ECONOMIC WATCH: Covid-19 tightens grip on economy, commercial vehicle demand

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in freefalling GDP assumptions, and by extension freight volumes, carrier profits, and expectations for commercial vehicle demand, ACT Research reported in its North American Commercial Vehicle Outlook.

“As we’ve worked to get our heads around the deterioration in economic conditions, we released two preliminary forecast updates between the March and April OUTLOOK reports,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “Our expectations just one month ago for U.S. and Canadian economic activity were modestly positive, with growth marked down to around 1%; that has changed significantly now, as we’ve seen and continue to see state shutdowns essentially covering the U.S., and many of the ‘to-mid-April’ shutdowns now being extended to the end of April and beyond.”

Vieth added, “With shutdown orders in key supplier states, as well as across Mexico, the supply chain is so fragmented at this juncture that it would be difficult for the OEMs to assemble vehicles beyond the parts that were in the pipeline when the industry stopped production.”

Vieth said equipment dealers will act to lean their inventories as early as possible in 2020, “as this is not a time for them to have oversized floorplans.”

Regarding NA commercial vehicle demand, Vieth added, “I can tell you that the underlying fundamentals in the medium-duty market have come under direct attack from Covid-19, which is aimed directly at the consumer portion of the economy. And while the forecasts for Class 8 and trailers have been set meaningfully lower, the trajectory of the cycle generally is unchanged.”

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