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I can almost see the headlines on CNBC or Fox Business noting that occult store stock has surged, due to the preponderant purchase of soothsayer assistance items. Magic 8 balls will reach the spire of their economic demand since being paired with lava lamps, and businesses will start hiring mystics to work with their economists and business analysts. Maybe that is more than a little far-fetched, but to assure ourselves we never reach the point of crystal ball and lucky rabbit's foot dependence, the commercial vehicle industry must go through some realistic and sound self-assessment. More than ever, my customers are looking toward forecasting tools in the hopes of gleaning enough knowledge about their market and the business climate to make informed decisions that will mitigate the effects of the slumping economy on their businesses.

While the industry is extraordinarily complex and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, there are some major points of emphasis that may act as a general indicator, applicable to most businesses looking for some direction. The three following issues can greatly impact the decision-making process of just about any business in the commercial vehicle market.

First, diesel engine emissions standards are becoming increasingly tough. This is especially true in the heavy duty segment, and it has already shown up in new vehicle registration volumes over the past 2-1/2 years. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, class 3-5 vehicles have increased their market share 3% - to 41.6% of the total truck market - in the same time frame. Look for this trend to continue as the projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of Class 8 vehicles looks very weak until 2013. 2009 new vehicle registration volumes will fall again, to 380,600 vehicles. This number is less than half of the new vehicle registrations of 2006. VIO is still expected to climb, which suggests there will also be much less scrappage than in years past. On the positive side, the combination of those two metrics should mean an increase in used vehicle volumes and parts and service activity. Third, we can safely say that the industry will start to recover by Q1 2010, with the overall business climate of the country and the world. Commercial vehicle registrations will rebound to above 2008 levels as early as next year. Survival is the key to reaping the benefits of the upcoming growth markets, but we know bear-like hibernation is not an option until then.

How do you plan to maximize profit before the impending demand spurs need?
Polk Solutions Consultant Dave Goebel speaks about these issues in much greater depth in this Polk View, "The Future of the Commercial Vehicle Market."

In a stormy business climate, navigating the troubled waters effectively can mean the difference between capsizing or making it safely back to harbor. Question is, are you using a compass or a talisman to get there?

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