SA will finally get the new Mercedes Actros range — which was first revealed way back in 2012 — in 2018. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
SA will finally get the new Mercedes Actros range — which was first revealed way back in 2012 — in 2018. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

The commercial truck and bus market showed significant declines in April, reflecting the limited number of business days due to a number of public holidays.

Only the extra-heavy segment showed a positive figure with growth of 20.70% but this excludes a big decline in extra-heavy sales for Mercedes-Benz of 28.10% ahead of the long-awaited introduction in May of the latest generation Actros.

The medium commercial segment was down 12.10%, again with a big drop for Mercedes of 15.10%.

Heavy commercial sales also declined 5.30% but this figure is far worse when you take into account the 32.60% drop in Mercedes sales for April compared with April 2017. The bus segment was down 37.70% but Mercedes actually showed positive growth here, albeit with only 13 vehicles at 18.20%.

This ensured that April added to the decline for the year to date, with the medium segment down 12.9% and heavy truck sales down 13% excluding a 36.20% drop for Mercedes. The extra-heavy market excluding the non-reporting Mercedes-Benz is up 9% for 2018 so far but this figure does not reflect Mercedes’ drop of 21.8%. Buses are also down for the year at 7.3% but Mercedes is up 19.6%.

Overall Volvo Group was the biggest winner in April with sales across the segments it operates in of 349 vehicles. The group also had the biggest selling vehicle in the extra-heavy market with 141 units of its Volvo FH being recorded.

Toyota was the second biggest seller in the market with 305 units, although this included the Toyota Dyna, which was moved into the light commercial segment in 2017 when the company removed 50kg of weight to move it out of the medium segment and avoid having to fit mandatory speed limiters to its vehicles. Toyota was also the biggest seller in the heavy market with sales of 85 Hino 500 Series models.

In the medium segment the biggest player was Isuzu Motors, which sold 146 units of its N-Series trucks in April as part of its overall tally of 239 vehicles.

Big news this month is the much-delayed arrival of the latest Mercedes Actros which we first saw at its reveal in Brussels five years ago. SA’s fuel quality has always been cited as a big reason for the delay which given traditional automotive life cycles could see the Actros arrive here with a facelift imminent.

While there seems little chance of the Tesla Semi arriving in SA, it is a topic of discussion at the moment. However, with Tesla making a loss of more than $700m in Q1 alone it is questionable whether the company will get its all-electric Semi to market in the US in 2019 as promised. There is currently no production facility for the model and to make things worse for Tesla, it is being sued by another electric truck company, Nikola Corporation, for $2bn after that company claimed Tesla stole its designs. Ironically of course, both companies are named after Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the alternating current.

More news that could have an impact on the South African market is that Europe is finalising CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. From 2019 all European manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles will have to declare the exhaust emissions of their vehicles. The legislation is currently under discussion, with the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) pushing for realistic targets including a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025.

To achieve this and meet any longer term targets, manufacturers will have to introduce more technology to engines which could impact on the models chosen for the South African market. Again, SA is in danger of falling behind if it does not tackle the vast technology gap between many of the trucks and buses sold in the country and those manufactured for the rest of the world.