Editor's Comment: Yellow Table results

12 April 2012

International Construction editor Chris Sleight.

International Construction editor Chris Sleight.

This year's Yellow Table highlights a few interesting changes in the construction equipment industry, with many of the European and US-focussed manufacturers making a comeback after several years in the doldrums. In contrast, as the Chinese construction sector came off the boil last year, the seemingly unstoppable rise up the rankings of the country's equipment manufacturers slowed (but did not reverse).

Moves up the table for 'old name' long-line manufacturers like Volvo, Terex, John Deere, JCB and CNH seem to stem from the robust growth reported in Europe and North America in 2011 by Off-Highway Research.

It is interesting to compare the results of the Yellow Table and Off-Highway Research's latest data further. For example, the specialist consultant says the equipment market in four major territories grew +16.7% in unit terms last year. Findings from the Yellow Table meanwhile point to a +25% increase in the industry in US Dollar terms. Although the two studies do not measure exactly the same aspects of the industry, the gap could be explained by an average price rise of about 7.5% last year.

There could be many reasons for this. One is of course the simple effect of inflation in the industry. Another possibility is that because a lot of 2011's growth came from developed markets, you would expect more expensive machines with more sophisticated engines, features and options to have been sold.

Another key finding form this year's Yellow Table is the relatively lacklustre growth of the hitherto red-hot Chinese construction equipment industry. Granted, both Sany and Zoomlion made gains inside the global top 10, but there were none of the great leaps up the table that we've seen in recent years. Of the ten Chinese companies in the Yellow table, only half improved their standings compared to last year, and they only moved up a place or two.

Compare that to the 2010 edition of the Yellow Table (based on 2009 revenues), where the Chinese manufacturers' market share went up by some +60% and all ten manufacturers charged up the table. Some of them, like Zoomlion, Lonking and Shantui, enjoyed rises of 10 places or more that year.

So last year was pretty lacklustre by the standards we've come to expect, due to a domestic market that grew by just +7% in 2011 according to Off-Highway Research. Having said that, the share of the top 50 revenues enjoyed by the Chinese manufacturers grew again for the sixth consecutive year to 16.9%, from 15% in last year's rankings. It is not inconceivable that they could overtake Japan (23.2% share of revenues) in the coming years to be second only to the US in the global standings.

It will be fascinating to see how the Yellow Table shapes up in a year's time. Off-Highway Research forecasts a -5% decline in the Chinese market this year, which would be the first real recession that market has seen in a decade or more. In contrast, Europe is expected to be flat and moderate growth is forecast in North America. This would tend to favour US manufacturers, while it will be difficult for China's major players to keep moving up the global rankings in the face of a falling domestic market.

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