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Resilient performance

Kicking off our compact plant Market Report, EHN talks to a number of suppliers who report strong sales and are confident about future prospects.

Despite a somewhat unpredictable political background with the uncertainty surrounding a snap general election in May and the on-going Brexit negotiations, the compact plant market has remained resilient. Construction activity has maintained healthy levels and hirers have continued to refresh and expand their fleets.

Considering first mini excavators and machines of up to 8 tonnes in operating weight, sales for 2016 exceeded expectations, with approximately 13,500 having been sold in the UK, and 2017 is on track to surpass that. Dave Roberts, MD of Kubota UK, suggests that last year’s total may have already been reached by the end of the third quarter. “Sales have now been at over 13,000 a year since 2014, with many core markets coming performing strongly, such as house building, utilities work and infrastructure projects. There is talk of a slowdown amongst some parts of the media, but any dip would be from a high level. There are big projects under way or in the pipeline, such as HS2, the Hinkley Point nuclear power station and the Thames Tideway, and contractors are busy installing broadband cables and maintaining roads. We are obviously in regular contact with our dealer partners and end users, and everyone is positive.

Kubota UK reports steady mini excavator sales in all weight classes.

“We are finding that demand remains stable and at a high level for

mini excavators in the important 1.5 to 3-tonne class, and is very strong for 8-tonne machines, with 5-tonne model sales also stable. It might be a cliché but we are cautiously optimistic about 2018.”

Growing demand

Similarly, Takeuchi Mfg UK has experienced “strong growth across the UK and Ireland, and we can report increasing market share,” according to MD Tomonori Tamaru. “The most popular machine remains the 1.6-tonne TB216 and the majority of our sales still go to hirers.” He adds that demand has been growing for the company’s 6-tonne TB260 excavator, reflecting house building activity. Tomonori Tamaru states that interest is growing in eco-friendly machines. “We have


introduced two hybrid models in the past two years, the TB216 Hybrid and the micro TB210R Hybrid. Both were re-designed to accommodate electric plug-in power, with no reduction in operating performance. These are ‘go-to’ models for contractors working in sectors where no-emission operation is mandatory, such as the food industry. Hybrids remain expensive for the average hirer, with demand coming from companies who specialise in ‘green’ alternatives. We expect more hirers to add hybrids in coming years, giving an opportunity for higher average hirer rates and a good solution for noise-free, emission-free operation.”

Takeuchi expects interest in hybrid machines to grow.

JCB’s UK and Ireland Sales Director, Dan Thompstone, states that the mini excavator market has “grown substantially in 2017 over the previous year. Plant hirers are still re-fleeting after the downturn which saw many of them reducing their fleets. The growth of the construction and house building sectors, along with anticipation of major infrastructure projects, has further fuelled this. The 8-tonne category has seen strong growth as the versatility of these machines has increased. Urbanisation has led to work sites shrinking, leading to customers choosing these models where, previously, a 13-tonne machine may have been the automatic choice.”

A positive picture is also painted by David Munns, Sales Director of SMT GB, the distributor of Volvo Construction Equipment GB, with “buoyant sales throughout the year above our initial targets. Demand is across the board, with 1 to 2-tonne models popular for light construction and utilities work; models of 3 tonnes and above are always popular, while the 8-tonne sector is also busy.

“Demand is being driven by traditional markets, such as house building and the infrastructure work associated with it. Also, higher stamp duty is making owners of larger properties renovate and extend their current homes instead of moving. Overall, there is plenty of activity for hirers to target.”

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