles, which had also contracted sharply in recent years, was significantly more dynamic. Sales increased here by almost half.


After three years of double-digit growth rates, the dynamism of the West European van market flagged somewhat. The past year saw sales of 1.93 million light commercial vehicles under 6 metric tons (plus 4 percent). However, the boom in online and mail order sales remains a long-term trend. It ensures an enduring need for new vans for home delivery. In addition, the replacement of the vehicle fleet in southern Europe largely continued. With the exception of Italy (minus 4 percent to 195,100 units) all individual southern European markets posted double-digit growth. In France, the largest single market, new registrations increased by 7 percent to 439,500 units. With 276,100 vehicles, Germany once again posted a new record (plus 4 percent). The Spanish market grew by 16 percent to 199,500 light commercial vehicles, overtaking the Italian market in the process. The United Kingdom was the only market in which new registrations fell, by 4 percent to 368,000 vans.


The West European market for buses over 3.5 metric tons fell just short of its previous year’s volume. Some 36,300 new buses were registered (minus 3 percent). Sales in Germany stagnated with around 6,700 vehicles. Over 80 percent of registrations (5,600 units) were for buses over 8 metric tons. Demand from the long-distance bus market, which was liberalized in 2013, is sustaining the bus market in Germany at a higher level. Growth in the still young industry continues and service routes are being expanded further. Rising quality requirements, coupled with higher emissions and environmental standards, will continue to encourage the continuous updating of the fleet.

Markets for trailers and bodies

German trailer and body manufacturers were again able to profit from the economic recovery in the EU and growth in commercial vehicle markets in 2017.

In 2017 trailer sales in Germany exceeded the 300,000 mark for towed units for the first time. New registrations increased by a good 4 percent to 306,900 million trailers. Within this figure, the demand for semitrailers, with a 6 percent increase to 36,400 units, was particularly dynamic.

Measured by sales, trailer manufacturers can also look back on a successful year. Revenues reached a new high. Total sales increased by almost 5 percent year on year to 11.8 billion euros. Domestic sales grew particularly strongly, by 6 percent to 5.9 billion euros. But export revenues just edged it, with 6 billion euros. This reflects the German trailer manufacturers’ strong international competitiveness. This sound business performance by manufacturers of trailers and bodies also had a positive effect on the permanent workforces of factories in Germany. Their annual average employee headcount in 2017 was 35,200, or 2 percent higher employment than the year before. This is the highest employment level since 2004.

Eckehart Rotter
Eckehart Rotter Speaker

Tel: +49 30 897842-128 Fax: +49 30 897842-603
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