HEAVY TRUCK SALES JUMP 41.2 PERCENT STAGE SET FOR BEST YEAR SINCE '79

HEAVY TRUCK SALES JUMP 41.2 PERCENT STAGE SET FOR BEST YEAR SINCE '79

Heavy truck sales soared an estimated 41.2 percent in November over the same month lastyear as the industry cruised toward its best annual performance since 1979.

November sales of 13,245 heavy trucks boosted sales so far this year to 142,620, a 33.4 percent increase over year-earlier marks, according to preliminary U.S. retail sales figures from the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.While sales last month declined 6.9 percent compared with October, the seasonal decrease was milder than in most previous years in the heavy, or Class 8, category, defined by gross vehicle weight ratings over 33,000 pounds.

Truck makers are expected to close the year with a big finish, reaching a 1993 sales level of at least 154,200 units, according to a recent estimate by WEFA Inc. in New York.

Only capacity constraints will keep the industry from topping 158,000 units at current growth rates, dwarfing last year's recessionary total of 119,057 units. The sales pace is the strongest since 1979 when the industry set a post-World War II record of 173,543 heavy trucks.

WEFA expects retail sales will ease in 1994 but will still maintain a healthy level of 141,000 units as manufacturers work off backlogs of orders.

Sales were also strong last month for lighter vehicles associated with distribution and the service sector of the economy.

In Class 7, rated from 26,000 to 33,000 pounds, November sales of 6,028 trucks rose 28.2 percent from a year before, pushing year-to-date deliveries to 73,545 units, up 10.1 percent from the 1992 pace.

Monthly sales of 1,979 trucks advanced 33.2 percent from a year before in Class 6, with ratings from 19,500 to 26,000 pounds, although sales of 24,767 units so far this year lagged year-earlier figures by 4.9 percent.

In Class 5, rated from 16,000 to 19,500 pounds, November sales of 309 units rose a scant 0.3 percent from a year before while year-to-date sales of 3,841 trucks were up 18.1 percent.

Sales of 3,192 trucks last month improved 31.5 percent in Class 4, rated

from 14,000 to 16,000 pounds, as sales so far this year of 30,077 units climbed 29.8 percent compared with the year-earlier periods.

November sales of 5,098 units jumped 233.1 percent in Class 3, rated from 10,000 to 14,000 pounds, lifting year-to-date deliveries of 31,293 units 34.1 percent above year-earlier marks. The huge monthly increase is attributed to Chrysler Corp.'s new line of Dodge pickup trucks and is not thought to reflect similar growth in commercial vehicle sales.