In the report published in November 2023, Interact Analysis stated that “compared to the strong levels in 2022, in the forklift market new bookings in the first half of 2023 have decreased globally and in all major regions except China and India.” At that time, our forecast for the forklift market growth rate in 2023 was 4.8%, which is expected to decline to 3.4% in 2024.

Approaching March 2024, some interesting numbers are appearing in the market:

  1. According to statistics from the China Construction Machinery Association on major forklift manufacturing enterprises, sales reached 110,695 units in January 2024, a year-on-year increase of 90.4%. Among these were 72,263 domestic units, a year-on-year increase of 110%, while exports rose 62.4% year-on-year to 38,432 units (although this is due to the lower base compared with the same period of last year).
  2. Coincidentally, in the fourth quarter of 2023, order volumes in the North American market also saw a significant increase. The North American region experienced a historical peak in sales in 2023, particularly for counterbalance trucks, which saw sales surge by 52%.
  3. The European market: some external market factors, including ongoing geopolitical instability (as evidenced by recent tensions in the Red Sea), continue to bring significant uncertainty to the global economic outlook. Due to this and unusually high growth from 2020 to 2022, global market activity declined in 2023, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. However, there was still a mild recovery in the fourth quarter of last year.

Let’s take a look at the performance of major global forklift manufacturers in 2023:

Toyota: Growth rate in North America is much higher than overall. According to the public financial report, Toyota’s global shipments increased by 2.6% in 2023, while sales in North America surged by 28.6%. As the owner of nearly one-third of the North American market, Toyota’s growth rate is consistent with the performance of this market.

Jungheinrich: Demand for forklifts has fallen in the last nine months and in the third quarter of 2023 specific orders (units) declined noticeably both in comparison with the third quarter of 2022 and the previous quarter of 2023. Jungheinrich’s sales exceed 80% in the European market and its performance is closely related to the ups and downs of the European market.

KION: The number of trucks ordered in the EMEA region fell sharply in 2023. The decline was even more pronounced in the Americas region, where, in KION Group’s assessment, market growth slowed again in the second half of the year. By contrast, the APAC region recorded solid growth, mainly driven by the expansion of new business in China. In the fourth quarter of 2023 new orders in APAC increased by 63% year-on-year and 26% month on month.

Heli: Heli’s 2023 annual report has not yet been released, but, according to public information, overseas layout and electrification strategy are the two main engines for the company’s sustained performance growth. In 2023, revenue from electric products increased by 46.9% year-on-year, while sales of electric forklifts (lead-acid+Li-ion battery powered) reached 166,900 units, accounting for 57.17% of total sales and an increase of 6.2 percentage points year-on-year.

Hyster-Yale: Compared with 2022, forklift revenue increased by approximately 5% in the fourth quarter of 2023, largely due to the favorable impact of price increases implemented in all regions and currency issue. The positive shift in sales mix – mainly towards higher priced and larger capacity category 4 and 5 forklifts (including heavy-duty forklifts) – as well as the increase in component sales, have also contributed to revenue growth. These benefits are partially offset by a decrease in unit sales.

The rise of Chinese players

Forklifts from Chinese manufacturers have entered the EMEA/North American market in recent years and generally with a simplified and cheaper product, which also lowers maintenance fees. They also take advantage of the Chinese Li-ion battery supply chain: a mature production supply chain, with lower prices.

The rise of Chinese manufacturers was a major discussion point in our interviews with dealers in Americas and EMEA, often being brought into the discussion without prompting from the interviewer. This suggests it is an issue which is uppermost in the minds of many dealers. Particularly within the past 2 years, the delivery time of many foreign brands has been over 9 months and Chinese players increased market share during the pandemic because of high levels of availability (lead-times tend to be much shorter compared with other brands).

As a result, according to Interact Analysis’ latest report:

  • The market share (in terms of shipment volume) of Chinese brands in EMEA reached nearly 15% in 2022, up from ~8% in 2020, with key players including EP equipment, Anhui Heli, Hangcha and BYD. ODM is excluded from these figures.
  • Chinese brands occupied ~10% of the American market (in terms of shipment volume) in 2022, including Anhui Heli, EP and BYD.

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