A grim year for tractor sales…
By Ian Marshall
FOR the UK tractor trade, 1998 will be remembered as its "annus horribilis".
According to the AEA, the total number of tractors of 40hp and above sold last year amounted to 9586 units – some 37.2% down on 1997 and the lowest level seen since registration data began to be collected in the early 1960s.
Unlike 1997, when the main damage occurred in the second half of the year, 1998 sales started low and remained depressed.
In spite of a morale-boosting rise in August with its new S registration, by September, sales continued to run at about 40% below last year, evaporating any hope of staying in touch with 1997s total of 15,272 units.
Even so, UK tractor manufacturers get some solace, when taking a global view, in knowing they hold their own as one of Europes major suppliers.
Tractor exports for the first nine months of 1998 stood at £761m, unchanged on 1997.
But what of 1999? Tractor sales will continue at a low level, says the AEA, with the trade anticipating a modest increase to 10,000-10,500 units – about 10% down on 1998.
And with the introduction of twice-yearly vehicle age identification next year – March and September – there may well be a change in buying patterns, as farmers look to maximise the secondhand value of their machinery.
"If farmers do not need a tractor in the early part of the year they may well wait until the first registration in March, which may have an effect on January and February sales," explained a spokesman for the AEA.
"A similar situation regarding August sales figures may occur in September, the second new registration month."