Forklift Industry – 2013 Year in Review

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Forklift PhotoForklifts, lift trucks, and industrial trucks were a solid business through 2013. Total worldwide demand grew around 6.5% versus 2012 and global sales exceeded 1,000,000 units for the first time ever.  All major regions saw increased forklift factory shipments. The US and Chinese markets were particularly strong and contributed significantly to the growth in sales.

Revenues appear to have been fairly steady among the forklift manufacturers with Kion Group reporting a 4.9% decline and Hyster-Yale showing a 7.4% revenue gain over 2012.  Toyota Material Handling was approaching a 38% revenue increase during their fiscal year 2014 (data available for April 1, 2013 through December 31 2013).  Toyota’s outsized gain in revenue is mostly due to the inclusion of Cascade Corporation as a subsidiary and to improving worldwide forklift demand. Jungheinrich, another major forklift manufacturer, has yet to publish its financial statements for 2013.  Most of the other forklift manufacturers do not publish or make comments about their financial performance.

Total Lift Truck Shipments

General Economic Performance

Forklift sales are highly cyclical and tend to follow the general trend of the economy.  So it’s useful  to look at US GDP growth and several manufacturing figures to get a feel for where forklift sales are headed.


GDP growth has been relatively strong over the last four years.  2013 saw steady economic growth, but not quite to the levels we experienced through the mid-2000’s.  The International Monetary Fund expects US GDP to grow by 2.8% in 2014, up from IMF numbers of 1.9% US GDP growth in 2013.

US GDP Growth

Manufacturing Data

Manufacturing output and manufacturing employment both continued to improve throughout 2013. As you can see below, it’s useful to look at manufacturing data because North American forklift factory shipments tend to follow overall manufacturing output.  And factory shipments are an excellent indicator of lift truck demand because lift truck manufacturers will only build forklifts based on orders received. Data from US Federal Reserve.

Manufacturing Output and Lift Truck Shipments

Manufacturing Output and Manufacturing Employment

Steel Production

Steel production grew by 2.37% worldwide. China, which accounts for 49% of the world’s steel production, saw an increase of 8% versus 2012.  India and Japan also saw increases of 4.5% and 3% respectively, while the US and the EU saw declines of 2% and 1.8% respectively. All figures from the World Steel Association.

Crude Steel Production

Crude Steel Production Excluding China

Auto Production

Automobile manufacturing was up worldwide by 3.6% over 2012.  China, the world’s largest producer of cars and commercial vehicles, led the charge with a 12.86% increase in production during 2013. The US saw a robust increase of 6.49% and is flirting with pre-recession production levels.  All figures from OICA.

Cars and Commercial Vehicles Production

Highlights from Lift Truck Manufacturers’, and Other Related Companies’, Annual Reports


  • Of all of Hyster-Yale’s North America lift truck sales in 2013, approximately 28% went to the manufacturing market, 14% to wholesale distribution market, 14% to food and beverage market, 10% to rental market, 10% to home centers and retail market, 9% to freight and logistics market, and 7% to paper market.
  • Hyster-Yale National Accounts program accounted for 15% of the company’s new lift truck unit volume in 2013.
  • As of December 2013, Hyster-Yale’s backlog of new lift truck orders was about 28,200 units.  Backlogged orders a year prior were 27,300.
  • Total revenue was up in 2013 to $2.66 billion versus $2.47 billion in 2012.
  • Hyster-Yale expects global lift truck demand to be up slightly in all major global regions in 2014.

Kion Group

  • Company shares listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in June 2013.
  • Kion Group CEO notes that independent research predicts worldwide lift truck demand will grow at 1.5x the rate of the global economy over the next 10 years.
  • Kion sold 142,800 new units in 2013 compared to 141,700 units in 2012.
  • Emerging markets accounted for 35% of new orders in 2013, a new record for Kion Group.
  • Revenue in the Americas was down 13.8% from 2012 to 2013.


  • Able to increase truck sales considerably in their growth markets, with Asia leading the way and China as the main driver.
  • Incoming orders in terms of units in new truck business increase by 7% from 73,200 units to 78,200 units.

Toyota Industries – Toyota Material Handling

  • Through the 3rd quarter of FY2014 (April 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013), Toyota Material Handling saw an increase in sales of 38% due to improving worldwide lift truck demand and inclusion of Cascade Corporation as a subsidiary.

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers

  • Lots sold increased 5% from 2012 while Gross Auction Proceeds declined 2%.
  • Equipment that came to market was generally older and had higher hours.
  • Expanded auction network into China.
  • During 2013 used equipment generally became more stabilized. Used equipment supplies are tight, and demand for low hour machines is high.

United Rentals

  • Largest equipment rental company in the world.
  • Net addition of $500 million to original equipment cost of fleet during 2013.
  • Estimate that overall North American construction activity grew about 5% in 2013 versus 2012. United Rentals notes a shift from equipment ownership to rental.
  • Expects the majority of their end markets will continue to recover.

Notable Forklift Industry News for 2013

Kion Group, maker of Linde lift trucks in North America, went public in June 2013.  Company shares are being sold on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklifts of America bought Daily Equipment  Co. in January. Daily is a Cat, Mitsubishi, Jungheinrich dealer based in Mississippi.  As part of the deal, Daily will no longer represent Crown forklifts.

Toyota Material Handling bought Interstate Lift Trucks in Ohio.  Renamed branches “Toyota Material Handling of Ohio” in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

The global market for new industrial trucks grew by 6.9% in 2013. Total global sales of lift trucks exceeded 1,000,000 for the first time (source: Kion Group 2013 Annual Report)

Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklifts of America named Ken Barina new president.

Toyota Material Handling integrated Cascade Corp. (forklift attachments) as a subsidiary in March 2013.

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