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Top 20 Lift Truck Suppliers: Global market reaches new heights

It’s full steam ahead for the lift truck industry, buoyed globally by technology advances and strong, emerging economies.

To say the lift truck industry is doing well would be a gross understatement. After reaching new highs in 2016, sales in 2017 positively obliterated previous records. Globally, the market for industrial trucks grew by nearly 16%. That’s double the 2016 growth rate, which followed a flat year in 2015.

For companies on Modern’s annual list of the Top 20 lift truck suppliers, the rising tide lifted their collective 2017 revenues by 21%.

When the list’s value posted 7.5% growth in 2016, it achieved record levels following a flat year. This time, no amount of variables, currency conversions or other headwinds can blunt the sharp increase in business. Electric lift trucks continue to dominate, but Scott Johnson, ITA chairman of the board and vice president of sales and marketing for Clark Material Handling, says they were not the only segment to benefit from the industry’s momentum.


“All classes show positive year-over-year performance. Those who predicted the demise of internal combustion (IC) products with the advances in electric products and the rise of lithium-ion and fuel cell products—which are both legitimate technologies, by the way—still saw double-digit growth in IC classes.”

The growth trend is likely to continue, Johnson says, as a result of significant advances in the capabilities of lift trucks and related technologies.

“Certainly I think there’s a caliber of customer out there looking at the lift truck as an integral part of the operation from a throughput and cost perspective. Today’s trucks operate more efficiently, have a lower cost of ownership, and some use fewer parts. A number of lift truck buyers want to take advantage of the new products out there.”

The big get much bigger

Breezing past the $10 billion mark to retain the No. 1 ranking, Toyota Industries Corp. grew 33% to $11.4 billion, selling 263,000 units—10,000 more than in 2016.

A spokesperson for Toyota says the materials handling equipment market as a whole expanded globally, driven by China, emerging countries, the United States and Europe. According to the statement:

“Amid this operating climate, Toyota Industries strengthened production and sales structures and rolled out new products matched to respective markets. In December 2017, Toyota Industries commenced sales of the new ‘Rinova’ reach type electric lift trucks in Japan. These initiatives led to an increase in unit sales of mainstay lift trucks in respective regions.”

In addition, U.S.-based Bastian Solutions and Netherlands-based Vanderlande Industries Holding joined the Toyota Industries Group in April 2017 and May 2017, respectively, resulting in a net sales increase of 294.9 billion yen, or 30%.

Joining the more than a dozen top companies that grew by double digits, No. 2 Kion Group’s revenues grew 15% in U.S. dollars, and 8.2% in Euro. It sold 201,000 units in 2017, a 13% increase, and released five new lift trucks adapted to the U.S. market at Modex 2018. Modex saw a joint showcasing of Dematic, Linde and Baoli products. Kion also increased lithium-ion offerings with 2- and 3-ton capacity models. An exclusive, global, strategic partnership with EP, as well as a minority interest, was agreed in January 2018, with a focus on entry-level warehouse equipment.

How the suppliers are ranked

To be eligible for Modern’s annual Top 20 lift truck suppliers ranking, companies must manufacture and sell lift trucks in at least one of the Industrial Truck Association’s seven truck classes: electric motor rider; electric motor hand trucks; internal combustion engine; pneumatic tire; electric and internal combustion engine tow tractors; and rough terrain lift trucks.

Rankings are based on worldwide revenue from powered industrial trucks during each company’s most recent fiscal year. Revenue figures submitted in foreign currency are calculated using the Dec. 31, 2017 exchange rate.

At home and abroad, Johnson says confidence is high that the industry will remain healthy for some time.

“There is a genuine reshoring of a lot of manufacturing, and there continues to be optimism in board rooms as it relates to continued growth in North America. The first half of the year was very strong, and I don’t see any major hurdles in the second half. Economists might suggest it will be softer, but even a contraction of 5% or 6% would still result in a phenomenal year.”

“Achieving record results in 2017, the Kion Group has set a course for further profitable growth by rolling forward its corporate strategy,” says Michael Hauger, senior vice president of corporate communications.

“This was the first time that the figures for a full financial year have included Dematic, the specialist in automation and supply chain optimization acquired at the end of 2016. Driven by organic growth and the acquisition of Dematic, the group achieved new records in the value of order intake and in revenue, adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), adjusted EBIT margin, and net income.”

Top 20 Industrial Lift Truck Suppliers in 2017

2017 Revenue*
North American brands

Toyota, Raymond, Tailift
Aichi, Japan

Linde, STILL, Baoli
Wiesbaden, Germany

Sold in NA by MCFA
Hamburg, Germany

UniCarriers, Mitsubishi, CAT, TCM, Atlet, Barrett, Jungheinrich (NA only)
Kyoto, Japan

Crown, Hamech
New Bremen, Ohio

Hyster, Yale
Cleveland, Ohio

Heli, CHL
Hefei, Anhui, China

HC, Hangcha
Hangzhou, China

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Tokyo, Japan

Ulsan, South Korea

Shanghai, China

Big Joe
Hangzhou, China

Monaghan, Ireland

Ancenis Cedex, France

Hyvinkää, Finland

Fulda, Germany

Cravinhos, Brazil

Not available in North America
Mumbai, India

Total Revenue:
Source: Modern Materials Handling
Figures based on currency exchange rates as
of 12/31/17.
* 2017 revenues were not available by press time.

Climbing one spot to third place, Jungheinrich grew 11.3% in Euro after order intake and units produced increased by 13%. The company released a new walkie stacker, introduced a 5,500-pound capacity pallet truck to the North American product line, and increased the capacity for its man-up turret trucks.

Hans-Georg Frey, Chairman of the Board of Management of Jungheinrich:

“Jungheinrich is pressing ahead on its growth path and has closed the 2017 financial year with a considerable increase in all key indicators. This positive trend is driven by new truck business in the core market of Europe and strong growth in the logistics systems business. Key milestones have once again been achieved on the road to our target of $4 billion in net annual sales for 2020.”

Jungheinrich products are distributed through Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA) under a manufacturing and distribution agreement in North America. In October of 2017, MCFA’s parent company, Mitsubishi Nichiyu, underwent a management integration with UniCarriers, which it acquired in 2015. As a result, No. 4 is now called Mitsubishi Logisnext, which grew 12.5% to $3.8 billion. The company sold 5,000 more units in 2017 than in 2016 for a total of 113,000.

Mitsubishi Forklift and Cat released Tier 4 Final diesel pneumatic tire trucks, and UniCarriers Americas introduced a pneumatic internal combustion diesel forklift.

In the year marking its 25th anniversary, MCFA expanded its 40-acre Houston-based manufacturing facility as well as its product offerings to support customers throughout North, Central and South America. Following a new regional distribution center in Dallas, MCFA now stocks almost $60 million in total parts inventory at five regional parts facilities across the United States. In August of 2017, MCFA and Jungheinrich announced the grand opening of a new joint venture, Industrial Components of Texas (ICOTEX). Located in Conroe, Texas, ICOTEX’s new 71,000-square-foot facility will manufacture industrial components.

In fifth place, Crown Equipment crossed the $3 billion mark after growing almost 6%.

Sixth-place Hyster-Yale Materials Handling shipped 10% more units in 2017 than in 2016, for a total of 93,400. This accompanied a more than 12% growth in revenue to finish at $2.9 billion. A spokesperson says the increase was mainly attributable to higher unit and parts volumes and a decrease in deal-specific pricing in the lift truck business compared to 2016.

Revenue growth in the Americas was primarily a result of increased unit shipments of higher-priced trucks, particularly new Class 5 IC engine standard truck and increased sales of higher-capacity, 3.5- to 8-ton Class 5 trucks, as well as Class 1 and Class 2 electric trucks.

Although it is not relevant to 2017 revenues, in December 2017 Hyster-Yale announced it was entering into an agreement to acquire a majority ownership stake in Zhejiang Maximal Forklift Co.

Maximal, a privately held, Chinese OEM for utility and standard lift trucks, was founded in 2006 and employs nearly 600. It is involved in the design, manufacture, service and distribution of Class 1 electric and Class 5 IC counterbalanced utility and standard platforms, and Class 2 and Class 3 electric warehouse products in the local China and global markets under the Maximal and Samuk brands. Maximal also designs and produces specialized products in the port equipment and rough terrain forklift segments.

Anhui Forklift held on to seventh place, but posted the second-highest growth rate on the list. It produced 121,033 units, 40% more than in the previous year. Its 2017 revenues of $1.3 billion represent a 45% increase in U.S. dollars.

In addition to its primary brand Heli, Anhui in 2017 released the new brand CHL, which is geared primarily for emerging markets.

Hangcha climbed one spot to finish No. 8 after growing revenues by nearly 30% in local currency. It produced 28% more units than in 2016 for a total of 105,091. According to a spokesperson, 2017 is the first full calendar year after Hangcha Group was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in China. The company then entered the financial leasing industry by acquiring shares in Shenzhen International Financial Leasing Co.

It also invested in a related research and development firm to boost accessory manufacturing capacity.

Hangcha spokesperson:

“Thanks to in-depth promotion of national strategies and initiatives including Supply Side Reform by the Chinese government, the Belt & Road Initiative, and Made in China 2025, moderate recovery was seen in the domestic manufacturing industry, and the potential of domestic demand was further released.”

In ninth place, Clark Material Handling Company grew 5.5%. Clark introduced the new S-Series IC forklifts, which it describes as the result of a “clean sheet” design initiative featuring collaboration among engineering, sales, marketing and end users across North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. After three years of global design input, prototyping and field testing, the S-Series is produced in LPG, dual fuel and diesel configurations.
Scott Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing:

“Clark continues significant investments in its global manufacturing platforms. These investments ensure the company is strategically supporting its overall international goals and objectives. The resumption of high-volume IC production in Lexington, Ky., has led to an increase in hiring for critical positions including manufacturing and engineering. Global shipments of the S-Series represent a significant milestone for the company.”

Rounding out the Top 10 at No. 10, Doosan grew 21% to end 2017 just shy of $1 billion. A spokesperson cited significantly increased business in advanced markets such as North America and Europe, as well as very strong business in the Korean market.

Growth across the board

After growing 5.4%, Komatsu retained the 11th spot. Just below it, Hyundai was unable to report revenues by press time and again finishes in 12th place.

Lonking Forklift climbed from No. 16 to No. 13 after more than doubling revenues. The company sold 50,000 units in 2017, up 25% from 40,000 in 2016.

EP Equipment, makers of Big Joe pallet trucks, stackers and orderpickers, reported revenues of $236 million, an increase of 18%—enough for 14th place. According to a spokesperson, units surged to just more than 50,000 for the year based on the strength of new product launches in the Class 3 segment.

At No. 15, Combilift sold 5,030 units, an increase of 680. Sales of the company’s range of four-directional forklifts, side loading equipment and straddle carriers led to a 14% increase in revenues. A representative cited an uptick in the house building sector and manufacturing companies using Combilift’s high-density solutions to grow output without having to increase the size of their facilities.

After debuting on the list in 17th place, Manitou gained a spot to No. 16 following a 45% revenue increase.

Jean-Pierre Guerand, Vice President of Global Industrial Sales and Development, Manitou:

“Our masted forklift sales have grown significantly in 2017 thanks to our efforts to develop our geographical presence while introducing solid new products. This allowed us to beat market trends in our key markets. In 2018 we are investing in launching our industrial forklift line into the North American market and are expecting a successful year. Manitou Group is committed to significantly grow its presence in the global forklift business.”

Konecranes was unable to report revenues by press time, so its 2016 revenues of $185 million have been carried over. As a result, it has fallen from No. 15 to No. 17.

At No. 18 is Hubtex, which makes special purpose vehicles including multi-directional sideloaders, diesel or LPG four-way sideloaders, order picking systems, glass transport systems and reach trucks. It sold 617 units, up about 5% from 589 in 2016. According to Michael Röbig, marketing manager, the increase in sales is based on two primary factors.

“In a largely stable economic environment, our newly developed multidirectional forklift ‘Flux’ and our four-way sideloader ‘Maxx’ products were able to convince our customers. In addition, the sales of special-purpose vehicles has continued to increase.”

Brazil-based Paletrans was unable to report revenues by press time and took the No. 19 spot.

At No 20, India’s Godrej & Boyce sold about 3,000 units in 2017 after introducing a Class 2 reach truck and new range of Class 4 and 5 light diesel trucks with capacities of 1.3 to 3 tons.

ITA’s lift truck classes

The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) has defined seven classes of lift trucks, or forklifts, which are defined by the type of engine, work environment, operator position and equipment characteristics.

Forklift classes include:

  • Class 1: electric motor trucks with cushion or pneumatic tires
  • Class 2: electric motor narrow aisle trucks with solid tires
  • Class 3: electric hand trucks or hand/rider trucks with solid tires
  • Class 4: internal combustion engine sit down rider forklifts with cushion tires, suitable for indoor use on hard surfaces
  • Class 5: internal combustion engine sit down rider forklifts with pneumatic tires, suitable for outdoor use on rough surfaces
  • Class 6: electric or internal combustion engine powered, rider units with the ability to tow (rather than lift) at least 1,000 pounds
  • Class 7: almost exclusively powered by diesel engines with pneumatic tires, these units are suitable for rough terrain and used outdoors.

Since primarily classes one through five are used in materials handling applications inside the four walls, Modern has only specified those on our supplier table.

lift truck classes

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About the Author

Josh Bond
Josh Bond was Senior Editor for Modern through July 2020, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.
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